The Norman Transcript

State/Region

July 11, 2014

Workers comp lays off 16 employees

OKLAHOMA CITY — Oklahoma’s Workers Compensation Commission has laid off 16 employees as the organization transitions from a court-based system to an administrative one.

Commission Executive Director Rick Farmer confirmed the layoffs Wednesday but declined to identify the employees. Wednesday’s layoffs bring the total number of staff from 74 to 58.

“The layoffs were necessary because the court and the commission are getting separate budgets and the commission has a relatively low volume,” he said. “We’re reducing staff to the appropriate level.”

In 2013, the Legislature approved sweeping changes to Oklahoma’s workers compensation system, splitting the agency into two separate entities during the transition — one to handle the existing court claims and another to handle new claims under the administrative system. The Court of Existing Claims now has about 22,000 cases, while the new Workers’ Compensation Commission has about 800.

Gov. Mary Fallin said Wednesday that the move from a judicial system to an administrative system was meant to produce a more efficient organization.

“For decades, Oklahoma has had one of the most expensive and inefficient workers’ compensation systems in the country, a constant obstacle for businesses looking to expand operations or create more jobs. Our new system is more efficient, less costly and will ultimately help to create jobs by reducing costs that have been hurting small businesses in Oklahoma for years,” Fallin said.

The Court of Existing Claims will be gradually reduced in size as its number of court cases dwindle, Fallin’s office said. The court is expected to be eliminated in 2020.

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