Kevin Maloney, a CCM member and spokesman, said his organization is concerned that the proposal would lead to fraudulent claims by people who witnessed a workplace death but suffered no emotional harm.
"Although sympathetic to the intent, this proposed new unfunded state mandate would significantly impact municipal budgets and establish an alarming new precedent within the workers' compensation system," Maloney said. A revised law "would compound local budget woes and flip the entire compensation system upside down."
Maloney stressed the potential for abuse, especially if workers had never previously had emotional health issues. "Communities would see higher health insurance costs for their workers' compensation programs," he said.
The workers' comp law doesn't need to be changed, he continued, because most employees have access to short- and long-term disability coverage that provides them with benefits if they are unable to work. Referring to the Newtown situation, Maloney said: "Every public employee has a multitude of mental health benefits available to them already."
Also opposing workers' comp law changes is the Connecticut Business and Industry Association, which represents more than 7,000 companies and more than 700,000 employees.
Laura Cummings, a staff attorney and lobbyist for the organization, said opening the door to emotional and mental health claims would undo the important reforms made in the 1990s to cut costs to business owners. "There were sweeping reforms done to workers' compensation statutes in the early 1990s, and one of the reforms ended mental only claims due to significant misuse," Cummings said.
The 1993 changes to the law saved businesses and public employers a total of $750 million between 1993 and 2011. Businesses too, Cummings said, enjoyed a 7 percent reduction in workers' comp insurance rates.
But also during the same period, there has been increasing pressure to allow workers to seek compensation for emotional trauma.
Workplace shootings, including the 1998 deaths at the lottery headquarters in Newington, and the 2010 slayings of eight people at the Hartford Distributors warehouse in Manchester, have all resulted in large workers' compensation payouts for the families of those who were killed and injured.
The compensation paid to the victims' families amounted to 75 percent of each killed workers' average income, after reductions for Social Security and income taxes. A handful of workers who witnessed those shootings, but were not physically injured, were not able to pursue compensation for lost wages or mental health treatment.