In an extended opinion released February 26, 2016, the Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation Commission held
Based upon these findings and conclusions we hold that the Oklahoma Employee lnjury Benefit Act, in establishing and defining the conditions to be a Qualified Benefit Plan at section 203, denies equal protection to injured workers in oklahoma, and that Section 203, which is the foundation upon which all Benefit plans are built, is unconstitutional. ln finding that the linchpin provision of the Act-the very foundation upon which qualified Plans can be established- unconstitutional, we find the Act as a whole is not enforceable.
The full opinion may be found online.
The opinion went on to conclude:
Having found that Section 203, which establishes the requirements for qualifying Employee Benefit Plans: (1) unconstitutionally deprives injured workers of equal protection; (2) is a special law; and (3) in combination with Section 209 deprives injured workers of access to the Court, we conclude that the provisions of the Oklahoma Employee lnjury Benefit Act are inoperable, as the very foundation for establishing a qualified Plan, Section 203, is unconstitutional.
Accordingly, we order that this cause be referred to a Commission Administrative Law Judge for trial on the merits under the Administrative Workers’ Compensation Act, but stay that referral until appeals from this Order are decided. ln so ruling, we note that under the provisions of Section 213 of Title S5A, Dillard’s is not deemed to have failed to secure workers’ compensation insurance, and that under that section, Dillard’s liability is limited to that of an employer who had complied with the provisions of the Administrative Workers’ Compensation Act.
Under the provisions of Section 273, our decision is immediately appealable to the Oklahoma Supreme Court and that Court is required to retain the appeal and must consider the case on an expedited basis. Finally, we note that Section 213 gives Dillard’s ninety (90) days from any final decision in this cause to secure compliance with the Administrative Workers’ Compensation Act.
This first decision on the question of whether Section 203 of the Act is constitutional may now move to the Oklahoma Supreme Court.
The Commission’s order finding the provisions of the Oklahoma Employee Injury Benefit Act to be inoperable raises questions about the status of other plans adopted under the law pending resolution on appeal.