Sen. Régine Biscoe Lee on Tuesday introduced a bill that would update workers’ compensation rates for the first time in 30 years.
Workers' compensation is a form of insurance providing wage replacement and medical benefits to employees injured in the course of employment in exchange for mandatory relinquishment of the employee's right to sue their employer for the tort of negligence.
Guam law—last updated in 1988 — currently sets a minimum compensation rate of $150 per week and a maximum of $250 per week for a disability.
This maximum is $675 less than the average cap amounts in other U.S. states and territories even though Guam’s cost of living is higher than most states.
Biscoe Lee’s Bill 288-34 would update the minimum to $264 per week and the maximum to $700 per week. A worker’s disability rate is based on 66 2/3 percent of his or her average weekly wages.
The bill would also update the maximum compensation payable for serious disfigurement of the face, head or any body part visible in the course of employment from $10,000 to $20,000.
According to a press release from Lee’s office, the changes to the law that the bill proposes are the result of discussions with stakeholders including the Guam Department of Labor, the Insurance Association of Guam, labor attorneys, the Society for Human Resource Management, and members of the Guam Chamber of Commerce, from a roundtable hearing in October and several follow-up working sessions.
“The consensus from our stakeholder meetings is that we need to revisit these figures that have not been updated since 1988. This will ensure that workers injured on the job are able to pay for today’s basic expenses and likewise that businesses can realize a stronger and fully supported workforce,” said Biscoe Lee, chairwoman of the Committee on Innovation and Economic, Workforce and Youth Development.
“If we don’t provide for adequate compensation on the front end, we will end up paying for it later in other ways as these employees might have to seek help from other public assistance programs,” she said.