160 Years of Workers’ Comp in Georgia
By Darwin F. Johnson on May 11th, 2016 in Atlanta Workers Comp, Macon Workers Comp, Savannah Worker's Comp, Workers Compensation
Well, 161 to be exact.
Did you know that Georgia was the first state to pass legislation allowing injured employees to seek compensation for lost wages and medical expenses accrued resulting from workplace accidents?
That’s right! In 1855, Georgia and Alabama passed Employer Liability Acts, sparking a wave of other states to follow suit in the years thereafter.
While thinking about it in the context of modern society, it’s funny to consider how much of a heated topic for debate the idea of an employer’s liability for their employees’ accidents was in the 19th century. As a workman’s comp lawyer serving Macon, GA and surrounding areas, the logic makes clear sense to me that if you are hurt on the job, your employer should cover the relevant expenses.
But it took a bit of convincing to bring some of our forefathers around to such an idea.
Let’s put things in their perspective for a minute. Up until the mid-1800s, the idea of workers’ rights was certainly present, but that concept’s provenance largely sided with the thought process that employers were NOT responsible for their employees’ injuries up until then. In other words, that an employee should be responsible for him or herself in the wake of an accident was a concept ingrained in the minds of many until the 1800s.
So why did that ideal take a turn to favor workers over their employers in the 19th century? Well, because the industrial revolution happened. And when it did, many aspects of society and its ideologies changed. As we became more and more industrialized, hazardous work environments became increasingly more present, until we said “enough is enough!”
And it was us Georgians in the vanguard of the workers’ rights movement.
There are two ways in which Georgia’s early role made a lasting impact on people’s rights in the United States overall. Firstly, and as stated above, by enacting the country’s founding Employer Liability Act (alongside our neighbor, Alabama, in 1855), we caused a wave of other states to do the same. Secondly, through that act, the rights movement as a whole was brought to forefront of Americans’ minds, leading to other issues faced by working people to be addressed and resolved, such as the minimum wage, child labor and discrimination in the workplace—to name just a few issues among many. All of those topics maintain relevance to this day!
All in all, it’s an honor to practice in a state with such a rich history of activism. As a compensation lawyer who serves Athens, GA and everywhere beyond, I’ve dedicated my career to helping people attain the compensation to which they’re entitled. It’s a good feeling knowing that I live and work in a place with a legacy just the same.
Here’s to 161 years of workers’ compensation in Georgia!