- Posted by Jake Chapman
- On October 28, 2013
- 0 Comments
- Christopher Godfrey, Iowa Workers’ Compensation Commissioner, Senator Bill Dotzler
Published in The Des Moines Register on October 28, 2013
Senator Bill Dotzler’s Op-Ed in the Register claims that the Iowa Workers’ Compensation Commissioner should be given credit for making Iowa a better and less expensive place to do business. This is a distorted and unsupportable view of Commissioner Christopher Godfrey’s performance.
Yes, Iowa’s economy has significantly improved since Governor Branstad took office in 2011. (Des Moines was ranked the #1 best place in the nation for business and careers by Forbes Magazine in August 2013. Unemployment in Iowa is down and thousands of jobs have been created.) But Commissioner Godfrey does not deserve any credit for this improvement. Mr. Godfrey has been a burden on job creation in Iowa.
Every two years, the State of Oregon releases an objective, national study ranking all 50 states by which have the lowest workers’ compensation costs – and are therefore most attractive to job creators. In 2006, when Mr. Godfrey became Commissioner, Iowa had the 7th – lowest workers’ compensation costs in the nation. As of the most recent study (2012), we had the 27th – lowest costs. During Mr. Godfrey’s time, Iowa has moved from one of the very best in the nation to average.
As of 2006, Iowa had a competitive advantage over Nebraska, Missouri, Ohio, Kansas, Michigan, and 16 other states. We have now lost that competitive advantage over each of these states.
Senator Dotzler credits Commissioner Godfrey with the 2.0% decrease in workers’ compensation insurance rates that will occur in 2014. To be consistent, Senator Dotzler must blame Commissioner Godfrey for Iowa’s 7.9% increase in the rates in 2013, the 4.4% increase in 2012, the 4.7% increase in 2011, and the 2.3% increase in 2010.
It is undeniable that Mr. Godfrey has issued some very bizarre rulings that have caused concern among Iowa employers and forced some to pay for injuries that were not related to any actual work activity.
In Durkop v. Tyson, an employee was awarded workers compensation after falling on ice, after work hours and away from the jobsite, just because she was shopping for work clothes. Don’t we all have to wear work-appropriate clothing? Should our employers have to pay us if we fall down and get hurt while shopping for clothing?
In Gazette Communications v. Powell a business had to pay benefits to an employee injured away from the jobsite while bowling, after hours, because the employer sponsored the voluntary event.
If you were going to start a business that would create 500 jobs, and you know you’ll be on the hook for every off-premises injury that Mr. Godfrey says is related to the job, would you want to start a business in Iowa?
Senator Dotzler said that no judge has ever found any indications of bias in the Commissioner’s work. In Rizvic v Beef Products, Inc., Judge Michael D. Huppert called attention to “the lack of objectivity utilized by the commissioner…” Judge Huppert also said, “…the commissioner in this instance overstepped his role as an impartial arbiter of the facts and became in essence an advocate for the respondent’s position.”
Iowa deserves better than a Workers’ Compensation Commissioner who steps outside his objective role and becomes an attorney for the person claiming injury. Iowa cannot reach its economic potential as long as job creators are living in fear of facing Commissioner Godfrey, even when an employee gets hurt off the job-site and not actually working.