Imagini ale paginilor
[blocks in formation]


Compensation legislation in the United States is of recent origin.
The first permanent State laws were enacted by Washington and
Kansas on March 14, 1911. The first law to become effective, how-

1 Alabama, Missouri, North Dakota, Tennessee, and Virginia.

2 For the sake of simplicity all jurisdictions except the United States Government will hereafter be
referred to as States.

For a more complete history of compensation legislation, see Bulletin No. 203 of U. S. Bureau of Labor

Statistics, pp. 45-50.


ever, was the one enacted by Wisconsin May 3, 1911, which took effect immediately upon its passage. Since then compensation legislation has progressed rapidly, 42 States and 3 Territories having placed such laws upon their statute books,' while the Federal act has been amended to include all civil employees.

Prior to 1911, however, several States had enacted workmen's compensation laws which were later declared unconstitutional by the courts; and in addition voluntary insurance or benefit schemes had been provided for in a number of States, but these could hardly be designated compensation laws as now understood. The following is a brief summary of these early acts:

The first legislation in the United States providing for stated benefits payable without suit or proof of negligence was the cooperative insurance law of Maryland en acted in 1902. This act was of restricted application, included only mining, quarrying, railways, and municipal construction work, and was to be administered by the State insurance commission. The law was declared unconstitutional, however, as depriving parties of the right of trial by jury and conferring on an executive judicial or at least quasi-judicial functions. The next law within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States was an enactment by the United States Philippine Commission in 1905, authorizing the continuance of wages for a period during disability, but not exceeding 90 days, in case of injury received by the employees of the Insular Government in the line of duty.

The Federal Government enacted a limited conpensation law in 1908, but applicable only to certain hazardous employments.

In 1909 Montana enacted a law (effective Oct. 1, 1910) providing for the maintenance of a State cooperative fund for miners and

4 The following States, etc., have enacted compensation laws:

[blocks in formation]

laborers in and about the coal mines of the State. Contribution to the fund was compulsory, employers to pay on the basis of the tonnage of coal mined, and employees on the basis of their monthly gross earnings. State officials were to administer the fund, and payments for death and disability were provided for. While compulsory, the act was not exclusive as against injured workmen, who were permitted to sue under the employers' liability law, though bringing suit forfeited the benefits under this act. This double obligation imposed upon the employer by the act was held by the supreme court of the State to invalidate it, though in its essential features it was held to be a valid exercise of the law-making power.

The next law of this class was enacted by Maryland in 1910 establishing cooperative insurance funds for coal and clay miners of Allegheny and Garrett counties. This act was repealed by the compensation act of 1914.

It will be observed that the foregoing legislation, antedating what may be called the commission period, was of limited application, either as to the locality or as to the classes of employees affected, and also that there appears to have been but little regard as to whether the benefits provided were at all adequate to the needs of the workmen. The laws subsequently enacted may be said to be of general application and have generally been based on the investigations of commissions.

The first of the laws of this class was the elective compensation law of New York, 1910, followed in the same session by a compulsory law for hazardous employments. The latter law was declared unconstitutional after a very brief term of existence, but after an amendment to the constitution a new compulsory law was enacted in 1913. The real compensation period began in 1911, when 10 States enacted such laws. Each year since then additional States have fallen in line until at present, as already noted, 45 States and Territories have enacted compensation legislation.

This rapid growth of compensation legislation, involving, as it has, the almost simultaneous enactment of laws in a number of States, has operated to prevent the adoption of any one form of law as a type, so that although a single fundamental principle underlies the entire group of laws of this class, its expression and application present great diversity of details in the different States. This is true not only of the primary factors of the laws, such as the scope and the compensation benefits, but also of the system of compensation. insurance, administration, methods of election or rejection, etc.

A comparison of these and other features which may be classed as of principal rank is essential to any fair understanding of the relative effectiveness of the laws-a fact which is recognized by insurance companies in fixing the rates of premium to be charged in

« ÎnapoiContinuă »