Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson is vowing to fight a federal challenge to a state law that allows Hanford workers who have become ill to receive workers compensation.
That law (HB1723), passed this year, creates a presumption for Hanford workers that some diseases are occupational, making it easier for them to receive workers compensation, without having to spend possibly years to prove they became sick from working at Hanford.
Ferguson says he was surprised the federal government waited to file a challenge to the law, despite having the opportunity to make its concerns known, but didn’t do so until it sent a letter of concern at the end of October.
“My legal team had a call with them yesterday to discuss the federal government's concerns, tried to clarify what must be a misunderstanding with Washington state law. The federal government went on to file this lawsuit anyway. We believe the government has given authority to the states to provide compensation benefits to workers on federal land, the situation we have here,” he said.
Senator Karen Kaiser, who helped craft the state legislation, said it was designed to help many Hanford workers who were in dire straits.
“If you sat in the hearings we had the last two years, listening to the injured workers, who could hardly keep their sentences together because of the neurological damage they were suffering, from their bodies barely being able to function, you now know relief had not happened for these workers,” Kaiser said.
Ferguson is optimistic a state challenge would be successful to the federal lawsuit. Kaiser said if the federal suit is successful, she would go back to Olympia to try another route to give the workers another chance at compensation.