Is Waiver of Workplace Injury Compensation Legal In Texas ?
In Reyes v. Storage & Processors, Inc., 995 S.W.2d 722, 726-29 (Tex. App.-San Antonio 1999, pet. denied), the employee executed an agreement enrolling him in the nonsubscriber employer's welfare benefit plan. See id.
The agreement in Reyes conspicuously provided that the employee waived his common law rights for any work-related injury in return for only those benefits provided by the plan. See id.
After he was injured on the job, the employee accepted benefits under the plan, but then sued the employer for negligence. See id.
The trial court granted summary judgment in the employer's favor. See Reyes, 995 S.W.2d at 724-25.
The court of appeals recognized that "voluntary workers' compensation is purely a matter of contract," but stated that such contracts are valid only when the nonsubscriber's plan provides benefits that are "measured by the terms of the Texas Workers' Compensation Act (TWCA)" or benefits that are "equal to or greater than those provided by the TWCA." See Reyes, 995 S.W.2d at 727-29.
The court therefore reversed the summary judgment after concluding that the enrollment agreement was void as against public policy because the benefits paid under the plan were far more limited than those provided by the Texas Workers' Compensation Act. See Reyes, 995 S.W.2d at 729.
The court explained:
. . . public policy does not permit an employer to reap the principal benefit of providing workers' compensation coverage - the waiver of an injured employee's common law and statutory claims - without also bestowing on the injured employee the principal benefit for which that waiver is the "quid pro quo" - the limited but certain benefits guaranteed by workers' compensation insurance coverage. If the balance between the extent of the waiver and the receipt of benefits is tipped so that the employee's benefit under the statute are substantially reduced, the clear intent of the Legislature is thwarted. See Reyes, 995 S.W.2d 722 at 727.