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Feds allege Washington workers' comp law violations constitution

By Bree Gonzales | Dec 24, 2018

YAKIMA, Wash. (Legal Newsline) – The federal government is seeking to enjoin the implementation and declare invalid a Washington state workers' compensation law regarding the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in the state.

The United States of America filed a complaint on Dec. 10 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Washington against state of Washington, Jay Inslee, in his official capacity as governor of the state of Washington; Washington State Department of Labor & Industries; and Joel Sacks, in his official capacity as director of the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries citing violation of intergovernmental immunity discrimination.

According to the complaint, Washington enacted a workers' compensation law titled Hanford Site Employees - Occupational Disease Presumption, or Washington Substitute House Bill 1723. 

The plaintiff alleges the law "impermissibly singles out and discriminates against the federal government and its contractors, purports to directly regulate the federal government, and imposes significant burdens on the federal government and its contractors without imposing them on other employers in the state, all in violation of the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution," the suit states.

The plaintiff alleges HB 1723 fundamentally changes "how the WIIA (Washington Industrial Insurance Act) applies to federally owned and operated portions of Hanford but not to anywhere else in the state. Specifically, the law creates a legal presumption that past, current, and future 'United States [D]epartment of [E]nergy Hanford site workers,' as defined under the law, are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits if they develop certain diseases or conditions without having to demonstrate, as the WIIA otherwise requires, that their conditions were more likely than not caused by their employment at Hanford," the suit states.

The plaintiff seeks a declaration that HB 1723 is invalid under the Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution; permanently enjoin enforcement of HB 1723 against the federal government and those with whom it deals; costs of suit; and other and further relief as the court deems just and proper. It is represented by Christopher R. Healy of the United States Department of Justice in Washington, D.C.

U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Washington case number 4:18-cv-05189-SAB

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State of Washington U.S. Department of Justice U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Washington Yakima Division

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