Workers’ compensation claims have skyrocketed in Minneapolis since the killing of George Floyd.
According to the Minnesota Reformer, the Minneapolis City Council has received 756 claims for worker’s compensation benefits over the last year by city employees – the majority of whom are police officers. So far, the council has approved 16 settlements with payouts ranging from $90,000 to $250,000 dollars.
Claims surged by 69 percent in 2020 over a year of protests and riots, increasing from 439 claims in 2019 to 740 in 2020.
The majority of those filing workers’ comp claims are police officers or firefighters who have left their jobs due to disabilities – the most common one being post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Professor Thomas Coghlan, a retired New York Police Department detective and professor of clinical psychology at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, explained, “I think what we’re seeing are high levels of post-traumatic stress disorder and burnout but also compassion fatigue, (where) you no longer see (people) as being something worth putting yourself in harms’ way. It’s far more dangerous than burnout.”
Coghlan also said many officers are simply not willing to return to work. “How long can you go to work being vilified for having shown up to work, through no fault of your own?” he said.
According to the city finance office, departments are self-insured, and pay premiums into a fund to cover lawsuits and workers’ comp claims. Therefore, it is ultimately the Minneapolis residents and taxpayers who cover the costs.
Apparently, the self-insurance fund currently has only $32.5 million, which may not be enough.
Because of the increase in payouts and legal settlements over the past year, insurance premiums have increased. Department liability premiums have increased 21% from 2019 to 2020, with a total pay out of $11.7 million in comp claims last year. However, some of last year’s claims are still pending, and the workers are still entitled to disability leave payments.
Attorney Ronald Meuser Jr., who represents dozens of Minneapolis cops and firefighters, said the settlements are in the best interest of injured employees and the city, as it costs less than if the city were to go to trial.
“The attorneys for the city of Minneapolis recognize that the city has a great deal of exposure to liability. It’s not like they’re just throwing money at these guys. These are fair settlements,” he said.
Meuser represents 200 Minneapolis cops and firefighters who have filed workers’ comp claims since Floyd’s murder. Given the current average settlement of $169,000, the total cost of those 200 claims alone could reach $34 million.
As the police department thins out from retirements and disability leave, officers are being forced to work overtime. The City Council recently agreed to empty its $5 million reserve fund for police overtime to counterbalance the loss of 220 full-time police employees this year.
The attitude among police officers is that the City Council does not care for their wellbeing.
One officer said, “In the city of Minneapolis, they treat [PTSD] like it’s a joke. They feel like they would rather throw a cop in jail before throwing a criminal in jail. So it’s sad. It’s a sad time.”