"What's workers' comp-er-sation?" SpongeBob replied.
"You know - when you get paid for sitting at home!" Mr. Crabbs chortled when realizing that SpongeBob saved him a couple of dimes after Squidward tried to sequester him and keep SpongeBob from his beloved job due to the splinter in his finger.
SpongeBob's experience with the workers' compensation system in The Splinter probably isn't that far from the experience of many, and is representative of how the general population looks at the system.
In this episode the contagiously humorous sponge reports for work, enthusiastic to supply the population of Bikini Bottom with Crabby Patties all day long. In his excitement he accidentally lodges his spatula in the roof of the kitchen. After dislodging the spatula SpongeBob slips and gets a splinter in his thumb, which immediately swells and impairs his ability to cook.
Squidward tells SpongeBob that he can't work in that condition (Squidward has ulterior motives) which sends SpongeBob into deep depression. In an attempt to get back to work SpongeBob calls his friendly starfish, Patrick, who dons a smock and stethoscope, performs a medical examination of every body part other than the thumb with the splinter in it, then engages in medical treatment that causes more harm than remedy.
Ultimately Mr. Crabbs comes onto the scene, gets SpongeBob the medical treatment he needs (removes the splinter), restoring SpongeBob's ability to work and the summary of what workers' comp-er-sation is occurs.
Squidward liked the sound of getting paid to stay at home - "You mean I can get paid to stay at home?" he asks.
Mr. Crabbs affirms: "Yeah, what do you think comp-er-sation stands for?"
Whereupon Squidward beats himself in the head with a cash register and asks whether he can get his "comp-er-sation now."
Mr. Crabbs deflates Squidward's expectations by replying that his shift ended two minutes ago.
Is that any different than what Mark Knopfler describes in his hit song, "Industrial Disease?"
Doctor Parkinson declared "I'm not surprised to see you here.
You've got smoker's cough from smoking, brewer's droop from drinking beer.
I don't know how you came to get the Bette Davis knees,
but worst of all young man you've got Industrial Disease"
He wrote me a prescription, he said "You are depressed,
but I'm glad you came to see me to get this off your chest.
Come back and see me later -- next patient please!
Send in another victim of Industrial Disease."
Workers' compensation generally represents just over 1% of payroll for most employers, yet has a huge emotional cost for both employers and employees.
Employers, particularly small businesses or small departments in large businesses, many times feel as though they have been betrayed when someone files a claim - as though they were being personally attacked by the employee and are going to be taken advantage of.
Employees seek help from all the wrong places and end up resenting the system or, for some Squidwards, try to take advantage of it.
In the end of the day though, for the vast majority of businesses, the cost of workers' compensation insurance is a small part of the overall expense, and probably (like my business) a small insurance expense compared to health, liability, property, directors & officers, errors & omissions, cyber-liability, and the host of all of the other insurance products I buy for the business.
And, dare I say, less than 1% of the working population will ever make a claim.
But workers' compensation carries with it a lot of emotion. Maybe because it is mandatory so employers and employees feel they have no control. After all, I don't (yet) have to buy health insurance for my employees. There is no law that requires me to purchase liability, property, directors & officers, errors & omissions, cyber-liability or any other insurance product.
But the government says I MUST carry work comp.
And if there is an injury the government says it MUST go through work comp.
Sometimes I wonder if the appeal of a non-subscription system, such as what was proposed for Oklahoma, is that it provides some relief from governmental intervention - freedom to design and implement something that is more within the control of those who are paying the bills and using the services.
Calls for reform are occurring across the nation, from California to New York, with impassioned arguments on behalf of business who say that costs are climbing out of control again and workers who say they have been cheated.
Emotions run high on these issues. You don't see impassioned pleas about the cost of property insurance, or directors & officer's coverage.
But because of its mandatory nature workers' compensation hits a raw nerve with everyone.
Perhaps what really needs to be reformed is the public perception of workers' compensation.
Kind of like a colonoscopy: everyone dreads turning 50 and going through the ordeal. And everyone finds out that its not as bad as it would seem.