Black lung benefits and Constitutional challenges: the Byrd Amendments to the Black Lung Benefits Act; and the Kentucky consensus procedure(2012)
AbstractThis note discusses two recent issues where legislation concerning benefits for coal workers affected by pneumoconiosis (black lung) was challenged under the US Constitution, including issues of due process, equal treatment and the takings clause. Congress has recently restored earlier legislation making it easier for the survivors of workers affected by black lung to qualify for federal benefits. Several courts of appeal have upheld this legislation against constitutional challenges from employers holding that it is neither in breach of the employers’ due process rights nor a taking within the meaning of the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution. In contrast, the Kentucky Supreme Court has found unconstitutional, on equal protection grounds, a special ‘consensus’ procedure by which coal workers affected by pneumoconiosis were required to prove their claim for workers compensation. The cases highlight the rather different standards which are applied by the courts even where they are (nominally) applying a similar standard. For example, the Seventh Circuit, upholding the recent amendments to the Black Lung Benefits Act, stated that Due process only requires Congress to have acted rationally, not necessarily intelligently. In contrast, the Kentucky Supreme Court argued that ‘the rational basis standard, while deferential, is certainly not demure’ and applied, what Justice O’Connor has described as, ‘a more searching form of rational basis review’.
- Constitution law,
- workers compensation,
- (1) equal protection,
- (2) Taking Clause
Citation InformationMel Cousins. "Black lung benefits and Constitutional challenges: the Byrd Amendments to the Black Lung Benefits Act; and the Kentucky consensus procedure" (2012)
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/mel_cousins/24/