644 N.E. 2d 72 (Ind. 1994)
Agricultural workers were excluded from coverage under the Indiana Worker’s Compensation Statute. P broke his leg while working for D in the course of his agricultural employment. Plaintiff admits there are separate interpretations of the federal 14th amendment and the IN constitution – but argues that “although 14th amendment principles may be equally appropriate to equal protection issues under Section 23, a different analysis should be applied to address a grant of special privileges or immunities to a favored class.” He argues that there needs to be a “rational and substantial basis… that furthers a legitimate state interest… with reasonably narrow tailoring for its purpose.”
Whether the requirements of the Privileges and Immunities clause of the IN constitution “are independent of and distinguishable from those imposed by the 14th amendment of the US Constitution.”
Whether under the IN constitution, statutory exemption for workers compensation for agricultural employees is impermissible.
“The General Assembly shall not grant to any citizen, or class of citizens, privileges or immunities which, upon the same terms, shall not equally belong to all citizens.”
(1) Yes, The court first examined whether to apply the 14th amendment or the IN constitution. There have been cases where the 14th amendment’s interpretation had separate outcome than the IN constitution. However, the court elects not to follow the 14th amendment in resolving a section 23 issues. “We conclude that there is no settled body of IN law that compels application of a federal equal protection analytical methodology to claims alleging special privileges or immunities…” Section 23 is decidedly more strict than the federal constitution.
The IN constitutional founders enacted section 23 to do away with government favoritism of particular corporate bodies and then later clarified that favoritism shall not be shown to individuals either. “The comments of others during the convention reveal that the purpose of Section 23 was to prohibit state entanglement in private profit-seeking ventures and to avoid the creation of monopolies.” Therefore, Section 23 does not appear to have been enacted to prevent abridgement of any existing privileges or immunities, nor to assure citizens the equal protection of the laws. But, the interpretation of the statute evolved over the years to apply to individual citizen discrimination. “We conclude that, as the second general requirement of Section 23 compliance, any privileged classification must be open to any and all persons who share the inherent characteristics which distinguish and justify the classification, with the special treatment accorded to any particular classification extended equally to all such persons.”
(2) No. The test, therefore, is “First, the disparate treatment accorded by the legislation must be reasonably related to inherent characteristics which distinguish the unequally treated classes. Second, the preferential treatment must be uniformly applicable and equally available to all persons similarly situated. Finally, in determining whether a statute complies with or violates Section 23, courts must exercise substantial deference to legislative discretion.”
Plaintiff has failed to negate every reasonable explanation for the exemption. As to reasonable relation – “This special privilege is reasonably related to the inherent distinctions between the class of employers and the class of employees. It is exclusively within the employer’s province to make the general management decisions governing the operation of agricultural enterprise.” The option for the employer to elect to offer worker’s compensation to his employees is rationally “limited to the employer.” “Extending the election to individual employees would result in inconsistent application of Worker’s Compensation Act among various employees of the same operation.”