LUBBOCK, Texas (CN) - An attorney says Texas' Commissioner of Workers' Compensation has unconstitutionally prohibited him from using the words "workers' compensation" or "workers' comp" on his blog - and even barred him from using the word "Texas," or "a picture or map of the state of Texas" in conjunction with the words "workers' comp." John Gibson says the state sent him a cease-and-desist letter, threatening him with fines of $5,000 a day for his blog, www.texasworkerscomplaw.com
Gibson, a Lubbock attorney with 14 years experience, and a board certified specialist in workers' compensation law, got a cease-and-desist letter on Feb. 7.
The state's letter prohibits him from using the terms "Texas Workers' Compensation" or using the word "Texas" along with the words "Workers' Compensation" or "Workers' Comp," on his blog or elsewhere.
Gibson says the state is accusing him of violating the Texas Labor Code §419.002 without benefit of a hearing and without due process.
The statute says the use of the terms is forbidden in connection with "any impersonation, advertisement, solicitation, business name, business activity, document, product or service."
Gibson adds: "Section 419.002(b) further restricts usage of a picture or map of the state of Texas in conjunction with the use of the words above."
But Gibson says the words are not the intellectual property of the state, but are in the public domain, that no governmental interest is served by regulating them, and that forbidding their use is an impermissible restraint on free speech.
"For instance, under the terms of the regulation, a physician or medical clinic would be prohibited from advertising that they accept workers' compensation patients in Texas. Any attorney who was board certified would also be strictly prohibited from using the phrase 'Board Certified in Workers' Compensation Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization,' which is the accepted manner and form for disclosing Board Certification in Texas," the complaint states. "These and other unnecessary restrictions on advertising are the result of § 419.002, without serving any governmental interest."
Gibson says that barring the terms in "any business activity, document, product or service" is governmental overreach.
"For instance, how could any candidate for office discuss in his campaign literature, or in a public speech, the needs for reform in the 'Texas Worker's Compensation system'? How could a legal professional give a seminar presentation on the latest cases handed down by the 'Texas Workers' Compensation Commission,' or be critical of a judicial finding by a 'Texas' court on a 'Workers' Compensation' case? Any such usage, under the clear language of the statute, would be a violation subject to $5,000 per day," the complaint states.
Appended to the complaint is the cease-and-desist letter from the state.
Gibson wants the law enjoined as unconstitutional, and costs.
He is represented by Robert Hogan of Lubbock.