Kevin Schiller had no idea what hit him.

With 21 years on the job, the building engineer for Macy’s department stores had been in and out of every nook and cranny of many of the retail giant’s Texas stores, including the storage room in the Macy’s in Denton, Texas.

One minute, the stocky, 6-foot-2 Schiller was searching there for a floor drain. The next, he was sprawled on the floor, stunned, confused and bleeding slightly.

“All I heard was a loud crack and I found myself looking up on people looking down on me,” Schiller recalls more than five years later. “They saw the mannequin hit me in the head and it drove my head into a shelf and then after that my head hit the cement.”

The mannequin fell 12 feet from the highest shelf. Schiller has hardly worked since, given persistent headaches, memory loss, disorientation and extreme sensitivity to bright light and loud sound.

He now has to post notes on the front door and refrigerator of his apartment, reminding him to take medications and keep appointments. In case he is stopped by police, he carries a letter from his doctor that says he may appear drunk owing to a head injury.

“I’m next to poverty,” Schiller says. “I sit in a dark room. I watch TV like an old 80- or 90-year-old person.”

Schiller, 54, is among 1.5 million workers in Texas and Oklahoma who don’t have state-regulated workers’ compensation to turn to when they’re injured on the job. Millions more may join them as more states consider giving employers the right to opt out of state workers’ comp systems.

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by Howard Berkes
NPR, January 21, 2016