Workplace Relationships

NY Times article “Friends at Work? Not So Much”

Today’s post comes from guest author Hayes Jernigan, from The Jernigan Law Firm.

The New York Times recently published an op-ed claiming that the amount of people who seek or maintain friendships in the workplace has dropped in recent decades. Where people once looked to the workplace as a main source of long-term friendships, by 2004 only 30% of Americans said they had a close friend at work. The article cites several studies that show we communicate better and are more productive when we work with friends.


In workers’ compensation, we represent employees who have been injured on the job. More often than not when an injured worker calls our office they are upset by how they have been treated by their employer once they were injured, especially if they have worked there for a long time. If an employee develops a close relationship with their coworkers and their boss, when they get hurt on the job, they suddenly feel like those relationships were one-sided because they feel they are tossed aside as soon as they get hurt (oftentimes for no fault of their own).


Injuries at work can change workplace relationships. The employer often must hire a replacement, which requires additional expenses, and co-workers might feel they are caught in the middle. We often ask workers who call our office whether they are on good terms with their employer because when they are, things tend to go a lot easier. If you have friends at work and get injured, will that make the process better or worse? Would you feel that your employer and co-workers will go to bat for you or will you feel more hurt because people might distance themselves from you? I like to think the former. Either way it’s a safe bet for all parties to be open and honest with each other and most of all, be kind to each other- no one wants to get hurt. 



3 tips for taking better breaks from work

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work break

Research sheds light on how to be effective at taking breaks throughout the work day.

It’s a good habit to take breaks from work, especially if our jobs involve sitting at a desk or staring at a screen. Past research has shown that mental down time is actually essential for a number of important cognitive processes.

But what is the best way to take that break? Researchers Emily Hunter and Cindy Wu at Baylor University surveyed 95 employees over a five day workweek. They collected data from over 900 breaks—including coffee breaks, lunch breaks, shorter breaks to socialize or take care of a non-work related task. The following suggestions come from their findings, which were published in the Journal of Applied Psychology last month. These better break techniques are associated with higher job satisfaction and better health.

1. Do something you like

The researchers found that taking a break to do an activity that workers enjoy is more beneficial. Your break doesn’t necessarily have to be entirely non-work related, but it should be an activity that you prefer. So, taking a break to run a personal errand that you don’t enjoy might not make for an effective break.

If you happen to work near a park or another green space and like nature (you’re reading TreeHugger, so I think it’s a good bet that you do), consider going for a short stroll. A 2013 study found that a nature walk can help clear a fuzzy brain.

2. Take shorter, more frequent breaks


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The Largest Apprenticeship Investment in U.S. History

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Secretary Perez, right, meets with LeDaya Epps, center, and James Martinez, both apprentices at the Crenshaw/LAX light rail line project office and construction site.
Secretary Perez, right, meets with LeDaya Epps, center, and James Martinez, both apprentices at the Crenshaw/LAX light rail line project office and construction site.

Since Day One, the Obama administration has been focused on building a training and workforce system that serves job seekers and job creators alike. We’re empowering people with the tools to punch their ticket to the middle class, while giving employers a pipeline of skilled workers so they can grow and compete in the 21-century economy.

That’s why we’re doubling down on apprenticeship, a tried and true, earn-while-you-learn model. Every business I visit that has an apprenticeship program swears by it. They talk about the incredible return on investment: greater worker productivity, higher retention rates, reduced injuries and improved morale they see from their apprentices.

And for the themselves, the benefits are undeniable. The average starting salary upon graduation is $50,000. An apprentice will earn an average of $300,000 more in wages and benefits over his or her career than peers who haven’t apprenticed. Apprenticeship offers a smooth pathway to the middle class and to a college degree for those who wish to continue their education and training. I like to call it the other college – without the debt.

President Obama has made it clear that apprenticeships are critical to the strength of our workforce and our economy. Today, at Macomb Community College in Michigan, he announced…

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Deaths from falls increase, but vehicles biggest cause of workplace deaths

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Workplace Deaths from Falls

The number of U.S. workers killed on the job as a result of slips, trips and falls rose nearly 10% in 2014, according to data released Thursday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

There were 647 fatal falls to a lower level last year compared with 595 in 2013, the bureau said in a statement.

Out of the fatal incidents where the height of the fall was known, more than 420 incidents involved falls of 30 feet or less, according to the statement.

In addition to the 8.7% increase in falls to a lower level, fatal falls on the same level increased 17.2% — from 110 in 2013 to 129 in 2014, the statement says.

Slips, trips and falls also include falls from collapsing structures or equipment and falls through surfaces or existing openings.

According to the bureau’s preliminary data, 4,679 fatal work injuries were recorded in the United States in 2014, up 2% from the revised count of 4,585 fatal work injuries in 2013. Revised data for 2014 will be released next spring.

Meanwhile, transportation incidents represented 40% of fatal workplace injuries in 2014, up 1.4% from 2013, data shows.

Roadway incidents involving motorized land vehicles accounted for the majority of all 1,891 fatal work injuries due to transportation incidents, the bureau said in the statement, adding that the number of reported roadway incidents is expected to rise when updated 2014 data is released.

Pedestrian vehicular incidents, including pedestrians struck by vehicles in work zones, accounted for 17% of deaths in…

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Have work, will travel: How digital nomads are redefining work

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The article describes a new reality facing workers’ compensation systems: if we can be at work anywhere, then an injury anywhere could be filed as a workers’ compensation claim. It will be interesting to see how this plays out in years to come. kc

coworking digital nomad

The Internet is enabling so-called digital nomads to travel and work from anywhere in the world. Is it an anomaly or a trend that’s here to stay?

The workplace is changing beyond recognition, thanks to new technologies like the smartphone (the new office in your pants) and near-ubiquitous Internet connectivity. Now, people don’t have to be tied to a desk or even an office; you can work remotely from home, from a café or really, any place that has WiFi. The freelance economy is growing as more and more people work for themselves, with some predicting that half of the American workforce will be self-employed by 2020.

Here on TreeHugger, we’ve discussed the ins and outs of this telecommuting phenomenon for the last decade. It appears to have now grown into a critical mass of location-independent digital nomads, who are eschewing the conventional 9-to-5 office job in growing numbers, freeing them up to travel to far-flung places like Asia, Europe and South America — while still earning a living. Todd Wassermann at Mashable explains:

A global surge in broadband ubiquity and a buyer’s market for programming talent have colluded to make digital nomadism a viable option for adventurous self-starters. While no one tracks their number, some 2.6% of U.S. workers — about 3.3 million people — telecommuted at least half the time in 2013, according to Global Workplace Analytics.

Coworking hubs popping up in cities

The growth in the freelance economy has also prompted the…

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We Need More People Like The Wright Brothers

Leonard Jernigan & Betsy Jernigan with David McCullough

Today’s post comes from guest author Leonard Jernigan, from The Jernigan Law Firm.

My wife and I recently attended a presentation in Raleigh, N.C. by David McCullough, the Pulitzer Prize winning author and narrator of Ken Burns’ The Civil War, about his most recent book, The Wright Brothers. He explained that although neither Wilbur nor Orville had a college degree they were nevertheless well-read, intelligent, and extremely disciplined. They were also confident and did not let criticism get in their way.

Although they valued privacy they eventually became two of the most famous people in the world. They were thrown into a glamorous crowd as they demonstrated the ability to fly their plane in Paris, London and New York, and as they walked among the wealthy they commented that never in their lives “had they been among so many who, by all signs, had little to do but amuse themselves.”  

Wilbur died of typhoid fever in 1917 when he was just 45 years old. In 1932 (28 years after the original 1903 flight) Orville attended the ceremony in Kitty Hawk, N.C. that dedicated the impressive Wright Memorial. He died of a heart attack in 1948 at age 77, and approximately 25,000 people passed by his coffin out of respect. Both men were wealthy when they died and Orville had an estate worth about $10 million in today’s dollars, although wealth was never a motivating factor for them. They followed the wisdom of their father who said: “All the money anyone needs is just enough to prevent one from being a burden to others.” David McCullough’s book speaks volumes about their character, and leaves the reader wondering where such men are today.   

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Window Washer Killed From Fall in Tacoma, WA

KING-TV reports that a window washer was killed after falling from a building in downtown Tacoma Thursday, September 16, 2015. It happened at the Davita Building at 1423 Pacific Avenue, near the Tacoma Children’s Museum.

The Pierce County Medical Examiner identified the man killed as 30-year-old Timothy Thomas Sargent.

He worked for United Building Services out of Seattle. There was initially no word of how he fell. Tacoma Police and L&I are investigating.

The Washington State Department of Labor and Industries said this employer has been cited four of the past six inspections for serious violations related to fall prevention.


Who Is Really Covered Under New Overtime Rules?

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Luciano Lozano/Ikon Images/Corbis

The Obama administration has proposed new rules that will allow more salaried workers to be eligible for overtime.

Wait. Salaried workers? Overtime?

“I’m very glad that you asked that question and I think the way you asked it underscores what I think is a lot of misinformation about who’s exempt from overtime protections,” Heidi Shierholz, chief economist at the U.S. Department of Labor, told KNPR’s State of Nevada. “We have this core value in the United States of a 40 hour work week. If you work more than 40 hours, you should get time and a half for those additional hours. But we have this intended to be relatively small set of workers who are exempt from those protections.”

In the mid-20th Century, when these rules were written, those exempt workers were mostly executives, people who took home salaries in the $20,000 or $30,000 a year. The country believed they got paid enough, and could work as long as they wanted.

But just to make sure, the government devised a three-pronged test in order to be exempt from having to be paid overtime, workers had to be paid a salary, that salary had to be above a certain threshold, and you had to actually have the duties of an executive

This is where things became muddy over the years.

In the 1930s, when the Fair Labor Standards Act was written, most people were physical laborers, and the difference between support workers and executives was pretty stark.

Now, there are…

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Regulation seen as crucial to curbing opioid excesses in workers comp

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Painkiller Prescriptions

Prescription drug monitoring programs and “pill mill” laws can curb opioid prescribing and use, but observers say other regulatory tools such as closed formularies might control the opioid epidemic better as it relates to workers compensation.

Published online Monday by The Journal of the American Medical Association, a new study by researchers from the Baltimore-based Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health says Florida’s prescription drug monitoring program and pill mill laws were associated with “modest reductions” in opioid prescribing and use — including declines of 1.4% in opioid prescriptions, 2.5% in opioid volume and 5.6% in morphine milligram equivalents, or dosage — one year after their 2010 implementation.

The study, “Effect of Florida’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program and Pill Mill Laws on Opioid Prescribing and Use,” looked at 2.6 million patients, 431,890 prescribers and 2,829 pharmacies in Florida, the intervention state, and Georgia, the control state, between July 2010 and September 2012.

The study didn’t look at workers comp claims, but the reductions in opioid prescribing and use are comparable to the single-digit decreases “we’re seeing in (workers comp) pharmacy benefit management drug trend reports,” which address comp systems in all states, said Michael Gavin, Duluth, Georgia-based president of medical cost management company PRIUM. “It makes me wonder whether the Florida…

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Going across the border to Canada? Workers’ Comp issues to understand

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With the globalization of the economy, more employers have workers in multiple countries, creating complex Workers' Comp issues. Photo: Shutterstock
With the globalization of the economy, more employers have workers in multiple countries, creating complex Workers’ Comp issues. Photo: Shutterstock

For many employers in the U.S., Canada offers an attractive market for business expansion. Culturally and economically close, Canada shares a strong western economy, one of the world’s largest disposable incomes, a higher paid price for goods, and on occasion, less competition for market share.

Even with all the advantages, businesses should also be aware of the risks when considering expansion across the border. Workplace legislation and the legal policies companies must follow are significantly different from those in the United States. Notably, the Workers’ Compensation system has some unique and costly elements.

No employer wants to see an accident or injury in the workplace, but when they do happen, employers in Canada need to understand how to negotiate the complex maze of the local Workers’ Compensation Board.

The Canadian Workers’ Compensation system

The Canadian Workers’ Compensation system is more than 100 years old and was cultivated in the rich and hazardous landscape of a booming industrial and economic revolution. In 1910, Chief Justice of Ontario, Sir William Meredith, was asked to head a Royal Commission studying Workers’ Compensation systems throughout the world.

In his Royal Commission report, Meredith said that the true aim of compensation law was to provide for both injured workers…

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Published by Causey Law Firm