What to Expect When You’re Expecting: Fair Treatment Under the Law

Today’s post was shared by US Dept. of Labor and comes from social.dol.gov

Editor’s note: This is the first blog post in “Working Families, a Reality Series” by Women’s Bureau Director Latifa Lyles exploring issues that affect women and families in the 21st-century workplace.

Last month, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission announced that Triple T Foods, a pet food processor in Arkansas, will pay a $30,000 settlement to a former employee for a pregnancy discrimination lawsuit in which the employee got fired on the day she announced she was pregnant.

Here we are, 36 years after the passage of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, and some employers still view child-bearing and employment as mutually exclusive activities.

The Women’s Bureau recently posted a series of charts with data about mothers and families on our website, and the numbers show that being a mother in the workforce is increasingly the norm. It is not surprising that the vast majority of mothers – 7 out of 10 – work, and women are the sole or primary financial support for their families now more than ever. What’s more, over two-thirds of women work during their first pregnancy. Yet, pregnancy discrimination persists in many forms, in all stages of employment – hiring, firing and promotion – and in all stages of pregnancy.

Employment protections for workers who are pregnant or nursing:


Map of pregnancy discrimination laws in the United States
Map of pregnancy discrimination laws in the U.S.

Click on the map to learn about pregnancy discrimination laws by state.

Cases like…

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Disability Rights are Civil Rights

Today’s post was shared by US Labor Department and comes from social.dol.gov

President Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act of 1964
Civil Rights Act

President Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act of 1964

Earlier this month, we as a nation celebrated the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Just minutes before putting pen to paper on that historic day, President Lyndon B. Johnson went on television to address the nation, articulating the law’s fundamental purpose: to create a better, more inclusive society for all Americans.

“Those who founded our country knew that freedom would be secure only if each generation fought to renew and enlarge its meaning,” he said in his address, going on to acknowledge the many leaders, both black and white, who worked tirelessly to get what he often referred to as “an American bill” onto his desk.

At the time, I was 5 years old and 3,000 miles away in southern California, doing the typical things 5-year-olds do. But, there were others older than me listening who took those words to heart in a way that would have a profound impact on my life. In the 1960s, the unified disability rights movement was just emerging, and its leaders learned a great deal from those who brought the Civil Rights Act to fruition.

Twenty-six years later, those leaders found themselves at the White House looking on as another president signed landmark civil rights legislation renewing and enlarging America’s ideal of equality — the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, which was authorized by President George H.W. Bush on July 26,…

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Job Corps is My Calling

Today’s post was shared by US Dept. of Labor and comes from social.dol.gov

Editor’s note: As we continue to post Job Corps stories in honor of its 50th anniversary, we want to hear from you. Submit your story through our Web form here − or share on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram using the hashtag #JobCorps50.

Anne Marie Scheer drives 106 miles round trip daily to attend classes at the Muhlenberg Job Corps Center. It’s an extraordinary signal of her commitment to her future. At 25, she is juggling child-care responsibilities with the time she needs to complete her training for launch her career. Anne Marie has successfully completed the Heavy Equipment Operators and Construction Equipment Mechanics courses, and is now working to complete the truck driving course before transferring to advanced mechanics training.

Muhlenberg Job Corps Center sign
Center sign

As a longtime Job Corps center director who has counseled hundreds of students, I can say that Anne’s dedication to her career goals is amazing. She continues to work harder and harder to reach each new level of training.

It’s students like Anne Marie that inspire me and my fellow Job Corps center directors. They keep us focused on the transformational potential of this program, even when the deep structural injustices that we see every day weigh on us. The Muhlenberg campus has proudly served more than 16,000 students since it opened in 1973. Many of these students, like Anne Marie, are and have been exceptional — serving as role models, even though they often don’t appreciate their…

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After the International Nutrition Building Collapse: OSHA Releases Report

The International Nutrition building.

Today’s post comes from guest author Rod Rehm, from Rehm, Bennett & Moore.

I was going to write about a summary from the official OSHA news release and provide a compilation of web resources regarding the Jan. 20 International Nutrition building collapse in Omaha. This is relevant now because the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) quite recently found the cause of the collapse after an investigation and levied proposed fines for the tragedy that killed two, injured nine, and doubtlessly affected all the other workers at the plant and all those folks’ loved ones in the greater community.

“OSHA has proposed penalties of $120,560 and placed the company in its Severe Violator Enforcement Program after its investigation into the collapse,” according to the official news release from OSHA.

The building’s collapse was because of “overloading nine storage bins on the building’s roof level,” the news release said, and the company was also placed on OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program.

Here is one link that was more of what I was expecting from the OSHA news release:

Business Insurance website: OSHA cites Omaha feed company for fatal plant collapse 

However, the business did respond via statement to at least three local media channels, and links to those stories are below. The level of denial by the business was frustrating, and I think the Omaha World-Herald newspaper nailed the tone of the story with its headline: “International Nutrition disputes OSHA’s conclusions that overloaded rooftop bins caused collapse.”

So not only does “the company strongly disagree with OSHA’s report,” it is “saying the citations are only allegations and that company officials didn’t know of any condition that contributed to the collapse,” said the reporter for KETVOmaha7 (this quote is attributed to International Nutrition’s attorney, Pat Barrett in the World-Herald article).

The business’ statement also included this quote from the WOWT.com story: “We look forward to presenting the facts demonstrating our commitment to employee safety – both before and after the accident. … At the same time, we welcome the opportunity to work with OSHA to continue to improve employee safety.”

I thought this was telling about the company’s “commitment to employee safety” from the WOWT.com article:

“In total, OSHA has visited the facility 13 times dating back to 1974. Eight of those visits led to violations; however, it had not landed on the Severe VEP program until now. OSHA officials told WOWT 6 News that usually occurs when companies rack up violations of $100,000 or more.”

To get more in-depth information, here are links to both the company’s statement at http://www.omaha.com/international-nutrition-s-july-statement/article_0997a878-10fc-11e4-8481-0017a43b2370.html and OSHA’s Citation and Notification of Penalty report at https://www.osha.gov/ooc/citations/International_Nutrition_955579_Jul18_2014.pdf  

Finally, here’s a link to the actual news release again from OSHA: January structural collapse leading to 2 worker fatalities, 9 injuries at International Nutrition in Omaha caused by overloaded storage bins; OSHA cites company for 13 safety and health violations

“The company manufactures a feed supplement using multiple dry ingredients, rice hulls, solulac and limestone – the ingredients that were stored in the nine bins on the roof of the structure,” according to the KETVOmaha7 report.

The reality when it comes to workers’ compensation and lawsuits is nuanced, but the incident is stark in its details, and this information is from multiple news sources.

In 30 seconds, “close to 1 million pounds of steel, concrete, equipment and ingredients crashing through the plant” occurred, according to the World-Herald.

That 30 seconds and its aftermath is an experience that will take months and years for many to recover from. It is an experience that no worker or their loved ones should have to endure.

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A Special Warning About Over-the-Counter Pain Medications

The dangers of prescription pain meds get a fair amount of regular attention in the media.  A recent Consumer Reports (CR) article described a 300% rise in prescriptions of opiods – particularly those with hydrocodone –over the past decade, and provided a scary statistic:  17,000 people – 46 per day – die from overdose of these drugs.

What is less well known, and gets relatively scant attention, is that over-the-counter (OTC) painkillers containing acetaminophen (e.g. Tylenol) take 80,000 people yearly to the emergency room from overdose.  Acetaminophen, widely regarded as a “safe” drug is now the most common cause of liver failure.

The CR article points out the primary problem:  the directions for usage of these OTC drugs are ridiculously confusing and misleading.  Many of these only provide the caveat “take only as directed.”  What exactly does that mean?  Wildly different things according the cautions provided by differing drug manufacturers.  Some labels advise taking no more than 1000 milligrams of acetaminophen daily while others set the limits four times that high.  In some bizarre bureaucratic misstep, the FDA has lowered the maximum per-pill dose of the drug in prescription medications but has not done the same thing for OTCs. 

CR warns that overdosing on acetaminophen is easy as it is the most common drug in the U.S., found in more than 600 OTC and prescription medications.  There is little margin for error in exceeding the maximum recommended dose as only as small excess amount of the drug can be toxic to the liver.  A scary little graphic in the article shows how easy it is to do this.  A person might take six 500 milligram Extra Strength Tylenol (states maximum daily dose of 3000 milligrams) starting in the morning and through the day; then be on NyQuil for a cold and take eight 325 milligram pills (states maximum daily dose 2600 milligrams); and then do Walgreens Pain Reliever PM as a sleep aid (two 500 milligram pills at bedtime for a daily dose of 1000 milligrams).  At the end of a 24-hour period, that person would have ingested 6,600 milligrams of acetaminophen!!  Repeated doses of more than 4000 milligrams of the drug have been linked to liver, brain and kidney damage.  Chronically large doses have been correlated with the need for a liver transplant, or death, more than from one large overdose.

In 2011, the FDA limited the amount of acetaminophen in prescription pills to 325 milligrams per pill, but there has been no similar limitation imposed for OTCs, even though that market accounts for 80% of that drug taken yearly in the U.S.  For those regular users of acetaminophen, signs of potential liver damage to watch for are:  dark urine, pale stool, upper right abdominal pain, and a yellowish tint to the whites of the eyes.

 

Photo credit: Be.Futureproof / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

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Fixing Our Inadequate Brain Science

The high incidence of traumatic brain injury (TBI) and PTSD (posttraumatic stress disorder) affecting our returning Afghanistan and Iraq veterans, and also our civilian contractor employees, has helped to highlight the inadequacy of the current level of “brain science.”

More than one in five Americans – – over 60 million people – – suffer brain disorder from injury or illness. 600 conditions exist, ranging from autism and Alzheimer’s to the aforementioned TBI and PTSD. Not a single one of these conditions has been cured.  Brain ailments affect more people than heart disease and cancer combined, yet those conditions receive 3 to 5 times more funding for research.

Unlike science for other conditions and diseases, brain science has not had the advantage of an umbrella organization to its coordinate efforts. Brain science research and funding has been fragmented, researchers have often been territorial and overly concerned with intellectual property issues, and the corporate funding that has come mostly from the pharmaceutical industry has been shrinking. An organization named One Mind has recently been created to attack the shortcomings of brain science by advocating for the principle of “open science,” which fosters collaborative scientific work with accessible central data collection for researchers. This process in turn allows for accelerated integration of data and validation of results for publication. All of this should allow basic research to more rapidly reach the clinical setting and benefit patients of brain ailment.

One Mind has two programs currently in progress: Gemini, in which 11 research centers will enroll 3000 patients in a longitudinal brain injury study; and Apollo, which is developing a data exchange portal that will support the collaborative effort described above and will create a digital marketplace accessible by students, teachers and researchers.

One Mind is currently headed by CEO Gen. Pete Chiarelli, U.S. Army (retired) who as vice chief of the Army was instrumental in Department of Defense efforts on PTSD, TBI, and suicide prevention. In 2013 Chiarelli received the “Patriot Award” for his work with soldiers and their families dealing with the so-called “invisible wounds” of war.

The author recently attended a presentation in Seattle by Gen. Chiarelli, who provided much additional anecdotal information about the shortcomings of brain science and the efforts by One Mind. He noted, for example, that the diagnostic criteria currently in use for assessing PTSD are decades old and woefully inadequate for mental health practitioners to accurately diagnose and assess the condition.

Go to www.onemind.org for a full review of the organization, its mission and its programs.

Photo credit: “Central nervous system drawing circa 1900″

 Double–M / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

Women in Trades: An Apprenticeship Success Story

Today’s post was shared by US Labor Department and comes from social.dol.gov

Editor’s note: The following guest post is authored by Oregon Tradeswomen Inc. Executive Director Connie Ashbrook, who participated in a panel on STEM and nontraditional jobs at the White House Summit on Working Families in June. View the panel here, and share your apprenticeship success story with us on Twitter by tagging @USDOL.

Deawendoe “Dee” St. Martin came to Oregon Tradeswomen Inc. a hard worker with a gift for fixing things. She sought out OTI’s state-certified pre-apprenticeship training program because she wanted a lifelong career that would allow her to support her four children.

Over the course of OTI’s seven-week Trades and Apprenticeship Career Class, Dee and the other 22 women in her cohort learned construction basics from experienced tradeswomen. In addition to studying construction math and measurement, practicing how to properly use hand and power tools, and being educated about communication and safety on the job site, they learned some of the most valuable skills necessary for a successful trades apprenticeship: construction culture and working productively to industry standards.

Deawendoe “Dee” St. Martin
Deawendoe “Dee” St. Martin

After completing OTI’s pre-apprenticeship class, Dee applied for and was accepted into the Oregon Laborers Apprenticeship, a Registered Apprenticeship program with rigorous physical requirements. She often practiced late into the night on her own to develop the muscle and technical skills needed to pass…

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Spokane Woman Charged with Defrauding State in $101,000 Disability Scam

SPOKANE — A Spokane woman stands accused of raking in more than $100,000 in disability benefits while working with her husband to operate his motel, and their nightclub and apartment building.

The Washington Attorney General’s Office has charged Mistie S. Crosby, 52, with one count of first-degree, felony theft. Crosby is slated to appear on the charge in Spokane County Superior Court on July 23.

The case resulted from a Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) investigation.

Crosby said she hurt her back, neck and shoulder in September 2010 while working at Sunset Junction, a nightclub in Spokane that has since closed. According to charging papers, she filed an injured workers’ claim, physicians confirmed she was injured, and L&I opened her claim.

No mention of ownership

When submitting the claim form, Crosby did not divulge if she was an owner, partner or corporate officer in the business where she was injured. Business owners must provide employees with workers’ compensation insurance, but the coverage is optional for the owners themselves. Crosby never signed up for the insurance.

From the time she was injured through early 2013, Crosby received nearly $59,000 in wage-replacement payments and more than $42,000 in medical and vocational benefits from L&I. During that period, she signed official forms certifying she was not working and incapable of working due to her on-the-job injury.

Undercover investigation

However, an L&I investigation revealed that Crosby was working at the Lascelle Motel and an apartment complex while she was receiving the workers’ comp benefits, charging papers said. At one point, she even showed apartments to an undercover investigator, and easily climbed stairs as the investigator watched.

In an interview in February 2013, Crosby told the investigator she co-owned the nightclub, motel and apartment complex, and played an integral role in each business, charging papers said.

L&I began the investigation based on a tip that Crosby was more active than she was reporting to L&I, and that she might be helping at the nightclub.

“We investigate every tip,” said Doric Olson, deputy assistant director of Fraud Prevention and Labor Standards. “Rooting out fraud allows us to protect the system for workers who are truly injured.”

To report cases of suspected fraud, go to Lni.wa.gov/Fraud or call 1-888-811-5974.

 

Photo credit: RoadTrippers.com

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Port of Seattle Statement on Gateway Pacific Terminal Report

The Port of Seattle published the following release, noting a recent study concerning the use of rail transport, primarily for proposed future coal shipments from Montana but also increased freight and passenger needs:

The Puget Sound Regional Council released a study today that identifies how much train traffic could increase if the proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal near Bellingham were built. The study found that Everett, Auburn, Algona, Pacific and Fife would be affected by more trains servicing the proposed terminal, but also pointed out that as our economy grows demand for more freight and passenger rail service will increase even if the proposed terminal is not built.

“If our trade-dependent economy is going to generate more family wage jobs and if we’re going to keep the jobs we have now, our state and the railroads need to invest in critical rail improvements,” said Commissioner Bill Bryant, who represents Washington’s ports on the Puget Sound Regional Council executive board.   The study also determined the impact of increased rail traffic could be mitigated if grade separations (over or underpasses) were constructed at nearly a third of our region’s 101 rail crossings. More than $100 billion in cargo passes through our region’s ports each year. Ports are strong advocates for expanding rail capacity and service to the Pacific Northwest.   

“Increasing rail capacity and service in and out of the Pacific Northwest is essential to our global competitiveness, that means it’s critical to keeping and expanding jobs here in Washington” said Bryant. “We also need to pay attention to the safety, environmental and traffic impacts on our communities.”

 

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Bad Time to be a Disability Lawyer

Today’s post comes from guest author Thomas Domer, from The Domer Law Firm.

I passed through Customs after a trip to Europe this week and explained to the Customs official that I represented injured workers.  His first comment to me was “How ‘bout those guys that are scamming the system?”  I attempted to provide the disclaimer to his notion that “At least one out of every three is a fraud.” by explaining that in a long term study of fraud in Wisconsin, the incidence of fraud was literally one in 5,000.

Nonetheless, that notion persists.  I read with interest today the speech of Professor Jon C. Dubin accepting a Distinguished Service Award.  I sent Professor Dubin a congratulatory note and obtained his permission to reprint it in an upcoming issue of the Workers First Watch (the magazine of the Workers Injury Law and Advocates Group (WILG) which I edit.  He noted

“Sometimes it seems like the only thing less popular than a disability benefit claimant these days is a disability benefit claimant with a lawyer. But it bears remembering that you are the first line of defense against these stereotypes and misperceptions and against the insidious drumbeat of atypical anecdotes and calls for draconian policy change. You are also the only ones who can communicate your clients’ true and heartbreaking counter-narratives to those fraud stories. You are the ones who can describe the terrible injustices that routinely occur in assembly line administrative decision-making especially when there is a cloud of political pressure lurking above that process.”

References made to Social Security representation are also applicable in our worker’s compensation arena.  Congratulations again to Professor Dubin on his well-deserved award and his accurate perceptions of disability claimants and their representatives.

Published by Causey Law Firm