States Lead On Minimum Wage. Is Congress Listening?

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

Congress is back in session this week, and if members have been listening to their constituents they will move quickly to raise the federal minimum wage, which has lost 20 percent of its purchasing power since the 1980s. But absent action from Capitol Hill, states are taking up the slack.

In March, President Obama and I visited Central Connecticut State University with four New England governors who are leading the charge to reward hard work with a fair wage. Three weeks after our visit, Gov. Dannel Malloy of Connecticut signed a bill raising Connecticut’s minimum wage. And in the last month alone, Govs. Peter Shumlin of Vermont, Deval Patrick of Massachusetts and − as recently as last Wednesday − Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island have followed suit.


President Barack Obama delivers remarks on the minimum wage, at Central Connecticut State University in New Britain, Connecticut, March 5, 2014. The President is joined by Gov. Dannel Malloy of Connecticut; Labor Secretary Thomas Perez, Gov. Peter Shumlin of Vermont, Gov. Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, and Gov. Deval Patrick of Massachusetts.
President Obama in Connecticut

President Barack Obama delivers remarks on the minimum wage at Central Connecticut State University in New Britain, Connecticut, March 5, 2014. He is joined by Gov. Dannel Malloy of Connecticut; Labor Secretary Thomas Perez, Gov. Peter Shumlin of Vermont, Gov. Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island and Gov. Deval Patrick of Massachusetts. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

These state leaders are answering the call of low-wage workers who want nothing more than the dignity of being able to support their families, men and women who have to make heartbreaking decisions every day about which bill to pay or which meal to skip. These governors and their legislatures are also listening…

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Workers’ Comp Covers Work-Related Motor Vehicle Accidents

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

Do you drive a company vehicle as part of your job?

Many find themselves in the situation where they travel regularly, or on a special errand from time to time, as part of their job. 

In the unfortunate scheme of things, if you are involved in an accident while driving, whether it is your fault or not, you are covered by and entitled to workers’ compensation benefits just as any other employee who suffers an accident on the premise of an employer.

More importantly, if the cause of the accident was not due to negligence of your own, but that of a third party, you have a right to bring a third-party negligence action against the party responsible for causing the vehicle accident. This right is separate and distinct from the workers’ compensation benefits that you are entitled to. Further, you also potentially have the right to bring an underinsured motorist coverage claim under your employer’s motor vehicle coverage as well as your own underinsured motorist vehicle coverage. These, too, are separate and distinct from the workers’ compensation benefits you are entitled to. 

It is important to note that the employer would have a subrogation right to be reimbursed for workers’ compensation benefits paid on your behalf against that of any third-party negligence claim where you obtained a recovery. However, as underinsured motorist coverage is typically viewed as contractual benefits in nature, there is no subrogation right from your employer if underinsured benefits are obtained in Nebraska.

If you or someone you know was injured in a motor vehicle accident that arose out of and in the course of one’s employment, there are significant issues to be aware of in order to obtain a recovery that meets your needs. If you have any questions or uncertainty when dealing with this point of law, please seek the advice of an experienced attorney who can help steer you in the best course of action.

Court Rules that Telecommuting Could Be Reasonable Accommodation under the ADA

Today’s post was shared by Gelman on Workplace Injuries and comes from www.linkedin.com

Today’s post is authored by Johnn Geaney, a member of the NJ Bar and a Shareholder at Capehart Scatchard and shared from linkedin.com

Telecommuting is a trend that is rapidly growing in the United States, and telecommuting requests are also on the rise as a potential reasonable accommodation under the ADA. A recent Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals case, EEOC v. Ford Motor Company, 2014 U.S. App. LEXIS 7502 (6 Cir. 2014) illustrates how difficult it can be for an employer to oppose a request for telecommuting.

Jane Harris was hired in 2003 by Ford as a resale buyer, serving as an intermediary between steel suppliers and “stampers,” which are companies that use steel to produce parts for Ford. Her job was to respond to emergency supply issues to ensure no gap in steel supply to parts manufacturers. The most important part of the job was group problem solving, requiring that a buyer be available to interact with members of the resale team, suppliers and others in the Ford system when problems arose.

Harris suffered from IBS, an illness that caused her fecal incontinence. Some days she could not drive to work or stand up from her desk without potentially soiling herself. She took intermittent leave when severe symptoms occurred. In 2005, her supervisor allowed her to work from home on a flex-time telecommuting schedule on a trial basis. The company did not view the trial period as a success. She continued to work occasionally from home doing remote work,…

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Medical Care Politics in Worker’s Compensation

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

The mythology surrounding employee fraud in worker’s compensation is pervasive. Many of my clients begin their conversations with me indicating the following: “I’m not one of those folks faking their worker’s compensation claim.”  The exaggerated media publicity concerning employee fraud has also resulted in outright worker intimidation regarding filing a claim. I had this conversation today with a prospective client.

Attorney: Why didn’t you report the incident?
Client: I didn’t want to have that on my record.  Nobody will hire me if I have a worker’s comp injury.
Attorney: Why didn’t you seek medical treatment?
Client: I do not have insurance.
Attorney: Can you obtain insurance under the Affordable Care Act?
Client: You mean Obamacare?  No way!

Fear of being stigmatized as a complainer, whiner, or simply a recipient of worker’s compensation benefits has prompted many legitimately injured workers from filing a worker’s compensation claim.

The adverse publicity concerning the Affordable Care Act (and its pejorative popular name “Obamacare”) results in many otherwise qualified workers from obtaining the health care they need, especially when denied by a worker’s compensation insurance carrier. 

The politics of medical care intrudes in the worker’s compensation arena daily.

Facebook Required to Turn Over User Information in Disability-Fraud Investigation

Today’s post was shared by Gelman on Workplace Injuries and comes from online.wsj.com.

Today’s ppost was shared from http://online.wsj.com

The Manhattan district attorney has won a legal battle against Facebook Inc. with a New York judge’s ruling that the social network was required to turn over user information in a fraud investigation.

When workers who filed for federal disability money were seen on Facebook looking perfectly healthy, the Manhattan district attorney received a search warrant from a judge to look more closely at the accounts.

Facebook had attempted to quash the warrants for 381 user accounts on grounds that they were unconstitutional and in violation of Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches and seizures.

After reviewing the search-warrant application, the judge found “probable cause that evidence of criminality would be found within the subject Facebook accounts,” and ordered Facebook to comply.

The district attorney’s office said the case led to 134 indictments on more than $400 million in fraud, and that half the defendants have pleaded guilty.

“This was a massive scheme involving as many as 1,000 people who defrauded the federal government,” said Joan Vollero, spokeswoman for Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance. “The defendants in this case repeatedly lied to the government about their mental, physical, and social capabilities. Their Facebook accounts told a different story,” she said.

The judge in the case said Facebook had no right to get in the way of the investigation.

“Facebook could best be…

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Port of Seattle, Eagle Marine Agree to Make Terminal 5 BIG Ship Ready

The Port of Seattle and Eagle Marine Services (EMS), operator of Terminal 5, announced on May 16th a proposal to relocate its cargo and breakbulk activities to another terminal so that the port can modernize Terminal 5 to handle the bigger ships that are changing international shipping. 
 
“If we’re going to keep jobs in Washington state, we need investments that make us globally competitive,” said Port of Seattle Commissioner Bill Bryant. “That’s why we’re rebuilding T5.  We’re investing in jobs.  Modernizing T5 so it can handle the new big ships is the first step in realigning our port for the future.”
 
“As we are working to preserve maritime jobs in Seattle, the Commission is moving forward to strengthen cooperation with the Port of Tacoma to increase trade in Puget Sound,” said Port of Seattle Commissioner John Creighton.  “We’re having productive talks on how we can make the Puget Sound gateway more competitive and create new jobs.” 
 
“ILWU Local 19 appreciates the work the Port of Seattle and terminal operators are doing to keep cargo here in Seattle by making each of our terminals big ship ready,” said ILWU Local 19 President Cam Williams.  “By preparing for the future, we insure that jobs will stay in the region.”
 
Shipping lines are consolidating into new alliances, and have been launching much bigger ships as part of their strategy to reduce costs. While three of the port’s container terminals are already home to Super Post-Panamax cranes that service 10,000 TEU vessels and above, the existing cranes at Terminal 5 are not able to handle these bigger ships.
 
Under the proposal, EMS would shift its operations to Terminal 18, allowing EMS to preserve container volume and ship calls. This commitment will preserve maritime jobs that depend on cargo flowing today through T5. Cargo destined to T5, under this proposal, would begin transitioning to T18 in mid-June.  The proposal with EMS is tentative pending approval by the Port of Seattle Commission.
 
“T5 needs to be modernized for the bigger ships that are already here, we applaud the Port in working with us to preserve our customers’ cargo through this gateway,” said Nathaniel Seeds, COO of Eagle Marine Services, Ltd.
 
Maintaining efficient cargo throughput is essential for moving goods in and out of the port.  With four in ten jobs in Washington dependent on trade, these terminal improvements will insure that Washington goods can get out of the Port of Seattle and into markets world-wide.
 
“Preserving vessel service capacity is good for exporters, we appreciate the Port of Seattle’s efforts to keep this gateway competitive,” said Anderson Hay CEO & President Mark Anderson.
 
The Port has also received approval from the federal government to let the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers begin studying the potential for a project that may result in the deepening of the West Waterway channel near the terminal. 

Social Security Agency Cuts Services as Demand Grows, Senate Report Says

Today’s post was shared by Gelman on Workplace Injuries and comes from www.nytimes.com

WASHINGTON — The Social Security Administration is closing field offices and reducing services to the public even as demand for those services surges with the aging of the baby boom generation, according to a bipartisan Senate committee report.

The report, to be issued Wednesday by the Senate Special Committee on Aging, says the agency has closed more than two dozen field offices in the last year, generally without considering the needs of communities and without consulting beneficiaries or field office managers.

In deciding whether to close field offices, the Social Security Administration “excludes both its own managers and the affected public,” and the decisions often appear arbitrary, the report says.

The committee’s chairman, Senator Bill Nelson, Democrat of Florida, said, “Seniors are not being served well when you arbitrarily close offices and reduce access to services.”

He added, “The closure process is neither fair nor transparent and needs to change.”

The field offices served over 43 million people last year. About 10 percent of the visitors filed for benefits, and 30 percent were seeking new or replacement Social Security cards.

In testimony prepared for a committee hearing on the issue on Wednesday, Nancy A. Berryhill, a deputy commissioner at the agency, said its budget and work force had not kept pace with what she described as “a staggering 27 percent increase” in claims for retirement benefits, to 3.3…

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Closing the Income Inequality Gap

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 San Francisco Mayor Edwin Lee. Join the conversation about this issue on Twitter using #RaiseTheWage.

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee
San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee

San Francisco is the most progressive city in America when it comes to addressing income inequality. And we will continue to make sure San Francisco remains a city affordable to the 100 percent.

President Obama understands that income inequality remains one of the great challenges of our time, and I’ve supported his efforts to raise the national minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. There is no better time than right now to take action. As jobs and confidence are coming back, we must make sure that the residents in our cities are not left behind in the economic recovery.

Last week in my city, legislators, business leaders, labor unions and workers’ rights representatives joined me to introduce a fair and responsible consensus measure for the November 2014 ballot that will significantly raise San Francisco’s minimum wage. The rising cost of living is putting a financial squeeze on our city’s hardest working families, and this is a measure that will help them make ends meet. It’s the right thing to do.

We have taken up the president’s call to address income inequality at the local level – not just in my city, but in other cities across the nation. But we cannot leave anyone behind. That’s why I’ve introduced a resolution to be…

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Wilcox Farms Fatal Silo Collapse – Citations

The Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) issued a press release on June 4th stating that it has cited Wilcox Farms Feedmill, Inc., of Roy for safety violations related to a fatal silo collapse last December. One worker died after he was engulfed in more than 400 tons of corn that spilled out of the silo.

Wilcox Farms issued a press release on February 12, 2014 describing the incident, the emergency response to it and how competitor farms came to the business’s rescue to provide feed for the chickens in the days after the accident. 

“As an employer, especially a family business, it’s the worst thing you could ever imagine happening,” said Andy Wilcox. “The fact that we weren’t able to find Steve for two days was really tough.”

Wilcox has been cited for one “willful” and two “serious” safety violations with total penalties of $67,200. The state investigation found shortcomings in how the company maintained and managed the silo, and inadequate employee training.

A serious violation exists in a workplace if there is a substantial probability that worker death or serious physical harm could result from a hazardous condition. A willful violation can be issued when L&I has evidence of plain indifference, a substitution of judgment or an intentional disregard to a hazard or rule.

The day the 60-foot tall silo collapsed, two employees were working on feedmill operations, which included discharging corn using an auger in the silo. The unloading auger was not working that day, so they opened a side discharge door to allow corn to flow onto the outer portion of the auger. During that process, the silo collapsed and 400-500 tons of corn spilled out, engulfing one worker who was unable to escape.

Worker fatalities are tragic and preventable,” said Anne Soiza, assistant director of L&I’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health. “Our state requires all employers to provide safe and healthy workplaces. We fully expect Wilcox will correct the hazards and practices that haven’t been fixed already to ensure their employees are as safe as can be.”

Wilcox Farms has 15 working days to appeal the citation.

As part of the investigation, L&I hired an engineer to assess the structural integrity of the silo.

The investigation found four instances where Wilcox was not following proper silo operation and maintenance procedures that may have contributed to the collapse. For example, if corn is added or discharged improperly or the silo is overfilled, tons of grain could build up at an uneven rate and then suddenly shift and create instability. The four instances were:

  • A side discharge system was used to unload corn instead of the manufacturer’s standard procedure of withdrawing grain from the vertical center via the auger. The side discharge system was not installed, designed or supplied by an authorized dealer or contractor.

  • The silo was overfilled all the way to the roof and past the maximum fill level of one inch from the top of the vertical walls.

  • The silo had been previously repaired with a patch over a rupture of the wall due to corrosion. The repair was not made with corrugated material and was not done in a way to ensure structural stability. Also, it wasn’t assessed by a structural engineer or the silo manufacturer.

  • There were previous occasions during which the company had simultaneously filled the silo while it was being discharged.

L&I concluded that this was a willful violation with a proposed penalty of $56,000.

The investigation also found two serious violations with proposed penalties of $5,600 each:

  • Employees weren’t trained in specific procedures and safety practices for silo operations and maintenance.

  • The employer did not maintain the silos in accordance with the manufacturer’s maintenance and safety procedures.

Wilcox Farms has 15 working days to appeal the citation. For a copy of the citation, please contact L&I Public Affairs at 360-902-5673.

Penalty money paid as a result of a citation is placed in the workers’ compensation supplemental pension fund, helping workers and families of those who have died on the job.

 

 Photo credit: kirotv.com

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“Just Get Off Your @ss!”

Here’s another “helpful hint” about your own health, for attorneys and clients who may be tuning in to our blog. Nothing here directly related to workers’ compensation, except to the extent that overall good health can ward off injury and illness.

A Kansas State University study in 2013 concluded the people who sit for four hours or more each day are at a substantially greater risk for developing cancer, diabetes and heart disease. And the risk for degenerative disease continues to increase at a consistent rate for six hours, eight hours, and more, of daily sitting.

The further finding of the study was that the increased risk of disease was not correlated with high or low body mass index, meaning that outside factors, such as poor eating and other negative lifestyle habits are not nearly as significant as the risk factor of just sitting.

A report from Northwestern University earlier this year found that, over age 60, every additional hour spent sitting doubles the risk of becoming disabled.  And, somewhat disappointingly, additional exercise has no impact on the disability risk. Australian researchers recently found that people whose job or other circumstances require prolonged sitting, but who just regularly stood up and moved around frequently, were better off than sitters who did 30 minutes of exercise each day.

None of the foregoing is intended to diminish the importance of regular exercise in our daily lives, but the lesson is: don’t stay chained to your desk and computer. Stand up and walk around when you’re on the phone, do laps around the office, walk to a coworker’s office instead of emailing – – do whatever it takes to get out of the sitting position as often as possible.

Your author manages his law firm mostly on his feet. After reading about the issue with sitting, he stood and walked, without sitting, for four hours at a firm event last week. (He’s now training himself to stand — and rock back and forth on his feet– for long periods when watching TV at home.  Houseguests will be fully advised.)

Published by Causey Law Firm