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Ship Breaking – Unsafe Working Conditions on the Beaches of Bangladesh

Today’s post was shared by Kit Case and comes from www.gCaptain.com.

 

Cargo Ships on Beaches…Really?

By On August 30, 2013
 

A perspective on ship recycling and how to end beaching 

Like most other things, ships don’t last forever. After 25-30 years they are no longer commercially usable and therefore taken out of service to be dismantled. The materials are recycled to a lesser or greater extent – since a large cargo vessel may consist of 20-40,000 tons of steel, they clearly have a market value as steel scrap.

The vast majority of ships are taken to India, Pakistan or Bangladesh to be scrapped on the beach. There is something quite wrong with that.  People in flip flops on beaches are OK. But people on beaches wearing flip flops and no safety gear while taking apart massive cargo ships with hand tools is simply wrong.

Unsurprisingly, ship breaking is one of the most dangerous industries. According to the EU Commission, it is six times more likely to die at work in the Indian shipbreaking industry than in the Indian mining industry, and according to a recent report from Sustainalyitics, 1,000 people died in the Bangladesh ship breaking industry over a 10 year period.

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Photo: Shipbreaking at Alang. Photo: IMO, via www.gCaptain.com

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Connecticut Employers Shut Down For Not Paying Workers’ Compensation Insurance

Today’s post comes from guest author Paul J. McAndrew, Jr., from Paul McAndrew Law Firm.

In these tough economic times, many companies aren’t paying basic requirements for their employees like Social Security, income taxes, unemployment, or workers’ comp. This has led states all over the country to start doing spot-checks on construction sites. Employers beware – protect your workers with workers’ compensation insurance – it’s the law, and states are cracking down.

Just this week Connecticut’s Labor’s Wage & Workplace Standards Division shut down two subcontractors who were helping to build a high-rise in Stamford, CT. According to the state, the Virginia-based contractors couldn’t provide evidence that their employees had workers’ compensation coverage in the state of Connecticut.

With unemployment high and the recession lingering, employers seem to be increasingly taking advantage of the fact that people are willing to work without appropriate coverage. It is a real shame that these days so many people are going to work without the protections that they are due under the law.

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Boeing Scores Huge in the Lobbying Game – Will They Lose in the Long Run?

How would you like to spend one dollar for something you really wanted for your family, and get back $7250.00 in tax credits and subsidies to run your household?  Almost like going to Vegas and putting a buck in the slot machine…  That’s the dimension of the return Boeing has gotten on its recent lobbying efforts to keep the production of the 777X in the Seattle area.  The company spent about $1.3 million massaging the process in the Washington State Legislature from 2011 through 2013, and was rewarded with about $8.7 billion in tax subsidies, even though it’s an extremely profitable company without such assistance.

What was the threat backing up Boeing’s lobbying effort?  The claimed loss of 20,000 jobs and $20 billion in economic activity for Washington State, assuming the company actually picked up its marbles and went elsewhere. What else did Boeing get besides gargantuan tax subsidies?  What they’ve wanted for a long time – the evisceration of the Machinists union by putting to a vote before the union’s members, as the only alternative to the company leaving Washington, a contract which cut health coverage, ended the fixed pension program for all new hires, and ended all pension contributions after 2016 (to be supplanted by contributions to employees’ IRAs).

What is the potential cost to Boeing in the long term for screwing its dedicated and mostly long-serving workforce?  The contract vote caused a huge uproar as it squeaked by with a 51% majority.  Boeing may now be hard-pressed to replicate the collaborative effort from its workforce that has been instrumental in weathering past crises, such as the Dreamliner.  It is not lost on the Machinists that they generate $110 million in profit per day for Boeing.  Plus, stock buybacks and subsidies given to the company, resulting in huge management bonuses, could fund the International Association of Machinists’ pension plan for 15 years.

As one aerospace analyst has also observed, other states involved in Boeing’s lobbying and bidding war now see to some extent that their role was as pawns in Boeing’s efforts to squeeze Washington’s machinists, and may not support future Boeing efforts in Congress to compete again, for example, Airbus.  Boeing’s “bad chickens” may yet come home to roost…

 

Photo credit: x-ray delta one / Foter /Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

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How Attorney Fees Work in Washington Workers’ Compensation Cases

Frequently, Causey Law Firm gets calls from individuals whose cases have been appealed from the Department of Labor & Industries to the Board of Industrial Insurance Appeals. Most often those individuals have already spoken with one or more attorneys who has declined to take their case. Undoubtedly this is a scenario faced by most—if not all—workers’ compensation practitioners at one time or another. In many such instances, the unfortunate reality is that the costs of litigating the individual’s case far outweigh the potential monetary benefit. Welcome to the world of contingent fees.

A contingent fee is a “fee charged for a lawyer’s services only if the lawsuit is successful or is favorably settled out of court . . . . Contingent fees are usually calculated as a percentage of the client’s net recovery.” Black’s Law Dictionary 338 (2004). Put somewhat less artfully: your attorney doesn’t get paid until and unless you do. The underlying purpose of contingent fee billing is ostensibly beneficial to poor or disadvantaged individuals: it provides an incentive for an attorney to take on a case where a person cannot afford that attorney’s hourly fee. But there is a downside as well.

Where monetary benefits are not at issue, there is little—if any—incentive for an attorney to take on a case. This frequently arises in the context of Washington State workers’ compensation cases where coverage of medical treatment is at issue. For instance, the Department of Labor & Industries may deny coverage of a surgical procedure under the person’s workers’ compensation claim. It might also deny coverage of a certain medication or device, or of a condition in its entirety. In those cases, it could cost $5,000 or more to present a case at the Board of Industrial Insurance Appeals. If there are no concurrent or resultant monetary benefits to the injured worker at stake, the attorney does not get paid. While we attorneys certainly do take on these cases from time to time, it would be unsustainable to take on every such case.

There are other models. For instance, under the Longshore and Harbor Workers Compensation Act (LHWCA), the attorney is paid an hourly fee for any services provided to an injured worker when the employer or its insurance carrier disputes the injured worker’s entitlement to benefits—whether monetary, medical/surgical, or otherwise. The fee is payable to the injured worker’s attorney by the employer’s insurance carrier. This has two significant effects. First, it ensures that there is an incentive for attorneys to take on cases where there are non-monetary issues at stake, such as entitlement to additional treatment or coverage of a disputed medical condition. Second, it allows the worker, in cases involving monetary compensation, to keep the full value of his or her disability compensation.

Washington State should seriously consider the idea of providing for an hourly attorney fee in so-called medical only cases. This is not a new idea. Draft bills have floated around for years. But the issue ought to be seriously reconsidered in light of the increased litigation that has resulted directly from the legislature’s adoption of laws allowing increased employer participation in the system through so-called “retro groups.” These groups aggressively fight workers’ compensation claims and allowance of treatment under those claims. They are incentivized to do so through refunds of their workers’ compensation premiums. Why shouldn’t injured workers’ and their attorneys have an incentive to pursue entitlement to medical treatment which would help them get back to work?

 Photo credit: quaziefoto / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

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Ten Years with Causey Law Firm – Anniversary Celebrations

Causey Law Firm proudly celebrated two 10-year anniversaries recently.  Lauri Watkins joined the firm in November 2003.  Francesca Severini joined the firm on April 1, 2004 – we were no fools.  Both form the strong center of our team.  Lauri is our Litigation Coordinator and is the paralegal assigned to our Social Security cases. Fran handles workers’ compensation cases, and both Lauri and Fran work with our Longshore clients.  

Congratulations, Ladies!! 

Businesses file class action lawsuit over oil spill in Galveston Bay

Today’s post was shared by The Workers’ Injury Law & Advocacy Group and comes from www.chron.com

Crews scoop up heavy fuel oil that washed up on East Beach in Galveston, Texas on Monday March 24, 2014 as they begin cleaning up after a weekend oil spill in Galveston Bay. More than 160,000 gallons of heavy fuel oil spilled into the bay after a barge collided with a ship near the Texas City Dike. Photo: Jennifer Reynolds, Associated Press

Charter fishing businesses and individuals who have suffered property losses and other costs as a result of the March 22 collision near the Texas City Dike have filed a class action lawsuit in federal court against Kirby Inland Marine and Cleopatra Shipping Agency.

The suit was filed March 24 in U.S. District Court in Galveston over the collision of a barge pushed by a tow boat named Miss Susan and a 585-foot bulk carrier, Summer Wind. Kirby Inland Marine owns the vessel Miss Susan, while Cleopatra Shipping Agency owns Summer Wind.

The collision caused the release of oil into Galveston Bay. The barge sank to the bottom of the channel and lies partially submerged, the lawsuit states.

At the time of the filing, it was unknown how much of the 924,000 gallons of oil on the barge were released into Galveston Bay, but the spill has had a "wide and devastating effect on Galveston Bay, the Gulf of Mexico and the people who use and depend on it," according to the class action complaint.

The marine fuel oil that was released is a heavy crude that does not evaporate quickly, making it particularly harmful to the environment and difficult to clean up, the complaint states.

The plaintiffs include 3G Fishing Chaters, 3G Bait and Tackle Shop, Launch Waterfront Eatery, Galveston Fishing Charter Co., Matt Garner doing business as All American Fishing Charters, Sammy Flores, Adam Kleczkowski, Greg Verm doing business as Fishing Galveston Texas, Caroline Cope and Scott Moss doing…

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Burn Pit Claims: New Study Associates Lung Injury With Exposure to Dust in Iraq and Afghanistan

Unknown Burn Pit in Iraq

Attorney Jon L. Gelman recently wrote in a blog post that a new study associates lung injuries of soldiers with exposure to dust in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Mr. Gelman writes:

Soldiers who have been deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan are at greater risk to suffer lung disease according to a recently published study. Dr. Anthony Szema, a professor at Stony Brook University School of Medicine, was the lead investigator and reported the association of lung disease with deployment in Iraq and Afghanistan.

A Federal Court of Appeals has ruled that lawsuits filed by soldiers who were exposed in Iraq and Afghanistan may proceed against military contractors, KBR and Halliburton, from claims by military service members suing over health damage from the contractors’ burn pits. The lawsuits allege that the negligent operation of the burn pits resulted in harmful exposures that caused various illnesses to the soldiers including lung disease, cancers and in some cases death.

“War-related lung injuries have emerged as previously unrecognized health problems. Physicians did not recognize the nature of illness in the beginning of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. During the last years of the Iraq War, as well as the ongoing Afghanistan war, new-onset lung problems have been increasingly recognized as being related to deployment in these two countries. Investigators, including our group, have identified asthmatic symptoms or pulmonary function test abnormalities. The Social Security Administration is now compensating for Iraq and Afghanistan war–related lung disease. The Millennium Cohort Study identified 14% of all US soldiers in Iraq with new-onset respiratory symptoms.” – Dr. Anthony Szema

The One Penny Sheet blog shared a November 2009 AFP news post on this topic, describing the lawsuits that may now move forward.  The AFP reported, in part:

Dozens of US military personnel have filed 34 lawsuits against US defense contractor KBR for allegedly incinerating toxic waste and releasing it into the atmosphere in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Each of the lawsuits represent several soldiers but were filed on behalf of at least 100,000 others who are alleged to suffer from health problems resulting from exposure to emissions released by the incineration of waste at military bases.

Kellogg Brown and Root and its former parent company Halliburton, which at one time was led by former vice president Dick Cheney, had a government contract to destroy waste at US bases and camps in Iraq and Afghanistan.

One lawsuit filed in federal court in Nashville, Tennessee charged that they “ignored their contractual obligations and burned vast quantities of unsorted waste in enormous open air burn pits with no safety controls.”

“This misconduct began in 2003 and continues unabated to date,” it alleges.

“Every type of waste imaginable was and is burned on these pits, including trucks, tires, lithium battery, Styrofoam, paper, rubber, petroleum-oil-lubricant products, metals, hydraulic fluids, munitions boxes, medical waste, biohazard materials (including human corpses), medical supplies (including those used during smallpox inoculations), paints, solvents, asbestos insulation, items containing pesticides, polyvinyl chloride pipes, animal carcasses, dangerous chemicals and hundreds of thousands of plastic water bottles,” the lawsuit claims.

In a statement posted on its website, KBR said the company posted lists compiled by the US Army of items that could not be disposed of in burn pits.  “If KBR observes a waste generator delivering a prohibited item, its practice is to refuse or remove such items,” the company said.

In addition to members of the military, US employees of those companies providing services in Iraq and Afghanistan may have suffered the same exposures and injuries while working overseas.  These cases can be covered as workers’ compensation claims under the Defense Base Act.  Contact Causey Law Firm to discuss a potential Defense Base Act case in more detail.

 

 Photo Credit: Ms. Sparky

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Do I Have a Wrongful Termination Claim?

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

Assuming you do not have an employment contract, you can only claim wrongful termination if the firing was motivated by certain unlawful reasons. Unlawful reasons include discrimination based on sex or gender – this includes sexual harassment and pregnancy – as well as race, religion, nationality and disability. In certain places and in certain situations, sexual orientation discrimination can also be unlawful. Disability in this context will often mean any serious or chronic health condition you have. Disability discrimination can also mean that you are taking care of someone with a disability.

You also cannot be discriminated against by your employer for certain activities on the job. This is commonly referred to as retaliation. One of these activities is taking extended leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) for your own or for a loved one’s medical condition. Other common protected activities include opposing unlawful discrimination; filing a safety complaint; filing a workers’ compensation complaint; complaining of pay practices; or complaining about other illegal activities. If you are a government employee, you might also have some claims based on constitutional law. 

Essentially, not all terminations are unlawful. But if your situation fits into the categories described above, then be sure to contact an experienced employment attorney. In addition, it is wise to ask for advice about applying for unemployment, even if there’s not a wrongful termination case.

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Mercer Island Construction Firm Recognized by L&I for Safety Excellence

Bayley Construction in Mercer Island has been recognized with a safety and health award from the Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) for its exemplary safety and health prevention program at two worksites.

Bayley Construction is the first construction company — and only the sixth company in the state — to achieve recognition through the Safety through Achieving Recognition Together (START) program.

START recognizes workplaces with exemplary safety records that have shown a commitment to health and safety at work. It is modeled on a federal program.

Bayley Construction was awarded with START certification at its corporate office in Mercer Island and at its equipment yard in Bellevue.

“The goal of START is to showcase businesses with excellent safety and health programs as a way of encouraging other companies to improve their safety efforts,” said Lynda Stoneberg, Consultation Program Manager for L&I’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH). “We hope the companies who earn START certification will share their experiences with other employers who might have safety challenges.”

To participate in the program, employers must have an injury rate below their industry’s average for at least one year and allow safety and health experts to visit the worksite and review workplace hazards, examine safety and health programs, and interview workers and managers.

“We are really proud of this recognition as we always want to be the best that we can be, and safety goes right along with that,” said Ron Bayley, Chairman and CEO.

L&I presented the certificate to the company at a special ceremony last month.

Bayley Construction has 75 employees at its Mercer Island headquarters, where it oversees company operations in three western states. At its equipment yard in Bellevue, employees are responsible for the mobilization and de-mobilization of project sites, inventory, tracking and maintenance of all hand and small tools as well as providing will-call services and pickup and delivery services for Washington project sites.

For more information on START, visit www.Lni.wa.gov/Safety/Topics/AtoZ/Start/ .

Home building charity for wounded veterans questioned in lawsuit

Today’s post was shared by The Workers’ Injury Law & Advocacy Group and comes from www.khou.com

HOUSTON — Helping a Hero in West Houston is a popular charity: 100 homes built or in the works in 22 different states, but a lawsuit is publicizing an important clause in the housing contracts. And it’s a clause one Houston-area family says it didn’t know was there until their badly wounded veteran died.

We first told Hunter LeVine’s story four years ago. The Woodlands native was blinded by a roadside bomb in Iraq. Also suffering from a traumatic brain injury and PTSD he vowed to continue living as independently as possible.

Then in December of 2011, Helping a Hero awarded him a new home in Tomball. Built through donations all Hunter had to do was take out a $50,000 mortgage and the home was his. It is the standard shared expense agreement the charity uses for all of its projects so the veterans have a financial stake in the property as well. The total value of Hunter’s new home was listed as $168,000.

But last June on a trip to Florida, Hunter died suddenly. He suffered a heart attack in his sleep. He was just 25 years old.

"Hunter was very proud of this house. It made him feel safe,” said his father Beau LeVine.

A short time later Beau LeVine says he received notice that the charity had plans for the house. They were moving to exercise a clause in the contract that the LeVines said they didn’t even know was in the paperwork.

"It was almost like the decision was made moments after his death that she just wanted to get her house…

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Published by Causey Law Firm