Category Archives: Uncategorized


Giving for Thanksgiving

The Causey Law Firm team took some time out of a busy day Tuesday to give back.  We built and tricked out six bicycles with lights, reflectors and bike locks.  It’s harder than it looks!  The bikes will be delivered to Treehouse For Kids in time for the holidays.

Treehouse envisions – and strives to create – a world where every child that has experienced a crisis of parenting has the opportunities and support they need to pursue their dreams and become productive members of our community.

The Treehouse Wearhouse is a free store where youth and their caregivers can shop for high quality new and like-new clothing, shoes, school supplies, toys, books and other essentials. We carry clothes for infants, children and teens in all sizes. We work closely with our community to ensure that items in the store reflect current trends, brands and fashions along with the basics every kid needs.

Each youth can shop in the Wearhouse up to 6 times per year. In December, youth can use one of their 6 annual visits to shop our special selection of holiday gifts. Additionally, caregivers can get an extra visit for each new youth placed in their care within one month of placement. Questions? Please contact the Wearhouse at 206.267.5185.

We couldn’t be happier to support Treehouse in their work.  If you are interested in donating or volunteering some time, visit their website and get involved in your community.

Causey Law Firm wishes all of you and your families a Happy Thanksgiving!


Retro Groups, The Department of Labor and Industries, and Us

Most people who become involved in the workers’ compensation system due to injury or illness are only aware of a few common players: themselves, as the claimant; the Department of Labor & Industries (DLI) or self-insurer; their attending doctor; and, if necessary, a vocational counselor. However, in Washington State there is another major player working the sidelines in a big way.   An entity that, over the past few years, has taken on a much larger role in the administration of workers’ compensation claims:  the retro program.

The Retrospective Rating program was initiated by DLI as a “safety incentive program” and was designed with the objective of reducing workplace injuries and helping control claim costs. Somewhere along the way, the concept of the retro program functioning as a safety incentive program seems to have fallen to the wayside with the primary focus now being squarely on controlling claims costs. 

Preventing injuries? Sounds great! Wait, what was that…? Controlling losses? How does that work exactly? What is considered a loss? You mean the cost of a workers’ compensation claim? YES!

So, how does this system work exactly? And what ever happened to the whole safety idea? Let’s take a look. DLI’s selling point of their program is that any time an employer has a worker that gets injured, it costs the business money (this includes many factors including but not limited to: loss of production at the jobsite, potential for loss of business, hiring and training a new employee, etc.). Oh, and let’s not forget an increase in workers comp premiums.  Through the retro program, employers are given the opportunity to be rewarded for their safety program by turning their positive rating into a refund from DLI by preventing injuries and controlling losses. Preventing injuries? Sounds great! Wait, what was that…? Controlling losses? How does that work exactly? What is considered a loss? You mean the cost of a workers’ compensation claim? YES!

Let’s reward employers for safety. I’m all for it. Like most things of this nature, the devil is in the details and in this case, the details lie in the concept of keeping the cost of a claim lower.

A Retro Group’s annual coverage period lasts 12 months and can begin any calendar quarter. On or around 10 months after a coverage period ends, DLI  will review an employer or groups actual experience and will  calculate a “retrospective premium”  for that 12-month coverage year. If claim costs for the coverage year are below what is expected, the employer or group could earn a partial refund of the difference between the Retro premiums and the standard premiums. If claim costs are higher than the amount of standard premium paid, it could result in an employer being assessed and having to pay an additional amount. So the incentive lies in keeping the cost of the claim lower.

I can appreciate the spirit behind this initiative. Taken at face value it sounds too good to be true. Let’s reward employers for safety. I’m all for it. Like most things of this nature, the devil is in the details and in this case, the details lie in the concept of keeping the cost of a claim lower.  How is that done? By limiting the amount of money paid on a claim – counting every penny – and by getting the claim closed as quickly as possible – preferably within the 12 month coverage period.

Although induvial businesses can be part of the retro program, most commonly we see and deal with Retro Groups, businesses independent of the employer of injury but contracted by them to represent their financial interests in the claim. As a plaintiff firm specializing in workplace injuries, we have certainly not seen a decrease in client intakes since the initiation of these groups. Workers are still getting injured at a steady rate.  What we have seen is a substantial and alarming uptick in Retro Group involvement in the claims administration process to the point where we are actually getting business as a result of the Retro Groups interference in claims management.  It is not uncommon for me or my colleagues to review a claim file online and see that a Retro Group claims manager has protested nearly every favorable decision that an injured worker has received from DLI. From claim allowance to general medical allowance orders, time loss payments or treatment authorizations – there is typically a response from the Retro Group – even if the decision by DLI appears entirely appropriate.

A little known fact outside of the workers’ comp world is that many of the representatives of these groups are former employees of the Department of Labor and Industries, some previously in claims manager or claims unit supervisor roles. Their employment history at DLI provides them with a unique knowledge base of the DLI system  and its policies, the life cycle of a claim, as well as access to employees at the DLI level, many of whom they have a personal working relationship with already.  We have seen Retro Group claims managers bypass normal chain of command channels due to their relationships with individuals at DLI.

The Retro Group is NOT the employer. But they like to act like it. Just recently I had a Retro Group create a light duty, modified return to work position for my client without checking with the actual employer if such a position could even be offered. Their goal: to get time loss payments terminated, and keep claim costs down.  They created a light duty job specifically aligned with the restrictions outlined by the attending physician, which was medically approved. Time-loss was terminated and the claimant appeared for the first day of the job with the work restrictions in hand and was told that no such job existed within those restrictions. Our firm had previously tried to get the Retro Group to address our inquiries about the questionable modified job, but we were ignored. We requested that DLI intervene, and a vocational counselor was assigned. We insisted that a standalone, onsite job analysis be done of the modified job.  As we suspected, no such job existed and the claimant is now eligible for vocational retraining.

A website for a popular Retro Group advertises their results in order to attract business, boasting of more than 28 percent in premium refunds for one employer, 37 perfect for another and over $452 million in premium refunds for their clients over a 20 year span. The list of clients that they represent is alarming to me only in that I wonder if the employers who hire them  to represent their interests fully understand the scope and lengths that the Retro Groups go to in order to post such returns.  Do the employers have any idea what is happening to their employees who have filed claims?

The unwarranted roadblocks caused by aggressive Retro Group interference can cause severe instability for injured workers who are simply trying to access the benefits that they paid into through their employment in the hopes of returning to their former lives.

This brings me back to the injured worker and the issue of safety: the founding idea of this program and the concept that DLI actually has to create incentives for employers in order to keep work environments safe. Couldn’t the Department offer similar rewards to employers for simply limiting the amount of actual claims that are filed?   Instead, our current system rewards employers after the fact, after the injury has already happened, which places the emphasis on saving costs, nor preventing the injury in the first place. In the Retro Group’s effort to save their clients’ money, the result to the injured worker is that they are often cheated out of medical treatment and benefits, both monetary and vocational, that they are most likely entitled too, or in delays of these rightful benefits that are so extreme that the end result is catastrophic and detrimental to their health and livelihood.

The unwarranted roadblocks caused by aggressive Retro Group interference can cause severe instability for injured workers who are simply trying to access the benefits that they paid into through their employment in the hopes of returning to their former lives.  The result is that many face an inability to pay mortgages or rent on time, pay their bills, put food on the table, pay child support, or even put gas in a car to get to doctors’ appointments for treatment, causing a delay in recovery and potentially even more injury or worsening of their condition. The list goes on.   

Unfortunately, we do not simply see this type of thing happening in one or two cases where a Retro Group is involved. We see it in EVERY case where a Retro Group is involved. And we are only one law firm. And our client list is growing.


 Photo credit: Internet Archive Book Images / / No known copyright restrictions

Sanders complains about ‘erosion’ of workers’ compensation laws

Today’s post was shared by Jon L Gelman and comes from

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is sounding the alarm over what he sees as crumbling protections for workers who are injured on the job.

In a letter to Labor Secretary Thomas Perez, Sanders and nine other Democrats complain about the “erosion” of state laws set up to pay workers while they are injured and cannot work.

The federal government often foots the bill for workers who fall through the cracks of state workers’ compensation laws, the lawmakers argue.

Sanders called on the Obama administration to “strengthen the safety net for workers injured on the job" and urged Perez to investigate what he sees as a decline in state workers’ compensation laws.

“This raises serious concerns,” the lawmakers wrote.

“State workers’ compensation laws are no longer providing adequate levels of support and compensation for workers injured on the job,” they added. “Instead, costs are increasingly being shifted to the American taxpayers to foot the bill.”

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7 Workers’ Comp issues few are talking about…yet

Today’s post was shared by Workers Compensation and comes from

Today’s Workers’ Compensation market is generally favorable, but several emerging medical and demographic challenges have the potential to upset the current balance. By better understanding the possible impact of these new variables on the market, buyers and brokers will be able to continue to protect employees—and their bottom lines.


1. The Affordable Care Act may well increase WC costs by increasing demand for medical services from a fixed number of providers. If more Americans can buy medical services, the cost of those services will rise. Beyond higher prices, greater demand will also lead to longer treatment and recovery times as claimants wait to get appointments, potentially impacting indemnity costs.

2. The growing use of—and cost for—physical therapy causes challenges. Fee schedules for physical therapy have increased over the past two years in nine states that have the greatest use of PT in WC claims. California increased its fee schedule for all physical therapy billing codes by 5% to 6% in March, while New Jersey upped its schedule by 3.6% last fall. Managing the utilization and cost of physical therapy is becoming a key issue, so much so that clients, prospects and brokers are asking TPAs more questions about their strategies in this area.

3. The variability of WC costs and treatments among states threatens the market. There is no reason why the cost for treating the same type of work-related injury should differ…

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Texas employer not liable after worker beat up supervisor

Today’s post was shared by Workers Compensation and comes from

Worker Attacking Supervisor

A Texas appeals court has ruled that a workers compensation nonsubscriber is not liable for negligence, despite failing to perform a criminal background check on a worker who assaulted another employee.

Ramiro Najera worked at American Rice Inc. in Freeport, Texas, through staffing company Recana Solutions L.L.C., court records show. Mr. Najera and his team were responsible for fumigating packaged rice and picking up garbage and dead pests, among other things,

Recana also placed James Prodoehl, who reported to Mr. Najera, at American Rice, records show.

In June 2012, after the two men had worked together for about three months, Mr. Najera told his team that they would have to work late one day, according to records. Some of the team got upset, and Mr. Prodoehl said he wouldn’t stay to work.

In response, Mr. Najera said he would tell the team’s leader, records show. Mr. Prodoehl then began hitting Mr. Najera with a hard hat.

According to records, Recana immediately terminated Mr. Prodoehl for fighting. As a Texas nonsubscriber, the company did not carry workers comp insurance at the time of the incident.

Mr. Najera, who sustained injuries to his teeth and shoulder, filed suit against Recana and American Rice. He alleged negligence, gross negligence and respondeat superior, which states that an employer is responsible for its employees’ actions in the course of employment.

He and American Rice settled, filing an agreed motion to dismiss American Rice with prejudice, records show.

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3 tips for taking better breaks from work

Today’s post was shared by and comes from

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

Today’s post was shared by US Labor Department and comes from

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

Today’s post was shared by Workers Compensation and comes from

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

Today’s post was shared by and comes from

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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Who Is Really Covered Under New Overtime Rules?

Today’s post was shared by US Labor Department and comes from

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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