Washington State Average Wage Neared $61,900 in 2017

Washington’s average annual wage grew by 5.0 percent in 2017 to $61,887, according to the state Employment Security Department—representing the largest percentage increase year over year since 2007.

The average weekly wage rose from $1,133 in 2016 to $1,190 in 2017. These figures include only those wages that are covered by unemployment insurance.

Much of the increase was driven by a 7.7 percent increase in total earnings, which grew by nearly $14.1 billion in 2017. Overall, the average number of workers in Washington covered by unemployment insurance grew by just over 81,790 in 2017.  

The industries with the largest average wage growth in 2017 were retail trade, up 14.5 percent; information, up 8.2 percent; and accommodation and food services, up 6.9 percent.

The average annual wage is used to calculate unemployment benefits for jobless workers. The minimum weekly unemployment benefit, calculated at 15 percent of the average weekly wage, will increase by $9 to $178, for new claims opened on or after July 1. At the same time, the maximum weekly benefit, which is the greater of $496 or 63 percent of the average weekly wage, will increase by $36 to $749. 

Currently, about 20 percent of unemployment insurance claims are paid the maximum benefit amount, and 10 percent receive the minimum.

In addition to unemployment benefits, the average annual wage is used in computing employers’ unemployment taxes. Beginning in 2019, employers will pay unemployment taxes on the first $49,800 paid to each employee—up from $47,300 in 2018

The state average wage also is used by the Department of Labor & Industries in calculating worker’s compensation benefits.

Web link: Employment Security Department – www.esd.wa.gov

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Flight Attendants May Face Increased Risk for Many Cancers

Smithsonian Magazine reports that flight attendants are exposed to a number of possible or probable cancer-causing factors that may lead to an increased risk for many cancers.

JUNE 27, 2018
A new study has found that American flight attendants are more likely than the general population to develop several cancers, including breast cancer, melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancer.

According to Alice Park of Time, the new report, published recently in the journal Environmental Health, is based on data collected by the Harvard Flight Attendant Health Study (FAHS), which was launched in 2007. The researchers behind the study sought to shed light on an understudied occupational group. Though flight attendants are frequently exposed to a number of possible or probable cancer-causing factors—like sleep disruptions, radiation, and pesticides and other chemicals in the cabin—the long-term effects of this exposure have not been well documented.
Between 2014 and 2015, researchers studied 5,300 flight attendants through surveys that were disseminated online, via mail and in person at airports. The surveys asked respondents about flight schedules and cancer diagnoses. The researchers then compared the responses to the health status of 2,729 non-flight attendant adults with similar socioeconomic backgrounds, using data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), which surveys around 5,000 Americans each year.

The comparison revealed higher rates of uterine, cervical, breast, gastrointestinal, thyroid and melanoma cancers among flight attendants. The disparity was especially pronounced with breast, melanoma and non-melanoma cancers. Flight attendants had more than double the risk of developing melanoma, and more than quadruple the risk of developing non-melanoma cancers. They were also 51 percent more likely to develop breast cancer than the general population.

To the researchers’ surprise, they found a higher risk of breast cancer in female flight attendants with three or more children; typically, a woman’s risk of breast cancer decreases as she has more children.

“This study is the first to show higher prevalences of all cancers studied, and significantly higher prevalences of non-melanoma skin cancer compared to a similarly matched U.S. sample population,” lead study author Eileen McNeely of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health tells Lisa Rapaport of ReutersMcNeely also notes that “[n]on-melanoma skin cancer among women increased with more years on the job, suggesting a work-related association.”

Read the rest of this story on Smithsonian.com

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Kit Case, Causey Wright's Paralegal & Media Manager

RBG – Equality in the Workplace

Today’s post was shared by Jon L Gelman and comes from workers-compensation.blogspot.com

Last night I had the opportunity of viewing the newly released movie, RBG .an insightful and inspiring documentary about the awesome career of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

On January 17. 973, Justice Ginsburg, then a Rutgers University Law Professor, argued her first case before the US Supreme Court. She advocated for equality and that workplace benefits should not be the subject of sex discrimination. It began her career-long effort to end sex discrimination not only in the workplace but in all aspects of life.

Frontiero v. Richardson, 411 U.S. 677 (1973), was a landmark United States Supreme Court case that held that benefits given by the United States military to the family of service members cannot be given out differently because of sex.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg stated at oral argument:

"Mr. Chief Justice and may it please the Court.

Amicus views this case as kin to Reed v. Reed 404 U.S. The legislative judgment in both derives from the same stereotype.

The man is or should be the independent partner in a marital unit.

The woman with an occasional exception is dependent, sheltered from breadwinning experience.

Appellees stated in answer to interrogatories in this case that they remained totally uninformed on the application of this stereotype to serve as families that is they do not know whether the proportion of wage-earning wives of servicemen is small, large, or middle size.

What is known is that by employing the sex criterion, identically situated persons…

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Kit Case, Causey Wright's Paralegal & Media Manager

The Supreme Court Just Made It A Lot Harder For You To Sue Your Employer

Today’s post was shared by Jon L Gelman and comes from www.huffingtonpost.com

Employers who stiff their workers or discriminate against them just got a big lift from the Supreme Court, which issued a major ruling Monday making it easier for companies to avoid employee lawsuits.

The 5-4 ruling upheld employers’ use of class-action waivers in arbitration agreements. By signing these controversial provisions, workers give up their right to band together and sue in court for back pay or damages, and are instead forced to take their disputes to arbitrators individually.

Arbitration agreements have become a common way for employers to stifle lawsuits that could lead to large plaintiff classes and big payouts. Workers backed by employee groups and labor unions challenged their employers’ use of these agreements, claiming they ran afoul of the National Labor Relations Act, or NLRA, which guarantees workers the right to join forces in “mutual aid and protection.”

The employer-friendly conservative majority on the court decided against the workers. They ruled that collective bargaining law does not supersede federal law that established the arbitration process, therefore making the class-action waivers in employment contracts legitimate.

Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote the opinion for the conservative majority, saying Congress did not write the NLRA to “displace” federal arbitration law.

“The policy may be debatable but the law is clear: Congress has instructed that arbitration agreements like those before us must be…

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Kit Case, Causey Wright's Paralegal & Media Manager

The U.S. Must Ban Asbestos – With No Exemptions

Today’s post was shared by Jon L Gelman and comes from www.ewg.org

Fifty-five nations have banned all uses of asbestos. Shockingly, the U.S. isn’t one of them. The nation’s new toxics law gives the Environmental Protection Agency the power to completely ban the notorious killer, but the chemical industry is pushing for continued exemptions for some uses.

The EPA is expected to release a key document detailing how the agency plans to evaluate the risk of asbestos soon. But the current scope of the EPA’s so-called problem formulation document doesn’t even call for evaluation of the risk of a particularly dangerous type of asbestos that’s in the insulation of an estimated 30 million homes.

Such insulation is only one of the sources through which Americans can be exposed to asbestos. Investigations by the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization, or ADAO, and EWG have found that even some children’s toys and makeup contain asbestos-contaminated talc.

Even the smallest amount of asbestos fiber, if inhaled, can trigger deadly asbestos-related disease later in life. According to Dr. Jukka Takala, president of the International Commission of Occupational Health, asbestos-related diseases cause more than 39,000 deaths in the U.S each year – more than double the previous estimate of 15,000 deaths a year.

ADAO, EWG and other public health advocates have been working for a complete asbestos ban for more than a decade. We have testified at congressional hearings, met with the EPA, and submitted more than 100…

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Conduent to Close Call Center in Federal Way, WA – 300+ to be Laid Off

Tha Washington State Employment Security Department received a Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) from Confluent, a company listed on the Fortune 500 List of the largest U.S. companies, that they will be laying off 300+ employees when they close their Federal Way, WA location effective July 31, 2018.

Confluent mentioned in their May 9th earnings call that the company plans to part with it’s customer care businesses as part of the company’s future direction: “the standalone transactional call center work (is) something that we intend to divest.”

The Confluent website still lists openings in nearby Washington communities on their Careers page. Staff from the local Employment Security rapid response team and WorkSource center will perform outreach to employees of the organization to ease the transition.

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Can an App Help with Chronic Pain?

There are several apps that are designed to assist those suffering from chronic pain, in one way or another. Many are pain trackers or diaries, some help identify and track triggers, others focus on sleep patterns or diet. One app, Curable, purports to help users regain control over pain through a biopsychosocial approach. The Curable website provides this description:


Curable is an online program designed to address the emotional and psycological causes of chronic pain. The program includes:

  • A personal “smart coach” to guide the experience
  • Engaging, educational audio lessons
  • Guided meditations & visualizations
  • Expressive writing exercises
  • Brain training techniques
  • 24/7 access across desktop & mobile

When talking with clients about their doubt that a recommended treatment plan will actually relieve their pain, I often encourage them to try it by asking how much better life could be if they had 10% less pain, or 20% less pain.  Most would agree that even a little relief would still be a relief.

Based on user surveys conducted through the app after 30 days of use, 71% reported some level of pain relief, while 29% reported no reduction in pain. With a 30-day free trial, it seems that Curable may be worth giving a try.

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Port of Seattle Development Will Employ 400+ Light Industrial Workers

The Port of Seattle, City of SeaTac, and IAC Properties broke ground June 7th on a 26-acre underdeveloped property to create a 460,000 square foot light industrial facility that will employ approximately 400 full time workers. Tenants may include food processors, manufacturers, and logistics providers that support the aviation and air cargo industries.

Located just north of the Des Moines Creek Business Park (DMCBP) in the City of Des Moines, this 25.62-acre undeveloped property is zoned Aviation Commercial (AVC) and will expand upon the success of the industrial development at the DMCBP.  It will also represent the first new industrial development on Port property in the City of SeaTac in many years.

The purpose of developing Des Moines Creek-North is to put the property back into productive use that supports both the City’s tax-base and is compatible with airport operations.

Photo Credit:  Port of Seattle

Photo Details:
Mayor, City of SeaTac, Michael Siefkes; Port of Seattle Director of Real Estate and Economic Development, Jeffrey Utterback; Port of Seattle Executive Director, Stephen P. Metruck; Port of Seattle Director of Aviation Facilities and Capital programs, Jeffrey Brown; Port of Seattle Managing Director, Economic Development Division, Dave McFadden; and Port of Seattle Aviation Director Lance Lyttle attended the groundbreaking for a new light industrial facility in Des Moines.

Special Topic: Automation/Robot Fatality Narrative

Warehouse Worker Crushed by Forks of Laser Guided Vehicle

The Washington Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation (FACE) Program* has published a new Fatality Narrative. The new narrative describes an incident where a warehouse worker was killed when he was crushed by the forks of a laser guided forklift. This Special Topic Fatality Narrative was published because the incident and the unique hazards associated with emerging automation are relevant to most industries. These reports describe work-related fatal incidents and list some requirements and recommendations that might have prevented the incident from occurring. We hope that they are used for formal or informal educational opportunities to help prevent similar incidents.

For your convenience, a slideshow version with more photos and details is also available. 

*The FACE Program is partially funded by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH grant# 5 U60 OH008487-11) and the Safety and Health Assessment and Research for Prevention (SHARP) Program at the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries. The contents of the Fatality Narratives are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of NIOSH.

Image credit: SICK Sensor Intelligence

WA State’s New Equal Pay Opportunity Act

As of June 7, 2018, in Washington State, employees are legally required to receive equal pay and career advancement opportunities, regardless of gender. The changes are a result of the Equal Pay Opportunity Act, sponsored by Rep. Tana Senn and signed into law by Gov. Jay Inslee in March. The new regulations update Washington’s equal pay law, which was established in 1943.

The law has several elements that require employers to provide equal compensation to “similarly employed” workers along with equal opportunities for career advancement, regardless of gender.

Under the law, “similarly employed” means workers for the same employer doing work under similar conditions with similar skills, effort and responsibility.

“There is still a lot of work remaining to achieve true pay and opportunity equity for women in the workforce,” Inslee said. “This bill tears away the ability of companies to shroud salary and promotion decisions in secrecy. This makes it possible for employees to discuss how those decisions are being made without fear of retaliation.”

Along with equal pay and opportunity, the new law states that employers cannot stop workers from disclosing their wages to others, or require workers to sign non-disclosure agreements about their wages.

The law also protects workers from retaliation and firing for talking about wages with coworkers, and for asking the employer to provide a reason for the employee’s wage or lack of opportunity for advancement.

The Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) is tasked with enforcing the new measure. That includes taking complaints and investigating potential violations.

“Gender discrimination at work just shouldn’t happen. All workers should expect equal pay for equal work,” said L&I Director Joel Sacks. “This law gives us the authority to investigate and take action if needed, and we’re ready to do that.”

Employees can file complaints with L&I about gender discrimination at work. The agency will investigate complaints, and can charge employers fines, damages and interest when violations are found. Employees can also take legal action against an employer.

For more information about the new law or to file a complaint, go to www.Lni.wa.gov/EqualPay or contact L&I’s Employment Standards program at 360-902-4930 or esgeneral@Lni.wa.gov.

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Published by Causey Wright