Category Archives: Uncategorized

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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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.

Kit Case, Causey Wright's Paralegal & Media Manager

Standing Desks at Work Deemed Not Beneficial

Full disclosure: Most of us at Causey Wright have convertible sit/stand workstations, and love them! – kc

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

Before employers buy standing workstations and/or even treadmills to prevent repetitive motion claims, they ought to take heed of a recent study that considers them a useless fad. The newest marketing craze is work at standing desks, some even equipped with treadmills and marked as ergonomically safer for an employee’s health.

A recently published study has reported the proposed benefits as merely “marketing hyperbole.” “The promotion of active workstations, such as standing desks and even treadmills in the office has been promoted by manufacturers recently with claims of better physical health, improved posture, even reduced mental stress, and a general boost to wellbeing. A new study suggests that many of the proposed benefits and claims are little more than marketing hyperbole.”

Disorders due to repeated motion trauma, an occupational illness, have increased substantially over the decades. “The New Jersey Supreme Court has recognized that the modern workplace is technologically sophisticated and that ergonomics present new situations which have generated an epidemic of repetitive stress injuries. Office workers who regularly use computers often suffer from many debilitating hand and wrist disorders resulting in tendonitis and carpal tunnel syndrome. Matter of Musick, 143 N.J. 206, 670 A.2d 11 (1996).” Gelman, Jon L, Workers Compensation Law, 38 NJPRAC 9.2 (Thomson-Reuters 2018).

The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and…

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Dollar Tree Stores Cited Again, Fined Maximum for Putting Workers at Risk

For the second time in less than two years, Dollar Tree Stores Inc., faces stiff fines for workplace safety violations at two of its stores. The company faces $306,000 in state penalties. 

The Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) cited and fined the Virginia-based employer after inspections at the company’s Bonney Lake and Kelso stores found “willful” violations, the most severe. The L&I inspector found the stores were knowingly exposing employees to workplace safety hazards. Dollar Tree stores in Aberdeen and Chehalis were cited for the same violations in 2016. 

“We are seeing the same safety violations at Dollar Tree stores over and over again in Washington,” said L&I Division of Occupational Safety and Health Assistant Director Anne Soiza. “It’s concerning because this is a national problem as well. Employees, and sometimes customers, are being put at risk even though the fixes to these safety problems are simple.” 

L&I initiated the recent inspections after getting complaints about safety hazards at the two stores. A customer at the Bonney Lake store contacted L&I to express concerns for the store employees’ safety because boxes crowded and blocked pathways and emergency exit routes. Many boxes were also stacked precariously and so high that they could easily have fallen on employees or even customers in some instances. All of the willful violations are serious, but the blocked pathways and emergency exits are the most concerning. 

Bonney Lake store cited for dangerous stacks of boxes and obstructed exits

At the Bonney Lake store, the company was cited for three willful safety violations. The first was for not ensuring that exit routes were free of obstructions. At the time of the inspection, merchandise blocked several aisles and passageways. Employees did not have clear paths from the breakroom and other areas to emergency exits and could be trapped in a fire or other emergency. Because of the employer’s history, this violation carries the maximum fine of $70,000.

The second willful violation cited was for storing merchandise in a way that created a safety hazard. The stockroom was packed with boxes of merchandise in stacks and piles. Heavy boxes were on top of light ones, some had fallen from the stacks, and there were uneven and leaning stacks more than nine feet high. This violation also carries the maximum penalty of $70,000.  

Improperly stored merchandise can fall on employees causing serious injuries or even death if the boxes cause an employee to fall and strike their head on the floor. Lifting heavy boxes onto nine-foot stacks is also likely to cause strains and sprains or serious back injuries.  

A third willful violation with a penalty of $26,000 was cited for not installing protective guarding or covers over light fixtures that could be struck and broken by the stacked merchandise, which could cause eye injuries or cuts from falling glass.  

Kelso Dollar Tree cited for similar safety violations

At the Kelso store, the company was cited for two willful violations with maximum penalties of $70,000 each. The violations were similar to those cited at the Bonney Lake store and previously at the Aberdeen and Chehalis stores. Merchandise was crowded into a storeroom with uneven stacks as high as eight feet, and exit routes were blocked or obstructed with boxes of merchandise.

Dollar Tree has appealed the citation.

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

For a copy of the citations, please contact Public Affairs at 360-902-5413

Photo credit: Robert S., Yelp.com – “Typical aisle, with hazardous boxes blocking shelved merchandise.”

Kit Case, Causey Wright's Paralegal & Media Manager

From Sandwich Shops To Cotton Mills, Art That Honors The American Worker

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

A lot of very hard work is going on at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C.

A muscled guy in an undershirt tightens a big bolt with his wrench; a farm worker bends almost in half, filling his sack with cotton; Rosie the Riveter rolls up her sleeve to tackle her factory job. They’re all part of an exhibition called "The Sweat Of Their Face: Portraying American Workers."

But not all the laborers are big and burly.

A forlorn young girl — she can’t be more than 11 or 12 — stands at a long row of spools of thread mounted on a big piece of complicated machinery. Photographer Lewis Wickes Hine wrote her name and height on the back of the picture: "Sadie Pfeifer, 48 inches high, has worked half a year." She had a job in 1908 at the Lancaster Cotton Mills in South Carolina. You can almost hear the noise, feel the heat.

"And there she is, this little girl, alone, facing an enormous machine," says Dorothy Moss, who curated this show with David C. Ward. She says Hine was a crusader, and his cause was to abolish child labor. "He would often disguise himself as a Bible vendor or newspaper deliverer, other professions, to get into these mills."

Hine put himself at risk to take these pictures, and, with the camera as witness, reforms and regulations were enacted. This exhibition showcases centuries of American workers. They are, as Moss says,"the people who were building this country, who may be on the sidelines, who…

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Kit Case, Causey Wright's Paralegal & Media Manager

CNN Exclusive: California launches investigation following stunning admission by Aetna medical director

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

(CNN)California’s insurance commissioner has launched an investigation into Aetna after learning a former medical director for the insurer admitted under oath he never looked at patients’ records when deciding whether to approve or deny care.

California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones expressed outrage after CNN showed him a transcript of the testimony and said his office is looking into how widespread the practice is within Aetna.

"If the health insurer is making decisions to deny coverage without a physician actually ever reviewing medical records, that’s of significant concern to me as insurance commissioner in California — and potentially a violation of law," he said.

Aetna, the nation’s third-largest insurance provider with 23.1 million customers, told CNN it looked forward to "explaining our clinical review process" to the commissioner.

The California probe centers on a deposition by Dr. Jay Ken Iinuma, who served as medical director for Aetna for Southern California from March 2012 to February 2015, according to the insurer.

During the deposition, the doctor said he was following Aetna’s training, in which nurses reviewed records and made recommendations to him.

Jones said his expectation would be "that physicians would be reviewing treatment authorization requests," and that it’s troubling that "during the entire course of time he was employed at Aetna, he never once looked at patients’ medical records himself."

"It’s…

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Kit Case, Causey Wright's Paralegal & Media Manager

Are Workers’ Comp Benefits Ever Taxable?

Today’s post was shared by Workers Comp News and comes from www.jdsupra.com

In the vast majority of cases, workers’ compensation benefits are fully tax exempt, at the federal, state and local level. But this is not always the case where the workers’ comp beneficiary is also receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits.

Workers’ comp programs, which are run at the state level, provide benefits to people who suffer from work-related disabilities, stemming either from specific incidents or from conditions that develop over time, otherwise known as occupational injuries. The federal SSDI program compensates people with sufficient work histories who are deemed unemployable due to their disabilities, regardless of any connection between the person’s employment and the disability.

As is the case whenever a person with Social Security benefits receives supplemental income, a person’s SSDI benefit becomes taxable if the combined SSDI and workers’ comp income exceeds $25,000 (or $35,000 for joint filers).

To further complicate matters, if the person’s combined income exceeds this, then the workers’ comp award may also become taxable where the person is subject to the workers’ comp offset. This rule exists to prevent a person from receiving a combined amount from SSDI and workers’ comp in excess of 80 percent of the person’s prior earnings. In such cases, the Social Security Administration will reduce the person’s SSDI benefit until it meets the 80 percent threshold.

However,…

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Kit Case, Causey Wright's Paralegal & Media Manager

Dental Personnel Treated for Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis at a Tertiary Care Center — Virginia, 2000–2015

Today’s post was shared by Jon L Gelman and comes from www.cdc.gov

During September 1996–June 2017, nine (1%) of 894 patients treated for IPF at a single tertiary care center in Virginia were identified as dental personnel. Each patient presented for care during 2000–2015. Seven of the patients had died. This is the first known described cluster of IPF occurring among dental personnel. Although no clear etiology exists for this cluster, it is possible that occupational exposures contributed to the development of IPF.

During 2016, dentists accounted for an estimated 0.038% of U.S. residents (4), yet represented 0.893% of patients undergoing treatment for IPF at one tertiary care center, nearly a 23-fold difference. Dental personnel are exposed to infectious agents, chemicals, airborne particulates, ionizing radiation, and other potentially hazardous materials (5). Inhalational exposures experienced by dentists likely increase their risk for certain work-related respiratory diseases. For example, cases of dental technicians with pneumoconiosis, a restrictive occupational lung disease resulting from inhalation of dust, have been identified after exposure to either silica or cobalt-chromium-molybdenum-based dental prostheses (6,7). A case of pneumoconiosis was identified postmortem in an elderly dentist who died from respiratory failure (8). Examination of lung tissue at autopsy using scanning electron microscopy revealed particles consistent with alginate impression powders used during the dentist’s practice. Nine cases of…

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