Coverage Crossroads – What Type of Claim Do You Have?

Most injuries that occur in the course of one’s employment are covered by the workers’ compensation system in place in the state where the worker lives and works. The rules of that state govern the benefits the worker will receive.  On the edge of these well-defined boundaries, however, the question of which system should cover an injured worker can get interesting.

As an example, a worker in the fishing industry who suffers an injury may be covered under one of several possible types of claims, depending on the circumstances of their individual case. If the worker is injured on a vessel while at sea, their benefits may be governed by the Jones Act as a maritime claim. Or, if they are involved in the loading and unloading of a vessel while it is in port as the primary duties of their land-based job, the worker may have a claim under the Longshore and Harborworkers Act. Some workers are involved in fish processing aboard a vessel but that vessel is tied to land, it is moored, while this work is performed. This may be a state workers’ compensation claim. We often speak with workers whose claims are in Alaska’s jurisdiction and make referrals to Alaska attorneys for these cases. There are situations, though, where a worker in the fishing industry, even if the injury did not occur within the boudaries of Washington State, still has a Washington workers’ compensation claim.  It all depends on the individual circumstances of each case.

If you have questions about your injury claim, feel free to contact our office.  We can be of assistance with a Washington workers’ compensation case, a Longshore claim, or a maritime case.  If we cannot assist you, we will do our best to make a recommendation for where you can get the help you need.

Photo Credit: Kit Case, Fishing boats in Cowitchan Bay, BC

Highway 99 Tunnel Subcontractor Owes Workers More Than $370,000 in Unpaid Wages

A company hired to dispose of dirt from the Highway 99 tunnel project through Seattle has been cited by the state Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) for underpaying workers by more than $370,000.

Glacier Northwest contracted with Seattle Tunnel Partners (STP), the public project’s prime contractor, for an estimated $28 million. Glacier disposed of dirt and other materials excavated by Bertha, the tunnel-boring machine. Glacier and STP recently appealed the citation.

This was the only project that the Glacier Northwest disposal site was accepting dirt from, so L&I was able to identify the specific workers and hours worked. Because the tunnel is a public works project, those workers are entitled to prevailing wages, which they did not get.

“Many workers aren’t aware of the specific wages they must be paid when working on public projects like this one,” said Jim Christensen, L&I’s Prevailing Wage Program manager. “The law is clear in this case: The use of public funds means Glacier has the responsibility of paying proper prevailing wages.”

L&I enforces the state’s prevailing wage law, which protects workers by setting wages for specific work. The law helps ensure that contractors have a level playing field when bidding on public projects.

Some workers owed thousands
The L&I investigation found that Glacier Northwest owes 46 employees approximately $370,600 for their work spreading an estimated 2.2 million tons of dirt at the former Mats Mats Quarry near Port Ludlow. They were paid $27.69–$31.34 per hour but should have received $49.48 per hour running cranes, skid loaders, dump trucks, dozers, and excavators.

The amount owed to individual workers depends on how long they worked; it ranges from nearly $90 to more than $30,500.

Work at the disposal site involved setting and operating two floating cranes to offload hundreds of barges, all carrying dirt from the Highway 99 tunnel project. The dirt was then moved to the quarry using conveyors, trucks and other equipment. The contract precluded dirt from any other project to be dumped at the location.

In 2018, L&I industrial relations agents investigated and closed 300 cases involving the payment of prevailing wages and returned $1,461,452 to workers.

Photo by State Library of Queensland, Australia on Foter.com / No known copyright restrictions

Port of Seattle Seeks Partnership for New Cruise Facility at Terminal 46

Port to start process, issue principles for cruise business development

(SEATTLE) The Port of Seattle Commission took steps toward securing a partner to develop and operate a new, single berth cruise facility at Terminal 46 by issuing a Request for Qualifications (RFQ). Commissioners also adopted principles to ensure that a growing cruise business increases local economic benefit and maintains the Port’s leadership as the most environmentally progressive cruise homeport in North America.

“The intangible asset of Alaska cruises creates opportunities for Washington businesses of all sizes, from farmers and wine producers in Eastern Washington to museums, hotels, and restaurants around King County,” said Port of Seattle Commission President Stephanie Bowman. “Our principles ensure that this new cruise terminal will expand local economic benefit, and with the addition of our third shore power berth will make Seattle the national leader in promoting clean, electric shore power for our Alaska-bound cruises.”

two cruise ships

The cruise terminal RFQ is the first step in a partnership selection process that will support the completion of a new facility for the 2022 cruise season. Early estimates are that a cruise terminal could be constructed for around $200 million. A public-private-partnership approach to build the terminal will have the Port contributing half that cost. Responses to the RFQ are due April 18.

The opportunity to explore using 29 acres at the north end of Terminal 46 for a new cruise terminal and single berth has come forward now as the Northwest Seaport Alliance works to realize its strategic plan of realigning international maritime cargo operations at Terminal 5 near West Seattle and Terminal 18 on Harbor Island. The cruise terminal project is contingent on the successful authorization of a new lease at Terminal 5 which is scheduled for review at the Northwest Seaport Alliance’s March 19 meeting.

…Read the rest of the news release here.

Are Safety Incentive Programs Counter-Productive?

Most companies care about their employees’ safety and sometimes use games like Safety Bingo or signage that reports safety records, like days without an accident, to encourage safe behavior. However, these well-intentioned incentives don’t always improve safety. In fact, using incentive-based prizes that reward employees for working safely may unintentionally lead employees to suppress injury and illness reporting. Underreporting to win prizes has two harmful side effects:

1.Underreporting can slow down hazard identification and resultin misinformed decisions about workplace safety programs andpractices – putting your workplace at risk. A successful safetyprogram may even have a high number of incidents reported.This allows management to target resources and training where itwill do the most good.

2.Discouraging workers from reporting injuries and gettingtreatment early can cause more serious injuries that require timeaway from work to heal. This results in higher workers’ compcosts, injuries that may permanently impact the worker’s return towork and the high cost of turnover.Design a safety program that rewards worker participation and encourages injury and illness reporting.

The following tips may help:

  • Reward employees who identify hazards orparticipate in investigations of injuries, incidents or close calls.
  • Revise your incentive program if any part of it is deterring injury and illness reporting.
  • Create a policy that prohibits retaliation against employees who report injuries and illnesses.
  • Provide gifts to workers serving on safety and health committees.
  • Play games that test employee knowledge of job hazards and safety practices.
  • Offer modest rewards for employee suggestions that strengthen the safety and health program.
  • Throw a recognition party at the successful completion of company-wide safety and health training.

The Trucking Injury Reduction Emphasis (TIRES) project was developed by the Safety and Health Assessment and Research for Prevention (SHARP) program of Washington’s Department of Labor and Industries.  

The Trucking Injury Reduction Emphasis (TIRES) project team and the TIRES steering committee are working with the Washington State trucking industry to identify causes for the most frequent injuries to develop effective strategies for preventing them. Free safety training materials are available at KeepTruckingSafe.org.

The TIRES steering committee is made up of a diverse group of professionals that includes: drivers, safety people from large and small trucking companies, labor and business associations, insurers and a representative from a publicly funded truck driving school.

Funded in part by a grant from CDC NIOSH 5 U60 OH 008487. The contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of CDC/NIOSH.

Washington Service Corps Volunteers to Stipend Increase Next Year

Washington Service Corps volunteers to see nearly 11 percent stipend increase next year

Volunteers serving in the Washington Service Corps next year will receive the second highest living allowance of all AmeriCorps members in the state.

Increased funding from both the Employment Security Department, which administers the Service Corps program, and from community organizations which host the volunteers will bring member stipends to $1,450 per month.

“The cost of living has increased significantly in the last few years, and we were looking for ways to respond,” said James Trujillo, director of the Washington Service Corps, a program under the national AmeriCorps umbrella. “We want community service to be viable for everyone, no matter their economic background. This increase is an improvement, but we recognize we have to do more.”

The only other AmeriCorps program in Washington with a higher stipend is the Washington Conservation Corps, which gives its members about $1,840 per month.

Stipend levels for AmeriCorps volunteers vary across the country. The federal Corporation for National and Community Service funds 80 percent. The state as well as local public and private organizations that host volunteers make up the difference. They also pay for other member expenses and operational costs.

“This stipend increase helps to support the outstanding efforts of our Washington Service Corps members,” said Employment Security Commissioner Suzi LeVine. “Our volunteers help meet crucial needs in under-resourced communities across the state. The impact of their service should not be underestimated.”

The announcement about the stipend increase was announced in time to celebrate the nationwide AmeriCorps Week March 10-16.

Next year’s increase will be the biggest, but not the first in Washington Service Corps history. From 2015 to 2017, the Service Corps stipend totaled $12,548 for 10 ½ months of service, if the member completes the full term. In 2017, the stipend went up to $12,630 and in 2018 to $13,732. For the 2019-2020 program year, the total stipend will be $15,225.

In addition to this increase, members anywhere in the state could see an additional raise next year if their service organizations choose a contract option allowing them to pay more to all members serving at their sites. The total amount of the increase would go directly to members, Trujillo said.

Photo by ldifranza on Foter.com / CC BY-SA

Tips and Service Charges – Rules for Payment to Workers

The Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) has released the final version of the tips, gratuities, and service charges policy. You can find it on the Workplace Rights/Employment Standards Administrative Policies webpage. This policy includes updates based on feedback received on two draft versions last fall.

I-1433 created new requirements in the Washington Minimum Wage Act (RCW 49.46.020(3)) for employers to pay tips, gratuities, and service charges to their employees. During the rulemaking process for I-1433, L&I committed to developing administrative policies like this one and providing opportunities for input. These policies are intended to help employers understand how to interpret and apply the law.

The final policy language defines tips, tip pools and service charges and outlines requirements for payment to workers.  The policy also adds the requirement that facilities that add a mandatory tip or service charge disclose to their customers the amount of the charge that will be shared with the worker, if any.  This information must be presented in a restaurant menu and/or on an invoice or receipt. 

Examples of appropriate disclosure statements:

Restaurant menu

  • A service charge of ___% / $___ will be added to your bill. ___% of this service charge is paid to the employee or employees who served you today.

OR

  • A service charge of ___% / $___ will be added to your bill. 100% of this service charge is retained by [Business Name].

OR

  • A mandatory gratuity of ___% / $___ will be added to your bill for parties of ___ or more. ___% of this service charge is paid to the employee or employees who served you today.

OR

  • A mandatory gratuity of ___% / $___ will be added to your bill. 100% of this mandatory gratuity is retained by [Business Name].

Photo by Alan Light on Foter.com / CC BY

 

Seattle’s Battery Street Tunnel to be Filled

As part of the Alaskan Way Viaduct Removal Program, the Battery Street Tunnel will be decommisioned and filled to effect the permanent closure of the tunnel. With the Alaskan Way Viaduct closed, SR 99 no longer runs through the Battery Street Tunnel. Like the viaduct, the tunnel was built in the 1950s and is seismically vulnerable. Any new or continued use of the tunnel would require prohibitively expensive renovations. Closing the Battery Street Tunnel also allows WSDOT to rebuild the three-block stretch of Aurora Avenue at the tunnel’s north end, improving east-west mobility in that neighborhood.

Contractor Kiewit Infrastructure West Co., began demolishing the Alaskan Way Viaduct on Feb. 15. Over the course of approximately six months, they will use large machinery to crunch, munch and cut the structure into pieces to be hauled away by truck. When the viaduct is gone, the City of Seattle will begin work on a new surface street and public open space along the waterfront.

The work of filling and sealing the Battery Street Tunnel began on on Feb. 12, 2019 and is scheduled to be complete in late 2020. The major elements of this work are:

  • Decommissioning and removing the tunnel’s utility and mechanical systems.
  • Removing hazardous materials from the tunnel.
  • Filling the tunnel and sealing its entrances.
  • Street restoration along Battery Street, including sidewalk improvements, new curb ramps, street lighting and other pedestrian improvements.

The tunnel will be filled in two phases, with material brought into the tunnel both from its south entrance and through grates along Battery Street above. Crews will partially fill the tunnel with viaduct removal rubble and then will pump in low-density cellular concrete from above to complete the fill.

Questions? Call the 24/7 program hotline at 1-888-AWV-LINE (298-5463) or send an email to viaduct@wsdot.wa.gov.

What is Ahead for the Colman Dock Project

One way to beat the snowy cold weather is to dream of balmy days on the waterfront. Here’s a look ahead at mid-2019 when the project will reach some major milestones, like opening a portion of the new terminal building and the new passenger-only ferry facility! There’s still a lot of work to go on this complex project that will be complete in early 2023. While there continues to be changes throughout the project, full ferry service will be maintained during construction.

Inside design rendering of the passenger-only ferry facility

Starting in early summer, the new passenger-only ferry facility will open at the south side of the dock, complete with a new weather-protected queueing area. The King County Water Taxi and Kitsap Transit Fast Ferry will run their service out of this new facility.

Map layout of Colman Dock this summerLater on in the sunshine season, the ferry service will move into part of the new terminal building and demolish the existing building. Temporary elevated walkways will connect the Marion Street Bridge to the new building.

Photo/Image credits: Washington State Department of Transportation

Jeld-Wen to Close Yakima, WA Location – 179 Jobs Lost

Jeld-Wen Windows and Doors, headquartered in Charlotte, NC, has notified WA State that they are closing their Yakima location effective April 5, 2019, terminating the employment of 179 workers.  Jeld-Wen has indicated they have a policy to assist employees who wish to transfer to their other locations. 

On their website, JELD-WEN notes that they employ approximately 21,000 people worldwide and have manufacturing, distribution and showroom locations across the United States and in 24 countries, located primarily in North America, Europe and Australia. Although 179 jobs is a small amount in that context, it is a lot of people losing good jobs in Yakima.

Photo credit: Jeld-Wen

Increased Penalties Under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act

Industry Notice regarding increased civil monetary penalties under the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act Improvements Act of 2015 (Inflation Adjustment Act)

The Department of Labor promulgated a final rule on January 23, 2019 adjusting penalties under the Inflation Adjustment Act.  The rule makes the following adjustments to penalties assessed by the Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs (OWCP) under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act:

  • Section 14(g) of the LHWCA: Failure to Report Termination of Payments.The penalty amount has increased from $285 to $292.
  • Section 30(e) of the LHWCA: Penalty for Late Report of Injury or Death.The maximum penalty amount has increased from $23,426 to $24,017.
  • Section 49 of the LHWCA: Discrimination Against Employees Who Bring Proceedings. The penalty amount has increased from a $2,343 minimum and a $11,712. maximum to a $2,402 minimum and $12,007 maximum.

Industry Notice 171, which is available on the OWCP, Division of Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation (DLHWC) website at https://www.dol.gov/owcp/dlhwc/ outlines the adjustments in detail. The new amounts apply to penalties assessed after January 23, 2019.

 

Photo by Dan_Vel on Foter.com / CC BY

Published by Causey Wright