Temp-A-Cure Inc. fined for non-permitted work In WA

Temp-A-Cure, an out-of-state contractor, was fined more than $60,000 for electrical violations at 22 homes across Washington State.

Temp-A-Cure Inc. of Oregon City, Ore., received a $63,600 fine for working without an electrical license, having no electrical permits for the work, and employing unlicensed electricians as installers. L&I also fined three Temp-A-Cure employees a total of $5,000 for working without an electrical license.

In its investigation, the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) noted this is the third time the firm has violated Washington law.

“This is an example of an out-of-state company unlicensed for electrical work hiring unqualified people for non-permitted projects,” said Steve Thornton, L&I chief electrical inspector. “The result takes work from honest businesses and contractors licensed in Washington, and creates a danger to public safety.”

Neither the company nor the employees appealed the violations by the December deadline. Temp-A-Cure and two employees now have until next month to pay the fines or face having their fines go to a private collection agency, which could significantly increase their costs, Thornton noted. The third employee has paid the fine.

The homes are located in Vancouver, Camas, Washougal, Walla Walla, Pasco, and Kennewick. The work involved replacing furnace and air conditioning units.

Temp-A-Cure had previous run-ins with L&I in 2017 and earlier this year. Those violations were also for performing electrical work without a valid electrical license.

Hire smart. L&I can help

Thornton said another company contacted L&I to complain about bidding for a job that Temp-A-Cure won in Walla Walla. Thornton cautioned people to hire smart when looking for contractors to work on a home, including getting three written bids, and verifying the contractor’s electrical license.

To find out whether a contractor is licensed, has an up-to-date workers’ compensation account, or has any safety violations pending, go to L&I’s ‘verify’ web page. Find more tips on checking bids on L&I’s Protect My Home web page.

L&I uses a special group of inspectors, called the Electrical Compliance, Outreach, Regulation, and Education (ECORE) team, for its investigations. In fiscal year 2019, ECORE issued 3,766 violations against unlicensed contractors and uncertified electricians, working without permits, and failing to properly supervise trainees. ECORE collected more than $1.8 million in penalties.

Health Benefit Exchange Extension

Get the coverage you need for 2020 through the Health Benefit Exchange!

Washington Health Benefit Exchange (Exchange) announced that it will provide additional time for customers purchasing 2020 health insurance coverage. This will give those still needing health insurance until Dec. 30 at 8 p.m. to secure coverage that would start Feb. 1 through Washington Healthplanfinder.

The toll-free Customer Support Center (1-855-923-4633) is available Dec. 16 through Dec. 30from 7:30a.m. to 8p.m. Monday through Friday —except holidays—to provide help signing up for coverage beginning Feb. 1. Additionally, in-person help will continue to be available at eleven full-service enrollment centers or through navigators and brokers located throughout the state and may be found using the WAPlanfinder app or online at Washington Healthplanfinder by clicking on the “Customer Support” tab.

Health Benefit Exchange Resources

Visit the Exchange for a complete step-by-step list of the application process from start to finish or a downloadable checklist

Customer Support Center Hours
 Monday – Friday, Dec. 16 – 30 7:30 a.m. – 8 p.m.
 Tuesday, Dec. 24 7:30 a.m. – 3 p.m.
 Wednesday, Dec. 25 Closed
 Tuesday, Dec. 31 Closed

As of Dec. 15 more than 209,000 completed their 2020 health plan selection through Washington Healthplanfinder, including more than 36,000 new enrollees.

Customers who have selected their health and dental coverage for next year should expect to receive a bill for payment of their first month’s premium. Information on submitting a premium payment is available by clicking the “Make Your Payment” on Washington Healthplanfinder.

See Related Article:

WASHINGTON HEALTH BENEFIT EXCHANGE LOCATIONS FOR OPEN ENROLLMENT

Monte Cristo Ballroom Hit With wage theft Charges

The state Attorney General’s Office (AGO) and Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) announced they have filed wage theft charges on December 16, 2019 against the Monte Cristo Ballroom LLC, of Everett, WA, and its owner, Anthony Reeves.

Deductions from Pay Led to Wage Theft Charges

The complaint, filed in Snohomish County Superior Court, stems from Reeves’ taking a $2.99 “meal” charge from 156 employees during each shift worked between December 2016-April 2019. The Monte Cristo owner was taking the money from workers’ paychecks without their permission, in return for allowing them to eat extra food from catered events — whether the workers wanted to eat the food or not.

In all, the deductions covered 4,100 shifts and totaled $12,386.86.

“Employers do not have the right to deduct whatever they want from their employees’ paychecks without their consent,” said Attorney General Bob Ferguson. “If you have concerns about deductions on your paycheck, you should reach out to the Department of Labor & Industries. When Washington workers’ rights are violated, L&I and my office will partner to enforce the law.”

Double Damages and Attorney Fees Sought

Only deductions authorized under law or taken with advance written permission of the employee are allowed. Even with permission, the deductions must benefit the worker, not the employer. Because the deductions were intentional, the state is asking for double the damages and attorney fees.

“Reeves took money workers earned and used it for his own benefit,” L&I Director Joel Sacks said. “Working with the Attorney General’s Office gives us additional tools to stand up for employees and make sure they’re being treated fairly. While the amount of money taken from individual workers each shift may seem relatively small, in the end it added up to thousands of dollars that should have gone to employees and their families and not into the owner’s pockets.”

Employees filed complaints

The Monte Cristo Ballroom LLC, 1507 Wall St. in Everett, stopped operating in October. Since the sudden closure, more workers have filed wage complaints with L&I.

The business has had a history of wage complaints. From 2015-19, there were 10 complaints filed against the company for just over $3,300 in wages.

L&I attempted to settle with Monte Cristo for the wages owed workers. An agreement drafted in September set out a payment schedule through October 2020, and ordered the restaurant to stop taking money for employee meals without the employee’s consent. Reeves never signed the final document.

L&I oversees the state’s wage-and-hour laws. The agency investigates all wage-payment complaints. More information on wages or filing a complaint is available on L&I’s wage and hour webpage (www.Lni.wa.gov/wages). Employers and workers may also call 360-902-5316 or 1-866-219-7321.

Read a related article: WAGE THEFT CASE RESULTS IN BIG SETTLEMENT

Photo Credit: Sabel Blanco

Neck and Shoulder injurIes – Which is it, or is it both?

Neck and shoulder injuries can present with physical symptoms which could be caused by either a neck or shoulder injury. Diagnosis can be complicated if the injured person reports that they suffered an injury to their neck or shoulder because that is where they feel the ache or pain. In fact, it could be one or the other, or both.

An aching shoulder may not be due to the shoulder, and a sore neck may not indicate a neck issue. The neck and shoulder are intimately connected by multiple nerve pathways and injuries in one area often results in referred pain to the other. Thus the importance of a thorough medical exam of both neck and shoulder by your doctor is key to getting an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment program.

Work-related complaints of the arm, neck and shoulder develop as a result of repetitive movements, awkward postures and impact of external forces such as work with vibrating tools. These conditions severely hamper the working population, and in WA state, lost work days due to neck, arm, and shoulder represent 60% of workers’ compensation claims (WA L&I).

Our firm has encountered many cases where an incomplete diagnosis early after an injury led to legal complications down the road when an effort was made to obtain allowance of an additional condition under a claim. Often, the initial diagnosis is a shoulder injury but only later is it discovered that a neck injury is also involved. Now, the Department of Labor and Industries, through its ongoing program of medical education seminars, will address this common dilemma – is it the neck, or the shoulder?

The Occupational and Environmental Medicine Grand Rounds Lecture series will cover this topic on February 20, 2020 in Seattle, with a simultaneous viewing event in Olympia. Read the full release, here, for more information, including details about the two physicians that will speak at the event. This lecture may be of interest to you, even if you are not a doctor. The cost is only $50 and includes a light meal.

Tower Crane Erection and Dismantling Violations

Tower Crane Erection and Dismantling Hazard Alert

The Division of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH) issued a Hazard Alert in June 2019 discussing roles, responsibilities, and procedures during tower crane erection and dismantling. Read the full DOSH Hazard Alert: Roles, responsibilities, and procedures during the erection and dismantling of tower cranes.

The hazard alert was issued in response to an April 27, 2019 incident where a construction tower crane collapsed in Seattle, Washington while being dismantled, fatally injuring two workers and two members of the public.

Violations Result in Fines

The Department of Labor and Industries completed it’s investigation in October 2019. During the investigation, it was found that the conditions leading up to the collapse may not have been an isolated event, but was due to procedures that have been practiced throughout the industry.

The state issued citations to: GLY Construction, Northwest Tower Crane Service, and Morrow Equipment, totaling over $107,000.00. The state did not cite two other companies involved, Omega Morgan and Seaburg Construction.

New Safety Regulations – DOSH Directive 8.55

On November 4, 2019, DOSH issued Directive, 8.55 – Tower Crane Erection and Dismantling Violations which clarified the rules for the erection and dismantling of tower cranes, and established a willful penalty classification for specific tower crane erection/dismantling safety violations.

The April 2019 accident, which was found to have been “totally avoidable,” prompted the state to craft and implement the new regulations outlined in Directive 8.55.

This directive includes enforcement instructions for Compliance Officers who inspect tower cranes worksites to ensure employers provide an assembly/disassembly director and follow the manufacturer’s written procedures when erecting and dismantling tower cranes. Directive 8.55 also creates a willful violation classification, allowing for increased penalties in cases where safety is compromised.

WAC 296-155-53402 sets out the rules for safety practices when assembling and disassembling a crane/derrick.

Tower crane erection and dismantling presents safety hazards.

When the DOSH Compliance Crane Unit documents violations of either WAC 296-155-53402 (1) or WAC 296-155-53402 (17)(a) through (d) on a tower crane erection or dismantling site, the violation will be classified as willful and the penalty will be multiplied by 10.

More Information

For more information about the April 2019 accident, the Department of Labor and Industries investigation, and the citations issued, look to The Seattle Times coverage, including:

Ports of Seattle and Tacoma Seek Technology Growth

Planned technology growth at the Port of Seattle, including Elliott Bay and Fisherman’s Terminal facilities, as well as the Port of Tacoma, will improve services for cruise ships, cargo ships and shipping vessels. Several projects are underway, including expansion of capacity for larger cargo vessels in Tacoma, additional cruise ship capacity in Seattle, support for larger fishing vessels in Seattle, as well as dock upgrades and increased light-industrial space for maritime uses at Fisherman’s Terminal.

In-Depth Article Describes Technology Growth Plans

WorkBoat’s Kirk Moore has written an extensive article based on interviews with port planners, offering insight into the many-faceted plans for technology growth in our area. Read his full article, excerpted below, here. It’s a good read. Mr. Moore describes the Ports’ ideas for innovation:

Port planners are looking for ways to synthesize that tech strength with the city’s legacy maritime industries. One step is a “maritime innovation center” to be co-located with the new north end improvements, with $10.55 million in funding including $5 million from the state of Washington.

The center will be a home for the “blue tech sector,” a space to support emerging maritime technology and workforce development. The idea is modeled on centers in Iceland and the Netherlands, including Port XL, a “maritime accelerator” in Rotterdam. There are 60 different tech accelerator programs in Seattle. Not one of them is focused on maritime.

Maritime Innovation Center Could Transform Fisherman’s Terminal

The Port of Seattle’s post about the proposed Maritime Innovation Center is sparse, but the concept of a facility such as this at Fisherman’s Terminal is quite interesting. It could spark a revitalization of the surrounding area, supporting businesses and drawing those with interest in maritime trades and activities.

A similar program has been in place in Port Townsend with the Northwest Maritime Center. It has become an anchor to the revitalized waterfront downtown neighborhood. It also has become a hub for learning and sharing traditional boat-centric skills, from sailing to boat building.

The Port of Seattle is in the second year of a five-year investment plan designed to make our region a competitive maritime hub. The ideas for technology growth are a big component in these plans.

Best Plan for Black Friday: Buy Health Insurance!

Open enrollment brings more health insurance plans, changing prices.

Washington residents buying health insurance coverage on Healthplanfinder should shop by December 15.

Many Washington residents seeking health insurance coverage on Washington Healthplanfinder will see more options and changing prices when shopping this year.   

This is happening because of new market entrants who are offering lower cost plans at all metal tiers. The result is that some residents will see changes to their tax credit as well as the opportunity to find new, lower cost plan options when buying coverage on the state’s marketplace.

Review Plans, You May Find Lower Priced Options

“Given the arrival of new plans to the health insurance landscape, we are encouraging existing customers to review their current options and make sure their plan meets their needs and budget,” explained Chief Marketing Officer Michael Marchland. “The lower priced silver plans mean changes to the tax credit available to qualified customers and this may be reflected in their 2020 premiums.”

Tax credits are calculated based on the premium of the second lowest cost silver plan available to consumers that plan year. This year, new lower priced plans are available in several counties, which means consumers may see a smaller tax credit for 2020 then they had last year. However, this may be offset by the availability of new plans with lower premiums.

The Exchange highly encourages customers to update their information, take advantage of their resources, and shop plans as other affordable options may be available starting November 1. To find the Navigator or  broker  nearest you: use the WAPlanfinder app or go to Washington Healthplanfinder.

Available resources for coverage

Chat will provide customers a platform to talk directly with customer support representatives—in English and Spanish—during business hours when they are logged into their user account.

Before Starting the Application Process

NOTE: The application process uses your Modified Adjusted Gross Income (MAGI) figure for your household when establishing your entitlement levels and options. MAGI does NOT include workers’ compensation benefits (or Veteran’s benefits, or SSI benefits, and more). See a list of income types that are included and excluded, here, before you begin the application process.

Make sure you’re on the right site: WAHealthplanFinder.org. There are non-governmental sites with VERY similar looking website addresses – don’t be fooled into entering your private information into the wrong site!

If you’re a morning person, get a cup of coffee. If you’re a night owl, get a cup of coffee. Sign into your account each time you go onto the site. If you need to take a break, save your work and it will be there when you later log back in.

Gather all your information:

  • Legal names of all household members
  • Birthdates for household members
  • Home and mailing address
  • Social Security Number or immigration documents (Families which include unlawfully present immigrants may still apply)
  • Income information (recent pay stubs, tax return, or W-2)
  • Tax filing status
  • Current health plan information
  • Tribal membership (if enrolled in a federally recognized tribe)

Visit the Exchange for a complete step-by-step list of the application process from start to finish or a downloadable checklist

Exchange Customer Support Available

See our prior post, WASHINGTON HEALTH BENEFIT EXCHANGE LOCATIONS FOR OPEN ENROLLMENT, for more information.

Open enrollment for 2020 plans begins November 1 through December 15.  During this time the Exchange Customer Support call center based in Spokane Valley will be open normal operating hours and ready to receive calls from 7:30 a.m.-8:00 p.m. Monday – Friday.  Additionally, extended hours scheduled:

WA Court of Appeals Cites Compensable Consequences Doctrine in Maphet Decision

From the Maphet decision:

“…the compensable consequences doctrine compels coverage of the ninth surgery; and the County conceded that the ninth surgery was proper and necessary. Accordingly, we reverse.”


Clark County, Et Al. v. Jennifer Maphet, (Wa. Ct. App. Div. II, 2019)

Maphet – the Story

The Court of Appeals opinion sets out the chronology of events in the Maphet case, in the most simple and dry manner, as follows:

Jennifer Maphet injured her right knee while at work. Her employer, Clark County, is a self-insured employer. Maphet underwent nine surgeries on her knee. The County contested its responsibility for the ninth surgery to the Department of Labor and Industries (L&I). L&I issued an order for the County to authorize and pay for the surgery. The County appealed. The Board of Industrial Insurance Appeals (BIIA) affirmed L&I’s order. The County appealed to the trial court, and the jury returned a verdict that the industrial injury did not cause the need for the ninth surgery and that the ninth surgery was not proper and necessary.

Undoubtedly, for Ms. Maphet this paragraph represents many years of ordeal, from injury through surgeries, peppered with administrative headaches and legal hassles. The end result, however, is that her set of circumstances has resulted in clarification of the laws, benefiting all injured workers in Washington. From this point forward, claimant attorneys will refer to the “Maphet decision” while representing injured workers.

Key Take-Aways from the Maphet Decision

I encourage you to read the full decision, here. This is a window into the world of legal wrangling in workers’ compensation matters, at the highest level. The Maphet decision also outlines, in detail, one story of one injured worker, with parallels and patterns that will be familiar to any injured worker.

The Maphet case stands for two important rules:

1)      If a self-insured employer (SIE) covers medical treatment, it is legally responsible for the underlying condition; and

2)      The Board’s “compensable consequences doctrine” is a correct statement of the law – if a claim-covered surgery results in some untoward consequence, it is the SIE’s responsibility.

We often litigate cases over the responsibility of the Department of Labor and Industries or self-insured employer for a medical condition or treatment, particularly when surgeries are involved. Like Ms. Maphet’s case, we have seen cases where treatment is authorized, covered by a claim, only later to be retroactively denied as not the responsibility of the Department or SIE.

With the publishing of the Maphet decision, a clear message has been sent that the Department or SIE’s are responsible for both the underlying condition and any untoward consequences arising from a surgery (whether it rises to the level of medical malpractice, or not) once a medical condition has been covered by a claim.

The Appeal Process, Simply Stated

Most workers’ compensation claims are handled administratively, many concluding without conflict or the need for legal representation. Some are more complicated, hard fought, and require litigation. Of these, the majority are resolved through proceedings before the Board of Industrial Insurance Appeals.

Aggrieved parties have the right to appeal from the Board’s decisions to superior court where a judge or, if requested, a jury issue an order on the issues at hand. However, in rare cases where matters of law remain at issue, appeals can be argued to the Court of Appeals and, from there, even more rarely, to the state Supreme Court. Ms. Maphet’s case was recently presented to the Court of Appeals, Division II, and the court opinion was just published.

More Information About Appeals

We have information on our website about appeals to the Board of Industrial Insurance Appeals or higher courts on workers’ compensation issues, here. If you have questions and wish to discuss your case in more detail, please contact our firm for assistance. You may call our office at (206) 292-8627 or email to: reachus @ causeywright.com (remove spaces when entering the email address – they have been added to avoid spam by bots).

Workshop Held On Noise Reduction Ideas for Puget Sound

The workshop gathered diverse maritime interests to protect endangered orcas through noise reduction.

The Northwest Seaport Alliance announced that it, with the Port of Seattle, Port of Tacoma, Washington State Ferries, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Puget Sound Partnership, co-convened a workshop of a broad range of experts and interests to identify ways to reduce underwater noise in effort to support recovery of the endangered population of Southern Resident killer whales. Underwater noise can be harmful to Southern Resident orcas because it impedes their ability to use sonar to hunt prey and communicate.  

The workshop was held at the Bell Harbor Conference Center Oct. 3, 2019 and was attended by state, federal, tribal and Canadian government representatives, researchers, natural resource agencies, whale conservation groups and representatives of the maritime industry. The goal of the workshop was to explore the possibility of establishing a program to reduce the exposure of our endangered orca to ship noise such as ECHO established by the Port of Vancouver, British Columbia to implement noise reduction efforts. Read more about the workshop on the NWSA site.

Efforts Coincide with Presence of Newer, Larger Vessels in Puget Sound

In August, 2016, we wrote about the widening of the Panama Canal and, as a result, the presence of much larger vessels calling on our Puget Sound ports (read the post, here). The ports have improved infrastructure to support the mega-ships in our harbors (as noted in another post, here).

The newer vessels are not only much larger, they are also much more efficient. Improvements in ship’s engine designs reduce carbon emissions. Hull designs to reduce drag through the water improve fuel efficiency. As a person often on a sailboat in our waters, I can also attest to the fact that they produce much smaller wakes (thank you!).

If other improvements can be incorporated to also reduce sound intrusion in our waters, this will serve to benefit everyone in our region, both people and wildlife.

“Sonic Sea” – Movie Explains Effects of Noise on Our Seas

YOU WANT TO WATCH THIS MOVIE. Sonic Sea is a documentary about the devastating impact of industrial and military ocean noise on whales and other marine life. The film explores the critical role of sound in the sea, and the sudden, dramatic changes human activity is inflicting on the ocean’s delicate acoustic habitat — changes that threaten the ability of whales and other marine animals to prosper, to function, and ultimately, to survive. The film offers solutions (and, by extension, hope) for a quieter ocean, and underscores that the ocean’s destiny is inextricably bound with our own.

You will become a believer in the efforts to achieve noise reduction after seeing this film. I sat down to watch a few minutes of it while visiting a whale museum and ended up sitting there, riveted, for the whole hour. Watch the trailer for the full goosebump effect.

Sonic Sea – Trailer from Imaginary Forces on Vimeo.

Clean Truck Program Wins Award

The Northwest Seaport Alliance has announced that it is proud to have received the American Association of Port Authorities’ 2019 Environmental Improvement Award for it’s Clean Truck Program. You can read the full release, excerpted below, here.

The NWSA Clean Truck Program was one of the initiatives developed through the groundbreaking Northwest Ports Clean Air Strategy. In 2008, the ports of Seattle, Tacoma and Vancouver, British Columbia, collectively set a goal to implement clean truck standards by January 2018.

Targeted to reduce air pollution in the Puget Sound region, the innovative program earned the Award of Distinction in the comprehensive environmental management category for successfully implementing a voluntary clean trucks initiative.

As of Jan. 1, 2019, the Clean Truck Program requires all trucks serving the NWSA international container terminals to have a 2007 or newer engine or certified equivalent emissions control system. With newer engines emitting 90% less diesel particulate matter (DPM), the program has reduced the pollutant load on our neighboring communities by 33.4 tons of DPM per year. The reduction of diesel emissions helps decrease the risk of asthma, cancer and heart disease.

Acknowledging only 53% of trucks were compliant for the original Jan. 1, 2018 deadline, the NWSA Managing Members voted to extend the deadline through December 2018 to give drivers more time to prepare. Throughout the year, the NWSA partnered with lawmakers and various agencies like the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington State Department of Ecology, African Chamber of Commerce of the Pacific Northwest, City of Seattle, and Washington Trucking Association to offer financial and training resources.

We wrote about this program early in the process in our prior post, “TRUCK REPLACEMENT PROGRAM TO IMPROVE AIR QUALITY SCRAPS 200TH TRUCK.” We congratulate Northwest Seaport Alliance for winning this award and appreciate the effort to improve air quality in Seattle and Tacoma.

Published by Causey Wright