Washington to Expand Programs to Help Injured or Ill Employees Return to Work

Washington State Employment Security Department (ESD) is celebrating a $2.5 million federal grant to help up to 400 workers who develop a potential injury or illness remain at work, return to work or attain a new job.

The grant from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Retaining Employment and Talent After Injury/Illness Network (RETAIN) will fund a demonstration project (WA-RETAIN) focused on two specific populations: state employees at risk of filing long-term disability claims and people not eligible for workers’ compensation who are at risk of leaving the  workforce. Washington is one of eight states to receive this grant funding for the next 18 months.

Generally, the longer injured workers are out of work due to disability, the less likely they are to return to work at all. In fact, an employee who is out of work for six months has less than a 50 percent chance of returning to gainful employment. If lost time reaches one year, the chances of successfully returning to work drop to 10 percent.

The RETAIN Demonstration Projects are modeled after a program operating in Washington state for injured workers covered under the state’s Workers’ Compensation Program. The success of this effort in helping workers return to work sooner is one of several reasons why the state Department of Labor & Industries was able to propose a reduction in workers’ compensation premiums for 2019. 

WA-RETAIN will engage the Center of Occupational Health and Education Alliance of Western Washington as well as other state and local partners, including the Workforce Development Councils (WDCs) in King and Snohomish counties. Securing this Phase1 grant makes Washington eligible to compete for one of four grants of up to $19.75 million each to expand on the model created in the demonstration project.

“We want all Washington workers to have access to great employment opportunities and resources they need to be successful,” said ESD Commissioner Suzi LeVine. “The WDCs of King and Snohomish counties have been highly successful in serving workers with disabilities and their employers to date and we look forward to working with them on this moving forward to amplify and grow their efforts.”

“We are honored to receive these funds to build a model that helps workers reattach to the workforce,” said Erin Monroe, CEO of Workforce Snohomish. “The longer workers stay out of the workforce, the less likely they are to return to work. Our goal is to help people on the pathway to economic prosperity.”

“With the staggering rate of one in 10 working age Americans having a substantial disability that impacts their opportunities to work, we’re thrilled and honored to continue to support our workforce on their pathways towards self-sufficiency,” said Dot Fallihee, interim CEO of the Workforce Development Council of Seattle-King County. “Our WDC’s 47 WorkSource sites are proud to offer a depth of employment resources and opportunities for our residents.”

The WA-RETAIN project supports Gov. Jay Inslee’s goal of increasing the employment rate of working age people with disabilities in Washington and supplements efforts by the Governor’s Committee on Disability Issues and Employment (GCDE). Toby Olson, Executive Secretary for the GCDE, will lead the project.

More information about the RETAIN grant is available at the US Dept. of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy site. 

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H.R. 7109 Seeks to End Mandatory Arbitration Agreements for Workers

On October 30, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and a group of House Democrats, including Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) and 57 other co-sponsors, introduced the Restoring Justice for Workers Act (H.R. 7109), which would ban businesses from requiring workers to sign arbitration clauses. Employers would not be able to force workers to sign these agreements, and could not retaliate against anyone who chooses not to. It would also be illegal to require workers to waive their right to join a class-action lawsuit or file claims in arbitration as a group.

Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) introduced a similar version of the bill in the Senate. To make it through both chambers of Congress, the bill would need bipartisan support, but Republican leaders have shown no interest in previous bills aimed at limiting mandatory arbitration.

House Democrats have a sweeping plan to protect millions of workers’ legal rights,” published by Vox.  You can also read the full text and follow the progress of H.R. 7109 here.

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Kit Case, Causey Wright's Paralegal & Media Manager

Upcoming documentary will highlight health risks of asbestos

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

Upcoming documentary will highlight health risks of asbestos
Upcoming documentary will highlight health risks of asbestos

Western Kentucky University graduate Bryan Lemon said he encountered some of the strongest people he’s ever known while making “Dirty Laundry,” a documentary about people affected by mesothelioma.

“These people are some of the most positive individuals for having something so horrific happen to them,” said Lemon, one of two WKU graduates who produced the film, which will be screened at Van Meter Hall at 6 p.m. Nov. 13. The event is free.

After mesothelioma, a form of cancer caused by exposure to asbestos, killed their 90-year-old grandmother, cousins Conor Lewis and Zack Johnson set off on bicycles across the country in an effort to find answers.

Their journey features surviving family members, doctors, activists and communities still living with active, toxic asbestos sites, according to a news release.

Lewis, the film’s director and producer, graduated from WKU’s art department in 2012 and began a career in digital media in St. Louis, where he grew up, the news release said. Lemon, who graduated from WKU’s photojournalism program in 2012, works as a photographer for WKU public affairs and contributed to the film as a producer and writer.

The film, which has been shown at 10 film festivals, was shot between August and October 2016 and produced the following year. It debuted at its first film festival in March, Lemon said.

“Reception has been really…

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Kit Case, Causey Wright's Paralegal & Media Manager

The Evidence Mounts on the Causal Link of Cell Phones and Cancer

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

The US National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences [NIH} has just published a final report linking cell phone radiation exposure to the production of tumors in mice. This animal study that confirms the causal relationship between radio frequency radiation of cell phones and cancer in animals is a significant step forward to establishing a causal relationship in humans.

The National Toxicology Program (NTP) concluded there is clear evidence that male rats exposed to high levels of radio frequency radiation (RFR) like that used in 2G and 3G cell phones developed cancerous heart tumors, according to final reports released today. There was also some evidence of tumors in the brain and adrenal gland of exposed male rats. For female rats, and male and female mice, the evidence was equivocal as to whether cancers observed were associated with exposure to RFR. The final reports represent the consensus of NTP and a panel of external scientific experts who reviewed the studies in March after draft reports were issued in February.

“The exposures used in the studies cannot be compared directly to the exposure that humans experience when using a cell phone,” said John Bucher, Ph.D., NTP senior scientist. “In our studies, rats and mice received radio frequency radiation across their whole bodies. By contrast, people are mostly exposed in specific local tissues close to where they hold the phone. In addition, the exposure levels and durations in our studies…

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Injured workers served poorly with AMA “cookbook” on causation

DON”T GET ON THE AMA CAUSATION GUIDES SHIP!!!

Today’s post comes from guest author Jon Rehm, from Rehm, Bennett & Moore.

My friends and colleagues on the WILG listserv were discussing the AMA Guides to the Evaluation of Disease and Injury Causation, 2nd edition. The consensus was that the new guidebook treats injured workers, to quote the President, very unfairly.

Lawyers in Illinois and Montana have encountered the AMA Causation Guide. I encountered the causation guide in Nebraska this spring/summer in Tapee v. Nestle (available on NWCC Decision and Order Search by clicking here). My experience was that the trial judge was not impressed by the opinions of an examining expert who relied generalizations from studies rather than looking at the particulars of my client’s injury.

A colleague in Montana seemed to have a similar experience.  Another weakness of the AMA Causation Guides is that doesn’t address the fact that states have different standards for medical causation. For example, even if it’s true that occupational causes aren’t a prevailing factor in causing carpal tunnel syndrome, that doesn’t matter in Nebraska because a worker only needs to show that occupational factors were a contributing factor to the injury.

Even among WILG members, the AMA Guide to Causation is still confused with the better known AMA Guides to Permanent Impairment that have been subject to numerous court challenges. The so-called AMA 6th has long been a target of plaintiff’s lawyers because of how it reduces compensation for many types of permanent injuries. When the AMA 6th came out about 10 years ago, plaintiff’s lawyers were good about educating courts about the problems with the AMA 6th.

Nebraska isn’t bound by the AMA Guides to Impairment, but courts often follow them in determining permanent disability for scheduled member impairment. In 2010, one trial judge criticized the AMA 6th in Endorf v. Chief Industries (click here for NWCC Decisions and Orders Search) But the insurance defense bar was relentless in pushing the AMA 6th and it is often used as a basis to pay permanent impairment in Nebraska despite early misgivings by some workers’ compensation judges.

I suspect the insurance defense bar will be as relentless in pushing the AMA Causation Guides. From discussion on the WILG listserv, it appears as if there is a nationwide push to use the AMA Causation Guides. The AMA Impairment Guides are sometimes referred to as a “cookbook”. (Hence the headline and artwork for this post) But at least in Nebraska where the AMA Guides to Impairment are generally just applied to so-called “scheduled members” that are paid on a loss of use basis, I can see why a judge may rely on those guides. (The distinction between scheduled member disability being paid on a loss of use basis and non-scheduled injuries being paid on a loss of earning power basis in Nebraska seems to be largely a judge-made distinction)

But causation would seem to be a different story. Causation would seem to be an issue that Judge’s would still want to decide on an individualized basis rather than deferring to a book. But prolonged use of the AMA Causation Guides may eventually lead to an informal heightening for medical causation standards by workers’ compensation judges. 

Maybe this is burying the lead, but the more acute danger is that stae legislatures will adopt the AMA Guides to Causation like they did with the AMA Guides to Permanent Impairment.

Plaintiff’s lawyers have some studies they can use to the counter the AMA Guides to Causation. The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons have compiled studies about carpal tunnel syndrome that would contradict the studies that form the basis of the AMA Causation Guide. Plaintiff’s lawyers may also want to bone up on rules regarding expert testimony. At least in Nebraska, those rules don’t govern admissibility of medical evidence, in workers’ compensation but they can certainly be helpful to a court in weighing medical evidence.  NWCC Rule 10 narrowly defines who can testify by written report in our workers’ compensation court. In my experience, “non-Rule 10 experts” can make good witnesses for the plaintiff on cross-examination.

Lawyers for injured workers need to see recognize the threat posed by the AMA Guides to Causation and make every available factual and legal argument against its application at every opportunity –whether in a courtroom, a legislative committe hearing, at a legal confernece and/or on social media.

 

Maritime Training – Sea School Northwest

Sea School Northwest, located in Aberdeen, WA, offers a new type of education for aspiring mariners that functions as a springboard into the maritime industry.  Sea School Northwest’s curriculum incorporates weekly USCG licensing guidance, hands-on skill development, lessons in maritime systems, industry readings and video content, and professional development round table discussions.

Sea School Northwest grew out of an effort to address the existing challenges in the maritime industry, and guide the professional development of sailors in new and exciting ways. Their initial discoveries revealed the following:

  • In Washington state, the maritime industry is experiencing a growth of 6.4% annually, but the workforce is “greying” and is struggling to recruit workers with entry-level skills.  

  • Currently, there is a homogeneous male-dominated workforce on the commercial side of the industry, with only 2% of the global industry identifying as female. 

  • 49.6% of experienced tall ship sailors are unable to afford the expense of professional licensing that would allow them to be competitive hires in the rest of the industry.

SSNW students take away from the program a real life experience on the water, a clear understanding of the professional path that they hope to pursue, and an USCG Ordinary Seaman Credential to make them competitive entry-level hires.

Contact SSNW for more information on upcoming workforce training opportunities, tuition and the application process.

Photo credit: SSNW

 

Washington Companies Honored with Hire-A-Vet Award

Twelve Washington businesses were honored on November 2, 2018 for their efforts to hire and support military veterans in 2018.

Employment Security Department Commissioner Suzi LeVine announced the Hire-A-Vet award winners in support of Gov. Jay Inslee’s Hire-A-Veteran Month proclamation and the upcoming Veterans Day holiday.

“By honoring these exceptional companies, I hope more businesses will take note and make a similar commitment to hiring veterans,” said LeVine. “Veterans are among the best-trained candidates in the job market and make outstanding employees. There’s no better way to say thanks to a veteran than hiring one.” 

Employment Security created the Hire-A-Vet Award as a way to call attention to unemployed veterans in Washington and to recognize companies with a good track record of hiring, retaining and celebrating veterans in their workforce. One business winner is selected from each of the 12 workforce development areas in Washington.

All winners participate in the state’s YesVets program to promote the hiring of veterans.

The 2018 awardees are:

  • Skookum Contract Services (SKS) — This Bremerton facilities management and logistics firm employs 1,300 employees in 11 states, of which a third are veterans. In 2018, the company hired 33 veterans in Washington. Whenever they have a job opening, SKC contacts WorkSource first to check for potential veteran candidates. The company also advertises its jobs on WorkSourceWA.com and takes part in local hiring events.
  • Department of Health (DOH) — This state agency in Olympia hired 21 transitioning veterans in 2018. The department also created a military-to-civilian health professions tool that helps veterans obtain credentials for 35 health professions. Over 400 health credentials have been issued to active, Reserve and National Guard personnel and to more than 2,800 family members since 2013.
  • VT Volant — This aerospace company in Burlington has a long track record of hiring military veterans and has developed a strong partnership with WorkSource to advertise its jobs and recruit veteran talent. The company employs 18 veterans – representing nearly 25 percent of its workforce. VT Volant also has made a serious commitment to hiring and retaining older veterans. The average veteran age when hired is 49 with an average tenure of nine years. It’s most recent veteran hired was 63 and the oldest currently employed veteran is 78 years young.
  • Motor Trucks, Inc. — This diesel repair and truck sales company in Everett employs 32 employees, of which six are veterans — 20 percent of the company’s workforce. In 2018, Motor Trucks added two new veteran employees to its team. The company coordinates all its veteran recruitment through WorkSource and has implemented a culture of “veterans helping other veterans” to support veteran employees. Motor Trucks even provides paid skills training and certifications through journeyman level and offers medical and vacation benefits.
  • Allied Universal Security — This Seattle firm hired a whopping 36 veterans in 2018. Allied Universal Security also worked with WorkSource during the year to help its veteran employees access government assistance for rent, utilities, bus passes and gas cards when needed. The company participated in every WorkSource veteran hiring event this year and even provided coffee and snacks for job seekers.
  • West Sound Workforce — This Gig Harbor-based recruitment firm first reached out to WorkSource in 2016. The first year, the company placed 14 veterans, followed by 24 in 2017 and 20 so far in 2018. West Sound Workforce also helped employ 13 military spouses in 2018.
  • CloudOne — This Vancouver call center brought on a new recruiter in March 2018 with the specific charge to hire more veterans. Since then, the company has increased its veteran workforce to 10 percent with only a 5 percent turnover rate– unheard of in a call center. CloudOne coordinates all of its veteran recruitment though WorkSource and advertises its openings on military job boards and social media sites.
  • Chelan County — Chelan County employs 540 full-time employees, of which 81 are veterans. During the last year, eight veterans were hired, representing 44 percent of all new hires. The county also participated in the annual WorkSource Veterans Hiring Event and the Homeless Veterans Stand-Down in Wenatchee.
  • Yakima Training Center (YTC) — This center has a strong track record of hiring veterans and works directly with WorkSource to recruit talent. YTC employs 144 people, of which 115 are veterans – 80 percent of the company’s workforce. In 2018, the company hired 33 veterans. YTC also serves on the boards of numerous veteran groups and provides volunteers for the annual Central Washington Veteran Stand Down.
  • Columbia Cedar, Inc. — Columbia Cedar in Kettle Falls is the largest private employer in Ferry County. The company employs 170 people, of which 12 are veterans. In 2018, the company made a new commitment to veterans, hiring six veterans and maintaining an 83 percent retention rate with its veteran workforce. Currently, 7 percent of its workers are veterans.
  • Tri-Cities 911 Driving School — This veteran-owned company employs 22 driving instructors, of which 17 are veterans. During the year, the owner interviewed and hired every single veteran referred by WorkSource. The driving school also provides its disabled veteran employees more flexible schedules and work environments. The owner is active in the veteran community and donates his time at prisons to help veterans who need their driver’s licenses reinstated.
  • Dealer Auto Auction (DAA) Northwest — This local business employs 85 full-time employees, of which 21 are veterans. In 2018, the company worked with WorkSource to hire 16 veterans. DAA Northwest also offers volunteer opportunities for staff to help military charitable causes, including hosting a rock & roll concert honoring John Fogerty, a Vietnam-era veteran of the Army Reserve and Combat Vet Fighters.      

LeVine encourages interested businesses to contact WorkSource for help hiring veterans. Employment Security has staff at centers who are specifically assigned to help veterans find jobs and to connect businesses with veteran talent. The department has provided these services to veterans since 1933.

WorkSource helps place some 14,000 veterans into jobs each year. Currently, more than 560,000 veterans live in Washington.

WorkSource is a partnership of state, local and non-profit agencies that work together to deliver employment and training services to Washington businesses and job seekers.

Other help for veterans and incentives for employers

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Vancouver, WA Firm Handed Large Fine forTrenching, Excavation Violations

Washington’s Department of Labor & Industries has fined a Vancouver, WA  construction company that specializes in excavation and trenching $126,400 for multiple safety violations.

Colf Construction was a subcontractor on the 10th Street Bridge project in Ridgefield, WA when the Division of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH) opened the inspection March 20, 2018. DOSH conducted eight site visits during the inspection, which closed Aug. 30, and found trenching violations during five of those visits. DOSH cited the company for six willful and serious violations.

The violations included not ensuring workers were protected from cave-ins, not performing daily excavation inspections, not removing workers from hazardous areas, employees working under suspended load, no safe access or exit available from excavations, and lack of fall protection.

“Trenching and excavation incidents can happen suddenly, and cave-ins are often deadly,” said Anne Soiza, L&I’s assistant director for the Division of Occupational Safety and Health. “This employer knew the dangers and had been warned before. Every employer that does trenching and excavation needs to know there are many complex deadly hazards that must be taken seriously and controlled.  These hazards are a focus for the department and nationwide due to their high rate of worker fatalities.”

Cave-ins pose the greatest risk to workers performing excavation and trenching work, and even a four-foot deep trench can present life-threatening hazards. One cubic yard of soil can weigh as much as a car, and cave-ins can happen much too fast for a worker to respond. In this case not only were the workers not protected from this hazard, there were also no easy entry and exit paths from the trenches.

The employer had 15 business days to appeal the citations.

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, contact Frank Ameduri of Public Affairs at 360-902-5413.

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Washington Healthplanfinder Offers In-Person Assistance Sites For 2018 Open Enrollment

 Note: Keep in mind when applying for health insurance that workers’ compensation payments are NOT taxable income and should NOT be included in your household income figure. – kc


The Washington Health Benefit Exchange today announced locations of 10 full-service enrollment centers that will offer in-person assistance to customers signing up for health and dental coverage through Washington Healthplanfinder during the upcoming open enrollment period, Nov. 1-Dec. 15.

Along with four sites returning from last year, six new in-person assistance locations are set to be introduced in areas including Seattle, Tacoma, Bellingham, Yakima, Kennewick and Wenatchee. Each storefront will be staffed with trained navigators or brokers ready to guide residents through the enrollment process.

“Navigators and brokers provide an invaluable service to consumers who rely on in-person help to understand and select health insurance coverage,” said Pam MacEwan, CEO of the Washington Health Benefit Exchange. “With our open enrollment period shortened to six weeks this year, it is especially important consumers visit a nearby enrollment center or connect with a member of our statewide network of brokers and navigators beginning on Nov. 1.”

Addresses and contact information for all 2018 enrollment centers

The sites selected reside in counties with some of the highest uninsured rates in Washington state:

Enrollment Center Site (County)

Uninsured Population*

Seattle (King) – New Location
Federal Way (King)

93,817

Tacoma (Pierce) – New Location

39,450

Yakima (Yakima) – New Location

24,776

Spokane (Spokane)

22,921

Vancouver (Clark)

21,261

Bellingham (Whatcom) – New Location

12,137

Kennewick (Benton) – New Location

11,739

Olympia (Thurston)

10,859

Wenatchee (Chelan) – New Location

5,011

 *Estimates for under-65 population, based on adjusted 2016 American Community Survey data

Each enrollment center is hosting regular hours of operation throughout the open enrollment period and will offer extended availability leading up to the Dec. 15 deadline to sign up for coverage. Resources available at each site include computer work stations for customers to compare their health plan options through Washington Healthplanfinder and educational materials explaining important health insurance terms.

Navigators and brokers are now also trained to assist Compact of Free Association (COFA) islanders who sign up for health insurance coverage during open enrollment. Beginning in 2019, residents who qualify for COFA Islander Health Care may have their monthly premiums and out-of-pocket costs paid for by the Washington State Health Care Authority.

All residents are encouraged to schedule an appointment to meet with a navigator or broker in their area beginning on Nov. 1. Connecting with in-person help is easiest through the WAPlanfinder mobile app that uses a customer’s current location to provide contact information for and detailed directions to the nearest navigators and brokers.

In-person help can also be found by clicking the “Customer Support” link on www.wahealthplanfinder.org. Additional over-the-phone assistance is available by calling the Washington Healthplanfinder Customer Support Center at 1-855-923-4633.

 

Published by Causey Wright