Former inmate files lawsuit alleging abuse against York County prison guards and county

Today’s post was shared by The Workers’ Injury Law & Advocacy Group and comes from www.pennlive.com

A former York County prison inmate has filed a federal lawsuit against four guards he says coerced him, along with other inmates, to participate in humiliating activities in what the guards allegedly called the "Retard Olympics."

James Williams Hicks Jr., of Dover, named Daniel H. Graff, David Michael Whitcomb, Mark Andrew Haynes and Adam S. Marcini as the officers involved in his alleged mistreatment as well as York County, according to the lawsuit filed Sept. 29 in U.S. Middle District Court in Harrisburg.

The lawsuit claims that the officers arranged different events for the inmates from 2008 to 2013. 

Hicks claims that he was choked and punched as part of the events, as well as paired to wrestle inmate David M. Wright. 

Other events outlined in the lawsuit include:

  • Drinking 1 gallon of milk in one hour;
  • Eating an entire spoonful of cinnamon;
  • Snorting spicy Ramen noodle flavoring powder;
  • Snorting crushed hard candy;
  • Drinking a bottle of water containing pepper spray foam;
  • Drinking a concoction known as "Mystery Soup," which consisted of olives that had been left unrefrigerated for several weeks and mixed with cleaning supplies.

Hicks went along with the events to avoid becoming the target of other "violent forms of ‘amusement’" at the hands of the guards, according to the lawsuit.

In return for participating in the events, the guards gave Hicks "trivial favors," including extra coffee and food…

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Labor advocates: Workers’ comp case misses target

Today’s post was shared by Gelman on Workplace Injuries and comes from www.washingtontimes.com

NAPLES, Fla. (AP) – Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater touted the arrests of more than 100 immigrant agriculture workers last July as an effort to crack down on the costly problem of workers’ compensation fraud.

But it quickly became apparent the raid on the Naples-area Oakes Farm fruit and vegetable processing plant wasn’t your typical workers’ compensation fraud, such as employees who fake back injuries or businesses who treat employees as outside contractors.

Instead, the state attorney’s office charged the mostly Mexican and Central American workers, many in the country illegally, under Florida statutes that makes it a felony to use a fake or stolen ID to obtain a job – and, by extension, workers’ compensation insurance.

On Tuesday, prosecutors and an attorney representing the workers confirmed most had agreed to a pretrial diversion deal akin to probation.

Naples attorney Donald Day said as long as the workers kept out of trouble, the charges would be dropped.

Still, Immigrant and workers’ advocates say Atwater is skirting the line of pre-empting the federal government’s immigration authority by targeting these workers, whose main crime was finding a fake Id that employers wink and nod at – and should instead go after the employers who benefit from their cheap labor.

“In Florida this is a new wrinkle, where the state is going after people who haven’t even filed a workers’ comp claim, and is essentially…

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US officials expected to announce Ebola screening at airports

Today’s post was shared by Gelman on Workplace Injuries and comes from www.cidrap.umn.edu

Federal officials are finalizing details on Ebola screening steps for travelers arriving at US airports, which may be announced in a few days and may resemble the kinds of questions that outbreak countries are asking departing passengers, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Tom Frieden, MD, MPH, said today.

The risk of another travel-linked Ebola case, such as the one in Texas, can never be reduced to zero until West Africa’s outbreak is extinguished, he said at a media telebriefing today. But he said the CDC and other government agencies are taking a hard look at additional steps, focusing on ones that won’t hamstring the response process underway overseas.

The three main outbreak countries have so far screened about 36,000 people departing on airlines, with three fourths of them bound for destinations outside the United States. The CDC has trained airport screeners in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, which have flagged 77 people with fever and 3 people with other symptoms. As far as the CDC knows, none of the people with fever had Ebola, and most had malaria, a common illness in that part the world, Frieden said.

"I can assure you we will take additional steps, and the details will be worked out and announced in a few days," he added.

Senator suggests screening steps

US Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., issued a statement today saying he spoke with Frieden about tougher screening at US airports and is pleased that the CDC is preparing to…

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Hammond police sued over use of Taser during traffic stop

Today’s post was shared by The Workers’ Injury Law & Advocacy Group and comes from www.chicagotribune.com

A federal lawsuit accuses Hammond police of "malice" and "reckless indifference" when they smashed a car window and used a Taser on a passenger during a traffic stop last month.

But Hammond police, in a two-page rebuttal, said they resorted to force only after the passenger repeatedly refused to leave the car and kept reaching toward the back seat, prompting fears he may have had a weapon.

Neither the police statement nor the lawsuit say a gun was found in the car.

The incident happened around 3:30 p.m. on Sept. 24 when Lisa Mahone was pulled over as she drove with a friend, Jamal Jones, and her two children, 7 and 14, according to the lawsuit filed Monday in Indiana.

The officer told Mahone, 47, she was stopped for not wearing her seatbelt and asked for her driver’s license. The officer also asked to see Jones’ identification, according to both police and the lawsuit.

Mahone produced her license, but Jones told the officer he had been ticketed for not paying his insurance and did not have his license, the lawsuit states. 

Choke hold complaints against N.Y.C. police on the rise: report
Choke hold complaints against N.Y.C. police on the rise: report

Jones claims the officer drew his gun "for no reason" after Jones retrieved the ticket from his backpack and "offered the ticket to the officer."

But police say Jones refused to hand over the ticket. "(Jones) refused to lower the window more than a small amount, then told the officer that ‘he was not going to do (the officer’s) job’ and for him…

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A Special Warning About Over-the-Counter Pain Medications

Today’s post comes from guest author Jay Causey, from Causey Law Firm.

The dangers of prescription pain meds get a fair amount of regular attention in the media.  A recent Consumer Reports (CR) article described a 300% rise in prescriptions of opiods – particularly those with hydrocodone –over the past decade, and provided a scary statistic:  17,000 people – 46 per day – die from overdose of these drugs.

What is less well known, and gets relatively scant attention, is that over-the-counter (OTC) painkillers containing acetaminophen (e.g. Tylenol) take 80,000 people yearly to the emergency room from overdose.  Acetaminophen, widely regarded as a “safe” drug is now the most common cause of liver failure.

The CR article points out the primary problem:  the directions for usage of these OTC drugs are ridiculously confusing and misleading.  Many of these only provide the caveat “take only as directed.”  What exactly does that mean?  Wildly different things according the cautions provided by differing drug manufacturers.  Some labels advise taking no more than 1000 milligrams of acetaminophen daily while others set the limits four times that high.  In some bizarre bureaucratic misstep, the FDA has lowered the maximum per-pill dose of the drug in prescription medications but has not done the same thing for OTCs. 

CR warns that overdosing on acetaminophen is easy as it is the most common drug in the U.S., found in more than 600 OTC and prescription medications.  There is little margin for error in exceeding the maximum recommended dose as only as small excess amount of the drug can be toxic to the liver.  A scary little graphic in the article shows how easy it is to do this.  A person might take six 500 milligram Extra Strength Tylenol (states maximum daily dose of 3000 milligrams) starting in the morning and through the day; then be on NyQuil for a cold and take eight 325 milligram pills (states maximum daily dose 2600 milligrams); and then do Walgreens Pain Reliever PM as a sleep aid (two 500 milligram pills at bedtime for a daily dose of 1000 milligrams).  At the end of a 24-hour period, that person would have ingested 6,600 milligrams of acetaminophen!!  Repeated doses of more than 4000 milligrams of the drug have been linked to liver, brain and kidney damage.  Chronically large doses have been correlated with the need for a liver transplant, or death, more than from one large overdose.

In 2011, the FDA limited the amount of acetaminophen in prescription pills to 325 milligrams per pill, but there has been no similar limitation imposed for OTCs, even though that market accounts for 80% of that drug taken yearly in the U.S.  For those regular users of acetaminophen, signs of potential liver damage to watch for are:  dark urine, pale stool, upper right abdominal pain, and a yellowish tint to the whites of the eyes.

 

Photo credit: Be.Futureproof / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

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Are You Really an Independent Contractor?

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

“Calling a dog’s tail a leg does not make it a leg.” Abraham Lincoln

FedEx drivers recently won two class-action lawsuits in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. The court ruled that FedEx wrongfully withheld overtime pay, Social Security, unemployment, Medicare and other benefits to drivers because they were misclassified as independent contractors rather than employees. The decisions were driven by the fact that FedEx exercised control over the appearance of drivers as well as what packages to deliver, on what days, and at what times.

Though the FedEx decision only applies to Oregon and California, it is very possible that a similar decision would have been made under Nebraska law. Under the Nebraska Wage Payment and Collection Act as well as under the Employment Security Law, Neb. Rev. Stat. 48-601 et al., there is a five-part test as to whether a worker is an independent contractor or employee.

  1. Individual is free from control or direction under contract of hire
  2. Individual is free from control or direction as a matter of fact
  3. Service is outside the usual course of business for which service is performed
  4. Such service is performed outside of all the places of business of the enterprise which such service is performed
  5. Individual is customarily engaged in an independently established trade, business or profession.

Nebraska law creates a presumption of an employer-employee relationship. Tracy v. Tracy, 581 N.W. 2d 96, 7 Neb. App. 143 (Neb. Court of Appeals, 1998) In short, if you can answer most of those questions “no,” you are very likely an employee rather than an independent contractor. The mere fact that you may have signed a documents stating you are independent contractor does not necessarily mean you are an independent contractor.

In addition to protections under federal law, asking questions about your employment status is also a protected activity under Nebraska law. Being misclassified as an independent contractor could cost you thousands of dollars in wages and benefits. However, you have the ability to fight back if you are being misclassified.

Roughly 30 percent of former NFL player may develop Alzheimer’s, other brain conditions

Today’s post was shared by Gelman on Workplace Injuries and comes from www.techtimes.com.

NFL

The NFL is a big deal, making billions every year. But is it doing enough to take care of league players, former and current?
(Photo : Keith Allison)

According to a report released by the National Football League Friday, three out of every 10 former NFL players are likely to develop brain conditions, like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease, and at earlier ages compared to the general population.

Released as supporting evidence in a class-action suit against the league, the report calculated that the NFL’s proposed settlement of $675 million will be sufficient to award damages to affected former players. Out of the 19,400 former league players, the NFL and opposition lawyers estimate that around 28 percent of them, about 6,000 individuals, will develop Alzheimer’s disease or some other form of dementia as a consequence of their time playing for the NFL.

The American football league is being sued for allegedly hiding information that associated brain injuries to concussions. Presiding over the lawsuit is Senior U.S. District Judge Anita B. Brody, who has first expressed concern that $675 million will not be enough to cover all of the damages. The report was released in response to her concerns.

Aside from $675 million for compensation, the NFL also proposed spending $10 million for research purposes, $75 million to undertake baseline assessments, and $5 million to raise awareness in the public.

With the fund estimated to annually earn 4.5 percent, both sides have deemed the…

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Worker’s Compensation Benefits Increase; Employers Costs Historically Low

Today’s post comes from guest author Thomas Domer, from The Domer Law Firm.

A new study released by the National Academy of Social Insurance (NASI) indicates worker’s compensation benefits rose by 1.3% to $61.9 billion in 2012 while employer costs rose by 6.9% to $83.2 billion. Even though total benefits and costs increased in 2012, worker’s compensation benefits and costs per $100 of covered payroll have been lower from 2007 to 2012 than at any time over the last 30 years. In 2012 benefits were 98 cents per $100 of covered payroll while employer costs were $1.32 per $100 of covered payroll. 

Over the last 30 years medical benefits have accounted for an increasing share of total benefits from 33% in 1984 to nearly 50% in 2012. Medical benefits accounted for almost 50% of the $61 billion in total benefits paid. In Wisconsin medical benefits exceed cash benefits, indicating that medical cost containment is a significant issue.

The Academy’s report Worker’s Compensation: Benefits Coverage and Costs 2012 is the 17th in an annual survey. The report provides the nation’s only comprehensive data on worker’s compensation benefits coverage and employer costs.