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What Does Supreme Court’s Warehouse Workers’ Ruling Mean?

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

Last Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 9-0 that contracted warehouse workers for Amazon did not have to be paid for time spent waiting to clear through an anti-theft security screening after their shifts. Justice Clarence Thomas ruled that time spent in an after-work security screening was not integral and indispensable to the primary activity of a warehouse worker, therefore not covered under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act. So what does that mean for you?

First of all, this should mean that any worker who has to go through a security check after work will not have to be paid by their employer for the time that process takes. However other pre- and post- workday activities should still be covered under the Fair Labor Standards Act. Donning and doffing safety equipment is still compensable because such safety equipment helps an employee work safely. Call-center workers still should be paid for time spent booting up and logging into a computer and phone because a call-center employee is unable to do their job if they are not logged into their phones and computers. Employees should also consult with a lawyer about state wage and hour law as state law may be friendlier to employees.

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Dept. of Labor and Industries Fines Battle Ground, WA Company After Worker’s Hand Amputated

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

The Department of Labor & Industries has fined a Battle Ground, WA plastic bottle manufacturer $86,800 for major safety violations after a worker’s hand was caught in machinery and had to be amputated.

Andersen Plastics was cited for one willful violation and six serious violations. The investigation found several problems with the company’s lockout/tagout safety program, a term that refers to the deliberate process of shutting down machinery to prevent accidental startup.

Failure to prevent machinery from accidentally starting puts workers at risk of serious injuries, such as the amputation that occurred in April when a worker was performing a routine task.

L&I cited the employer for a “willful” violation after the investigation found that workers were trained to use unsafe work practices, including bypassing safety guards and not ensuring the machinery was locked out so that it couldn’t start up accidentally.

A willful violation can be issued when L&I has evidence of plain indifference, a substitution of judgment or an intentional disregard to a hazard or rule. The penalty for the one willful violation is $58,500.

Additionally, the investigation found the company did not have specific procedures or a safety program to prevent accidental startup. The employees lacked training and did not understand the purpose or procedures for locking out equipment before making adjustments, performing maintenance or clearing a jam.

The inspection also found several other serious violations related to personal protective equipment and safe forklift operation.

Andersen Plastics has filed an appeal.

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 citation, please contact Public Affairs at 360-902-5413.

 

Photo credit: Horia Varlan / Foter / CC BY

Florida has a Large Percentage of Medicare’s top “Controlled-Drug” Prescribers

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

Today’s post is authored by Judge David Langham and shared from flojcc.blogspot.com/

A story was recently published on the WUSF website, Health News Florida. It says that the “prolific prescribers” of some medications are facing “Medicare scrutiny.”

A chart in the story reflects the distribution of 192 top prescribing medical providers in 12 states. Of these, 52, or 27% are located here in the Sunshine State. 

The article notes that in 2012, “Medicare covered nearly 27 million prescriptions for powerful narcotic painkillers and stimulants with the highest potential for abuse and dependence.” 

Despite efforts at addressing narcotic use, the article notes that this was a “9 percent” increase compared to 2011. 

Thankfully, though Florida has the largest volume of providers represented in this chart, the top prescriber is not in Florida. Dr. Shelinder Aggarwal of Huntsville, Alabama has that distinction. He prescribed “more than 14,000 Schedule 2 prescriptions in 2012.” This amounted to “more than 80 percent of his Medicare patients” receiving “at least one prescription for a Schedule 2 drug, in many cases oxycodone.”Apparently he is no longer a physician, the article notes he “surrendered his medical license” in 2013. 

The prescription practices are a “real area of concern” for the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, according to the director, quoted in the article. 

The article suggests that data in existing resources can…

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False-arrest lawsuit from 2012 dismissed

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

A false-arrest lawsuit filed by an East Side man against the Franklin County sheriff’s office has been dismissed in federal court.

Antonio C. Morales sued the sheriff’s office, several deputies, the Columbus Division of Police and a police detective in 2012 after he was mistakenly arrested in 2011. Officers and deputies were looking for a man with the same first name, last name and middle initial on suspicion of sexual contact with a minor.

A police detective discovered the error after Morales had been jailed for five days.

Morales said in his lawsuit that his reputation had been harmed and asked for $1 million in punitive damages from each defendant. The case was thrown out and then appealed, and all but one defendant was dismissed.

At the same time, Morales’ attorney, Javier Armengau, was convicted in state court and sent to prison. Attempts by court officials to contact Morales failed, and the lawsuit was dismissed last week.

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Injured Worker Stakeouts: Do Private Investigators Commit Fraud?

Today’s post comes from guest author Leonard Jernigan, from The Jernigan Law Firm.

Have you noticed a suspicious vehicle lurking in your neighborhood lately, or is there a stranger that seems to be everywhere you go? If you have an active workers’ compensation claim, then you may not be imaging things. More and more, we are seeing insurance companies willing to spend thousands of dollars to hire private investigators to conduct clandestine surveillance of an injured worker’s daily activities and documenting these activities with video cameras. This type of surveillance often comes as a shock to our clients.

When these situations arise, the question we hear most often is, “Can they do that? Is this legal?” The answer is yes. Private investigators may photograph or video people in their private residences so long as they are clearly visible to the general public and there is no expectation of privacy. They can also conduct a full background investigation and obtain information about any other claims you made for personal injuries or if you have ever been charged with a crime.

While there are honest private investigators in the field, there are also those who will cheat. One investigator deflated an injured worker’s tire and then videotaped the person “working” to fix the flat tire. Another investigator reported talking on the phone to someone who told him that an injured worker was working while also receiving workers’ compensation benefits. A follow up done by our firm proved that the person with whom the investigator claimed to have talked has a serious hearing impairment and could not use the telephone.  

Injured workers need to be aware that surveillance can happen in any case. It has become part of the workers’ compensation system. By the way, if you do notice a suspicious car parked near your home, call the police.

Voters clearly want Congress to protect employees from unions. Here’s where it can start.

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

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Rick Berman

On Election Day, voters didn’t just rebel against President Obama. There was another pattern in the candidates they chose: Across the country, they picked pols who explicitly supported individual employee rights.

This wasn’t just a canned part of every Republican’s platform. Govs. Scott Walker of Wisconsin and Rick Snyder of Michigan, for instance, both won reelection after pushing through significant employee-friendly reforms in their first terms. Even in deep-blue Illinois, Republican Bruce Rauner campaigned on a platform to give state employees the right to decide for themselves whether to join a union.

Pro-employee rights candidates now hold majorities in both the U.S. House and Senate, and it’s time for Congress to deliver the pro-employee agenda that has gained so much momentum in the states. Here’s how members can enhance employee rights in the workplace.

The best legislative vehicle for advancing those rights is the Employee Rights Act (ERA). Led by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), the ERA  has 29 co-sponsors in the Senate and more than  100 in the House. It’s the most significant rewrite of the National Labor Relations Act in decades, with a twist: Instead of the gridlock that comes with trying to rig labor law to benefit either unions or employers, it focuses squarely on the rights of the employees. (All of the law’s provisions can be viewed at EmployeeRightsAct.com.)

Take…

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Lawsuit filed in Macy’s restroom death

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

Woman’s family alleges employees were negligent

The family of a 61-year-old woman whose body was found in March inside a Macy’s department store restroom at the Westfield Vancouver mall has filed a wrongful death lawsuit.

Family members of Lydumila I. Tikhomirova of Vancouver allege that Macy’s employees were negligent when they failed to check the women’s restroom before closing time March 9 at the department store at 8208 N.E. Vancouver Mall Drive. A Macy’s employee discovered the woman’s body inside the restroom the next day and called 911 shortly after 6 a.m.

An autopsy showed that Tikhomirova died of congestive heart failure, according to the Clark County Medical Examiner’s Office.

"Defendants and defendants’ employees failed to check Macy’s bathroom before the store closed, thereby failing to discover Ms. Tikhomirova in a state of distress, and thereby preventing her from getting the treatment she required to prevent her death," according to the complaint, which was filed Thursday in Clark County Superior Court by Canadian law firm Cross Border Law Corp.

Kelley Tarzian, Macy’s spokesperson for Washington, said the corporation doesn’t comment on pending litigation.

The plaintiffs are Valeriya Tikhomirova, who represents Lydumila Tikhomirova’s estate, and Lydumila Tikhomirova’s children, Natalya Tikhomirova, Svetlana Kalacheva, Timofey Tikhomirova, Irina Yukhimets, Andrey Tikhomirova and Aleksandr Tikhomirova.

They seek damages in an unspecified amount, including…

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Health Care Testing: A New Frontier for Worker’s Comp

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

As a worker’s compensation lawyer, I see many news stories through the prism of how the news event or trend will affect injured workers in the worker’s compensation system. A federal judge in Minnesota has ruled that Honeywell, Inc. can begin penalizing workers who refuse to take medical or biometric tests. 

The EEOC had claimed Honeywell’s policy violated the Americans With Disabilities Act and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act. They filed a lawsuit in Minneapolis on behalf of two Minnesota employees of Honeywell.

The tests Honeywell required their employees to take measured blood pressure, cholesterol, and glucose, as well as signs that employee had been smoking. Employees who declined to take the test could be fined up to $4,000 in surcharges and increased health costs. Honeywell said the program is designed to “encourage employees to live healthier lifestyles and to lower health care costs.” Honeywell says the testing promotes employee well-being. Management also indicated “We don’t believe it’s fair to the employees who do work to lead healthier lifestyles to subsidize the healthcare premiums for those who do not.”

The ramifications of such testing for worker’s compensation immediately come to mind. In any kind of an occupational exposure claim, such tests could be used to help deny worker’s compensation claims for employees who smoke, are overweight, have diabetic condition, claims involving occupational back conditions, carpal tunnel claims, and any kind of respiratory complaints. Another “slippery slope” may be the use of these kinds of testing to actually screen prospective employees, since the employer rationale would be that hiring folks with those pre-existing conditions would cost the employer more money.