Workplace Relationships

NY Times article “Friends at Work? Not So Much”

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

The New York Times recently published an op-ed claiming that the amount of people who seek or maintain friendships in the workplace has dropped in recent decades. Where people once looked to the workplace as a main source of long-term friendships, by 2004 only 30% of Americans said they had a close friend at work. The article cites several studies that show we communicate better and are more productive when we work with friends.


In workers’ compensation, we represent employees who have been injured on the job. More often than not when an injured worker calls our office they are upset by how they have been treated by their employer once they were injured, especially if they have worked there for a long time. If an employee develops a close relationship with their coworkers and their boss, when they get hurt on the job, they suddenly feel like those relationships were one-sided because they feel they are tossed aside as soon as they get hurt (oftentimes for no fault of their own).


Injuries at work can change workplace relationships. The employer often must hire a replacement, which requires additional expenses, and co-workers might feel they are caught in the middle. We often ask workers who call our office whether they are on good terms with their employer because when they are, things tend to go a lot easier. If you have friends at work and get injured, will that make the process better or worse? Would you feel that your employer and co-workers will go to bat for you or will you feel more hurt because people might distance themselves from you? I like to think the former. Either way it’s a safe bet for all parties to be open and honest with each other and most of all, be kind to each other- no one wants to get hurt. 




We Need More People Like The Wright Brothers

Leonard Jernigan & Betsy Jernigan with David McCullough

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

My wife and I recently attended a presentation in Raleigh, N.C. by David McCullough, the Pulitzer Prize winning author and narrator of Ken Burns’ The Civil War, about his most recent book, The Wright Brothers. He explained that although neither Wilbur nor Orville had a college degree they were nevertheless well-read, intelligent, and extremely disciplined. They were also confident and did not let criticism get in their way.

Although they valued privacy they eventually became two of the most famous people in the world. They were thrown into a glamorous crowd as they demonstrated the ability to fly their plane in Paris, London and New York, and as they walked among the wealthy they commented that never in their lives “had they been among so many who, by all signs, had little to do but amuse themselves.”  

Wilbur died of typhoid fever in 1917 when he was just 45 years old. In 1932 (28 years after the original 1903 flight) Orville attended the ceremony in Kitty Hawk, N.C. that dedicated the impressive Wright Memorial. He died of a heart attack in 1948 at age 77, and approximately 25,000 people passed by his coffin out of respect. Both men were wealthy when they died and Orville had an estate worth about $10 million in today’s dollars, although wealth was never a motivating factor for them. They followed the wisdom of their father who said: “All the money anyone needs is just enough to prevent one from being a burden to others.” David McCullough’s book speaks volumes about their character, and leaves the reader wondering where such men are today.   

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Justice Scalia’s Influence on Legal Writing is Questioned

Dean Erwin Chemerinsky, Dean of the University of California Irvine School of Law School and Constitutional Law Scholar

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

Erwin Chemerinsky, Dean of the University of California Irvine School of Law School and author of the textbook Constitutional Law, recently wrote an op-ed for the L.A. Times in which he noted a pattern he has seen in his students of mimicking Justice Antonin Scalia’s writing style. He is not pleased.

Justice Scalia is well-known for his confrontational and colorful battles with the left side of the bench, particularly with Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg. His dissents unabashedly slander the opposing point of view and use such phrases as “gobbledy-gook,” “beyond absurd,” and “mystical aphorisms of the fortune cookie.” He even wrote that if he had shared the opposing side’s opinion he would “hide [his] head in a bag.”

Chemerinksy makes a good point: while we often find Scalia’s opinions and dissents amusing, should attorneys, judges and new students be expressing their opinion in this manner? Lawyers are held to a high standard of ethics in this country and are expected to be respectful of the court and of all parties involved. Is it professional to attack fellow lawyers and judges by ridiculing and demeaning them? Scalia’s colorful dissents might be getting the public more interested in the law but at what cost?


A Day At The Amusement Park Can End In Catastrophic Injury

Today’s post comes from guest author Catherine Stanton, from Pasternack Tilker Ziegler Walsh Stanton & Romano.

While at a party recently, a friend of mine was checking Facebook and relayed to us in a near panicked voice about an amusement park rollercoaster that fell off its track and killed 13 people. The group he was addressing had very mixed reactions. Some reacted with horror and shock, but others playfully advised him that they had seen this story before and it was actually a hoax. 

Thankfully that latter was correct and the story was in fact a cruel hoax. However, this served as a reminder that unfortunately not all visits to amusement parks end happily.  This is peak amusement park season as many camps are finished and summer vacation is still in full swing. I remember vividly going on class trips from Stella Maris High School to Great Adventure Amusement Park in New Jersey.  We were deposited at the park and directed to meet back at an appointed time. It was exciting as we were essentially left to our own devices. As we were all in high school, there were no age or height requirements put upon us, so no ride was off limits. We went on all the rollercoasters available to us at that time, all the thrill rides, and we were scared silly in the Haunted House.  All of the girls had a great time; we all returned to our assigned meeting place at the end of the day and were deposited safely back at the school parking lot. A year after I graduated from high school, a fire in the haunted house at Great Adventure killed eight teenagers. Even today, more than 30 years later, the memory of that tragedy still lingers. 

Most of the millions of visitors to amusement parks every year leave with fond memories. However, for some a day at the park ends with injury or worse, even death. Just a couple of weeks ago in London, four people were injured on a ride called the Smiler when it slammed into an empty car, and 16 people were left dangling for four hours. In 2013, a woman was killed in Texas when she was thrown out of her seat while on a rollercoaster. The causes of injuries or even death in amusement parks can include rides that malfunction, human error on the part of the operator or the participant, all of which may result in brain injuries, aneurysms, drowning, broken bones, or head, neck, and back injuries.


Currently there is no federal oversight of amusement parks. Regulation is left to the state and local governments. According to a  report in US News and World Report, some parks fail to turn in their safety reports that include affidavits in which inspectors attest they’ve performed the inspections required by law.  According to the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA), currently 44 of 50 states regulate amusement parks. Those that do not are Alabama, Mississippi, Nevada, South Dakota, Wyoming and Utah, and according to the website, these states have few if any parks.

Since federal safety officials are not allowed to address safety on rides, the state must bear the full burden of oversight that includes data collection, technical investigation of the accidents, and negotiating mitigation of manufacturing defects. It is debatable as to whether or not state or local agencies are putting the proper resources into these programs. Amusement parks can be a lot of fun but when it comes to putting your trust in the park, you should know the risks. Follow the safety regulations put up at the parks, know your limits, and have a great time! 

Catherine M. Stanton is a senior partner in the law firm of Pasternack Tilker Ziegler Walsh Stanton & Romano, LLP. She focuses on the area of Workers’ Compensation, having helped thousands of injured workers navigate a highly complex system and obtain all the benefits to which they were entitled. Ms. Stanton has been honored as a New York Super Lawyer, is the past president of the New York Workers’ Compensation Bar Association, the immediate past president of the Workers’ Injury Law and Advocacy Group, and is an officer in several organizations dedicated to injured workers and their families. She can be reached at 800.692.3717.   


Workers’ Compensation Basics: Payments to Workers and their Families

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

Here’s the next installment in the firm’s series that focuses on the basics of the workers’ compensation system. It gives information on how payments to injured workers and/or their families are handled. 

Workers’ compensation generally pays by the week, although it may be paid bi-weekly or monthly in some circumstances. The amount of the payment is established by state laws or statutes, regulation or court decision. 

Family members are paid in the event of the death of a worker arising from an accident or disease. Family members are occasionally paid for providing home-health care.     

The amounts paid and duration of payment varies from state to state. Generally there is a minimum and a maximum. The maximum is usually two-thirds of the gross wages earned, with a limit that is adjusted from time to time. 

To calculate the amount actually paid, most states use average wages for a specified number of weeks or months before the injury, death or disease. 

Payments are made for temporary inability to work, which is generally labeled temporary total disability. There may be a waiting period before payments begin. The waiting period varies from state to state. 

Payments are also made when a worker is temporarily limited to light duty and working either fewer hours or for a lower rate of pay. These benefits are called temporary partial disability. 

Payments are made for permanent inability to work and, if severe enough, some states pay for the worker’s lifetime. Some states do not pay for less than lifetime. These benefits are called permanent total disability. 

Payments are made for permanent reduction of the ability to work. This benefit is normally labeled permanent partial disability. 

Payments that are made for loss of body parts or limited use of body parts are also labeled permanent partial disability. State law establishes the value of the various body parts. 

Payments are less frequently paid while workers are participating in retraining or vocational rehabilitation. This is not a common benefit. 


It is important to contact an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer if you have questions or concerns about any of the information shared here. Please read the previous blog posts in the workers’ compensation basics series by clicking on these links: 


Occupational Asthma, or Work-Related Asthma, and Workers’ Compensation

Today’s post comes from guest author Kristina Brown Thompson, from The Jernigan Law Firm.

Occupational asthma (OA) is asthma that’s caused or worsened by breathing in chemical fumes, gases, dust or other substances on the job. Typical symptoms of OA are: chest tightness, wheezing, and shortness of breath. OA accounts for approximately ten to twenty-five percent of adult onset asthma. (Dykewicz, MS. Occupational Asthma: Current Concepts in Pathogenesis, Diagnosis, and Management. J Allergy Clin. Immunol. 2009; 123:519.)

Under North Carolina workers’ compensation laws, OA is considered an occupational disease pursuant to North Carolina General Statute §97-53(13). In order to obtain workers’ compensation benefits for OA, an injured worker must show that s/he was at an increased risk of developing OA as a result of his/her employment. Furthermore, the injured worker must show that his or her exposure at work was a significant contributing factor to his/her development of OA.

Treatment with a pulmonologist is essential for the injured worker’s recovery. Frequently the injured worker must avoid working in conditions (i.e. fumes) that will irritate his/her underlying condition. Certain professions are known to have higher likelihood of developing OA. For example, foam insulation installers exposed to diisocyanates, refinery workers exposed to metals (chromium, platinum, nickel), textile workers exposed to dyes, and health care workers exposed to formaldehyde are just a few examples of industries where workers are at an increased risk of developing OA. The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety published an online Fact Sheet which lists dozens of occupations where workers are at risk for developing OA.

Clearly, the best way to prevent OA is for workers to avoid using or being exposed to harmful substances. If this is not possible, then employers should make efforts to minimize employees’ exposure through ventilation systems or other methods. If you are concerned about your exposure to a substance at work, your employer should have material data safety sheets (MSDS) on site so that you can review any potential health hazards. As always, prevention and education of employees about proper handling procedures is key.


We’re Having A Worldwide Heat Wave: How You Can Stay Safe

Today’s post comes from guest author Catherine Stanton, from Pasternack Tilker Ziegler Walsh Stanton & Romano.

A few weeks ago, I read about a crisis occurring in Pakistan and India. In Pakistan, a week-long heatwave killed more than 1,200 people and in India, the heat killed close to 2,200. Tens of thousands more were treated at area hospitals for heatstroke. It appears that the combination of prolonged temperatures above 100 degrees combined with power outages had a devastating impact on people.

As I read the news while sitting in the comfort of my air conditioned home, I thought briefly about the fact that we are all so lucky that events such as this rarely happen in this country. We have the resources and the alternatives available if we lose power or if we don’t have air conditioning during a heat wave. The City regularly opens up cooling centers or keeps City pools open longer so that residents are able to combat some of the more severe heat of the day.  However, not all of us are lucky enough to work inside where it is cool or engage in work activity that is not strenuous. What about those who work outside, or do heavy labor without the benefit of air conditioning? How do they protect themselves from the extreme heat that may be a part of their everyday work?

I was surprised to find out that each year, hundreds of people die due to heat-related illnesses and thousands more become ill. Outdoor workers are particularly vulnerable to heat stress.  According to the U.S. Department of Labor Blog, thousands of employees become sick each year and many die from working in the heat. In 2012, there were 31 heat-related worker deaths and 4,120 heat-related worker illnesses. Labor-intensive activities in hot weather can raise body temperatures beyond the level that normally can be cooled by sweating. Heat illness initially may manifest as heat rash or heat cramps, but can quickly escalate to heat stroke if precautions aren’t taken.

I am always surprised when I see firefighters on days with extreme heat fighting fires or see construction workers, road workers, or landscapers outside in the day-time heat engaged in strenuous physical. I often wonder how they are able to work without collapsing. The answer is that many of these workers become used to the extreme heat and are acclimated to it. Heat illness disproportionately affects those who have are not used to working in such extreme temperatures, such as new or temporary workers.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has a campaign to prevent heat illness in outdoor workers. It recommends providing workers with water, rest, and shade, and for them to wear light colored clothing and a hat if possible. OSHA advises that new workers or workers returning from vacation should be exposed to the heat gradually so their bodies have a chance to adapt. However, even the best precautions sometimes cannot prevent heat-related illness.   According to WebMD, signs of heat exhaustion include fatigue, headaches, excessive sweating, extreme thirst, and hot skin. If you have signs of heat exhaustion, get out of the heat, rest, and drink plenty of water. Severe heat illness can result in heat stroke. Symptoms of heat stroke include convulsions, confusion, shortness of breath, decreased sweating, and rapid heart rate, and can be fatal, so please be aware and seek immediate medical attention if you have any of these symptoms.      

For those who work outside in the boiling heat, heat illness can be prevented. However it can also kill so please be careful and remember – water, rest, and shade. 

Catherine M. Stanton is a senior partner in the law firm of Pasternack Tilker Ziegler Walsh Stanton & Romano, LLP. She focuses on the area of Workers’ Compensation, having helped thousands of injured workers navigate a highly complex system and obtain all the benefits to which they were entitled. Ms. Stanton has been honored as a New York Super Lawyer, is the past president of the New York Workers’ Compensation Bar Association, the immediate past president of the Workers’ Injury Law and Advocacy Group, and is an officer in several organizations dedicated to injured workers and their families. She can be reached at 800.692.3717.   

Center for Sciences and Innovation

Today’s post was shared by The Green Workplace and comes from

The 280,000-sf Center for the Sciences and Innovation (CSI) is the largest development ever undertaken on the campus of Trinity University. The phased project includes 150,000 gsf of new construction, an 80,000 gsf gut renovation of Cowles Life Sciences Building, and a light renovation of the 50,000-gsf Marrs McLean Hall, to create an integrated academic complex. It houses teaching and research labs, an engineering studio, greenhouse, vivarium, and an Innovation Studio, and is home to the university-wide Entrepreneurship Center.

CSI features glass-walled classrooms, study areas, and faculty offices; 24 teaching labs and 43 research labs; café and gathering areas to stimulate student/faculty interaction; and a grand entrance, atrium, and elevated walkways.

The facility supports interdisciplinary teaching and research in engineering science, biology, chemistry, psychology, and computer science, as well as biochemistry and neuroscience. The new structure includes a bridge connecting it to Marrs McLean Hall, which houses geosciences, mathematics, physics, and astronomy. The renovation of Marrs McLean includes construction of a new entry and community spaces.

An extensive use of glazing puts science on display throughout interconnected neighborhoods of classrooms, laboratories, and offices. The building’s spine serves as a thoroughfare that connects the sciences to each other and to the center of campus.

The building itself serves as a laboratory: Soils on the green…

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