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Do I Have a Wrongful Termination Claim?

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

Assuming you do not have an employment contract, you can only claim wrongful termination if the firing was motivated by certain unlawful reasons. Unlawful reasons include discrimination based on sex or gender – this includes sexual harassment and pregnancy – as well as race, religion, nationality and disability. In certain places and in certain situations, sexual orientation discrimination can also be unlawful. Disability in this context will often mean any serious or chronic health condition you have. Disability discrimination can also mean that you are taking care of someone with a disability.

You also cannot be discriminated against by your employer for certain activities on the job. This is commonly referred to as retaliation. One of these activities is taking extended leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) for your own or for a loved one’s medical condition. Other common protected activities include opposing unlawful discrimination; filing a safety complaint; filing a workers’ compensation complaint; complaining of pay practices; or complaining about other illegal activities. If you are a government employee, you might also have some claims based on constitutional law. 

Essentially, not all terminations are unlawful. But if your situation fits into the categories described above, then be sure to contact an experienced employment attorney. In addition, it is wise to ask for advice about applying for unemployment, even if there’s not a wrongful termination case.

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Pierce County, WA Landscaper Charged with Skipping Out on Workers’ Comp Coverage

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

          A Pierce County, WA landscaper has been charged with failing to pay workers’ compensation insurance after one of his employees was injured on the job.

           Kenneth Ivan Winters, 49, faces one count of doing business without workers’ comp insurance and seven counts of making false reports to the Department of Labor & Industries, according to charging papers. Each charge is a Class C felony with a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

           The Lakewood man pleaded not guilty to the charges Wednesday, February 19, 2014 in Pierce County Superior Court. His trial was set for May 1.

           According to charging papers filed by the Washington Attorney General’s office, authorities were alerted to the case when an employee filed an on-the-job injury claim while working for Winters’ business, Executive Lawn Care, in October 2012.

           The worker told an L&I investigator that Winters, who was on site when the employee was hurt, threatened him and his family if he filed a claim with L&I, charging papers said. The employee said he had worked for Winters from 2002 until the day he was injured.

           Winters’ workers’ comp coverage had been revoked eight months earlier for failing to pay premiums. However, charging papers allege, he continued to employ the worker full time until the injury. Winters told an L&I investigator he started the business in 1990, and at one time had up to six employees. He said business slowed and his main employee was the worker who became injured, and occasionally the worker’s brother.

           As of Jan. 7, 2014, the employee’s claim has cost L&I more than $67,000 in medical expenses and lost wage payments, charging papers said.

           Businesses that don’t pay workers’ comp insurance gain an unfair advantage over companies that pay their fair share. A 2007 study found that an estimated 55,000 employers skipped out on paying $34.5 million in workers’ comp insurance in Washington state in 2006, causing legitimate employers to pay higher premiums.

         Washington state is one of the few states in the nation where employers and workers both pay a share of the workers’ compensation premiums.  The press release from the Department of Labor and Industries did not indicate whether this worker’s payroll deductions had continued even when his workers’ compensation coverage had lapsed.  If this was the case, this employer’s fraud would represent wage theft, as well.

         

Confidentiality Agreements and Dennis Rodman

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

Many defendants, particularly celebrities, often try to keep settlement agreements private and they seek confidentiality as part of the bargain. Dennis Rodman, former Chicago Bulls basketball player and current friend of the North Korea dictator Kim Jong-un, kicked a photographer in 1997 during a basketball game and the photographer sued for personal injuries. Eventually a $200,000.00 settlement was reached and, as part of the deal, the photographer agreed to keep the settlement confidential.

In steps the Internal Revenue Service. The IRS asserted that since no specific dollar amount had been allocated for the confidentiality portion of the agreement, 60% of the amount should be taxed. The photographer appealed and argued that the tax value was de minimis, if any, but he lost his appeal.

So, dear friends, the next time a confidentiality clause is suggested by the defendant as a necessary part of the agreement, remember Dennis Rodman. Remember the photographer who had to pay taxes on $80,000.00. Remember that you should always try to avoid confidentiality agreements.  However, if you do agree, be sure to designate a specific dollar amount for that portion of the settlement and expect this amount to be taxable. For more information, see Amos v. Commissioner of IRS, T.C.M. of 2003–320. US Tax Court. 

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Understanding Your Auto Insurance – Online Flip-Book

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

The Washington State Association for Justice (WSAJ) has released their publication “Understanding Your Auto Insurance” as an online flip-book. This booklet explains the various components that make up auto insurance coverage, including liability coverage, personal injury protection (PIP) coverage and underinsured motorist, collision and comprehensive coverage options. Details about who is covered under a policy and what the policy may cover are outlined. Steps to take if an accident occurs are explained in detail, as well.

This booklet is a great resource and should be on everyone’s required reading list.

Cancer incidence among firefighters: 45 years of follow-up in five Nordic countries.

Today’s post was shared by Linda Reinstein and comes from www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov

Abstract

OBJECTIVES:

Firefighters are potentially exposed to a wide range of known and suspected carcinogens through their work. The objectives of this study were to examine the patterns of cancer among Nordic firefighters, and to compare them with the results from previous studies.

METHODS:

Data for this study were drawn from a linkage between the census data for 15 million people from the five Nordic countries and their cancer registries for the period 1961-2005. SIR analyses were conducted with the cancer incidence rates for the entire national study populations used as reference rates.

RESULTS:

A total of 16 422 male firefighters were included in the final cohort. A moderate excess risk was seen for all cancer sites combined, (SIR=1.06, 95% CI 1.02 to 1.11). There were statistically significant excesses in the age category of 30-49 years in prostate cancer (SIR=2.59, 95% CI 1.34 to 4.52) and skin melanoma (SIR=1.62, 95% CI 1.14 to 2.23), while there was almost no excess in the older ages. By contrast, an increased risk, mainly in ages of 70 years and higher, was observed for non-melanoma skin cancer (SIR=1.40, 95% CI 1.10 to 1.76), multiple myeloma (SIR=1.69, 95% CI 1.08 to 2.51), adenocarcinoma of the lung (SIR=1.90, 95% CI 1.34 to 2.62), and mesothelioma (SIR=2.59, 95% CI 1.24 to 4.77). By contrast with earlier studies, the incidence of testicular cancer was decreased (SIR=0.51, 95% CI 0.23 to 0.98).

CONCLUSIONS:

Some of these associations have been observed previously,…

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Inmate lawsuit accuses Casper jail of shoddy medical care

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

An inmate at the Natrona County Detention Center has filed federal and state lawsuits alleging the facility provided inadequate medical treatment for himself and others, along with committing other federal civil rights violations.

Jeromy Bray claims he was suffering from severe abdominal pain in November 2013 when he was sent to the jail’s infirmary. Once there, a nurse reportedly took his blood pressure before telling him he was fine and that it was “probably something you ate,” according to Bray’s complaint.

Bray states he told the nurse the pain had been going on for a week. The nurse allegedly told him he had an “inverted hemorrhoid” and that the only treatment available was to “drink a lot of water.”

“The nurse on duty came to this medical diagnosis without doing any tests other than blood pressure,” the complaint states.

Bray claims the pain became so great that while he was at the Central Wyoming Counseling Center about a month later, he was taken to the emergency room and diagnosed with a severe case of diverticulitis.

Diverticulitis is a painful condition caused when pouches in the wall of the colon form and then become infected, according to the Mayo Clinic’s website. It may be brought about by the lack of fiber in a diet, according to the site.

In his lawsuit, Bray claims medical providers in the jail are “deliberately indifferent” to the medical needs of the prisoners and that staff…

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Proposed House Chemical “Reform” Legislation: A Step Backward for Health and Safety

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

Today’s post is shared from foreffectivegov.org

Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL) released a draft bill entitled the Chemicals in Commerce Act (CICA) on Thursday, Feb. 27 that provides no significant improvements in protecting public health and the environment from toxic chemicals. Many of the provisions in the draft bill maintain the already deficient approaches to health protections now included under the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), our nation’s outdated and ineffective chemical safety law. Even worse, aspects of the legislation would weaken TSCA and undercut current protections provided by states that have adopted more stringent chemical laws.

Many of the problems posed by provisions of S. 1009, the Chemical Safety Improvement Act (CSIA), are also apparent in CICA. Among many deficiencies, the bill would prevent states from regulating chemicals classified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as “low priority” risks, as well as preempt the ability of states to adopt requirements for “high priority” risk chemicals that are more protective than those established by EPA. CICA continues the existing law’s perverse approach to establishing safety standards, in which the burden of proof falls on the EPA to prove a chemical poses an “unreasonable” health risk, rather than on chemical companies to prove the safety of their products.

Other shortcomings of CICA include:

  • The bill provides no deadlines for the EPA to assess the potential risks of…

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Splanchnology and the Death of a Client

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

According to Max Lucado, the Greek word for compassion is “splanchnizomai” and medical students know that splanchnology is the study of the gut. A few days ago a workers’ compensation client died of a massive heart attack, and when her husband called to tell me of her death I had that gut-wrenching experience of realizing that a client I really liked, who was 47, and who was just getting back on her feet after a major injury, just wasn’t “there” anymore. It was a sad ending for a truly remarkable lady who deserved a lot better.

Some clients are liked more than others. They are the ones who respect what you do, listen and heed your advice, and work with you to let the facts and the law sift down together to achieve, hopefully, a favorable outcome. Unless there is a known cancer diagnosis I always assume the client will be around to finish up the case; but never assume anything. Because of her unexpected death, I’m going to try to remember that each client has the potential to die prematurely.

Lawyers may not be related by blood to our clients but some clients do seem like family, and when they die I feel like studying splanchnology, looking for relief.