Monthly Archives: January 2013

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Iowa Joins U. S. Department of Labor to Reduce Misclassification of Employees as Independent Contractors

The U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division and Iowa’s Department of Workforce Development  have joined in a memorandum of understanding on January 17, 2013,to protect the rights of employees by preventing their misclassification as independent contractors by employers.Iowa is the 14th state to form this type of partnership with the Labor Department.

The DOL in August 2009 determined:

  1. In FY 2007 states uncovered at least 150,000 workers who did not receive the benefits to which they were entitled because their employers misclassified them as independent contractors; and
  2. Approximately 10.3 million American workers, or 7.4 percent of the employed workforce, are classified as independent contractors, although it is not clear how many of these are misclassified.

Although legitimate independent contractors are an important part of our economy, the misclassification of employees presents a serious problem, as these employees often are denied access to critical benefits and protections – such as family and medical leave, overtime compensation, workers’ compensation benefits, minimum wage pay and Unemployment Insurance – to which they are entitled.  In addition, misclassification can create economic pressure for law-abiding business owners, who often find it difficult to compete with those who are skirting the law.  Employee misclassification also generates substantial losses for state Unemployment Insurance and workers’ compensation funds.

Memorandums of understanding with state government agencies arose as part of the department’s Misclassification Initiative, which was launched under the auspices of Vice President Biden’s Middle Class Task Force with the goal of preventing, detecting and remedying employee misclassification.  California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Utah and Washington have signed similar agreements.

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Boston Globe: Teen Work Related Injuries a “Major Problem”

Today’s post comes from guest author Deborah Kohl from Deborah G. Kohl Law Offices.

A recent article published in the Boston Globe cites injuries to teenagers are, “A major problem,” according to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. The article can be found here. The article further goes on to state that rules are often “flouted” for minors. The majority of injuries to teenagers take place in retail jobs or those in the the food preparation and service industry.

The article reports that the injuries are often serious ones such as cuts from deli/meat slicers and back/neck pain as a result heavy lifting in service and landscaping jobs. The article also reported, “One local teen, who asked not to be identified fearing retaliation from his boss, described going onto a highway to retrieve supermarket carts.”

Everyone, regardless of age, has the right to expect nothing less than a safe working environment. If you are injured at work, do not hesitate to immediately report the injury to your employer.

If you feel that your rights have been violated with respect to an injury you sustained on the job, please contact us to discuss your situation.

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Four Things You Should Know About Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

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

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, also known as CTS, is an uncomfortable and often painful wrist disorder. It is a common injury that can be caused by workplace stress. Here are four things you should know about Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.

  1. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is caused by repeated stress.
    Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is a Repetitive Stress Injury (RST). It occurs when the same action is repeated many times. When wrists are strained over and over again by actions like typing, the tendons in the wrist can become enlarged. Then the tendons can compress a nerve that runs through a passage in the wrist called the “carpal tunnel.”
  2. Even if your wrists don’t hurt badly, you could still have CTS.
    There are a whole range of symptoms associated with CTS, not just pain. Symptoms of CTS can include numbness or tingling pain in the hand, wrist, and forearm, impaired or lost nerve function, reduced muscle control, and reduced grip strength.
  3. You can receive workers’ compensation for CTS.
    According to Nebraska and Iowa law, workers can receive workers’ compensation from the onset of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. This compensation includes 100% of all medical expenses that are reasonable and necessary to treat CTS, including both inpatient and outpatient care and prescriptions.
  4. You may be entitled to compensation for permanent damage due to CTS.
    If you experience Continue reading
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If You’re Going Out To Eat Check Out “Behind The Kitchen Door”

Today’s post comes from guest author from Jon Gelman, LLC – Attorney at Law.

For many celebrating the holiday season is inggo out to eat for an enjoyable experience. Unknown to many restaurant patrons are the problems of restaurant workers and include:  low wages, occupational stress and lack of medical benefits that requires restaurant workers to go to work sick.

Behind The Kitchen Door exposes the working conditions in the restaurant industry.

“How do restaurant workers live on some of the lowest wages in America? And how do poor working conditions—discriminatory labor practices, exploitation, and unsanitary kitchens—affect the meals that arrive at our restaurant tables? Saru Jayaraman, who launched a national restaurant workers organization after 9/11, sets out to answer these questions by following the lives of ten restaurant workers in cities across the country – New York City, Washington DC, Philadelphia, Houston, Los Angeles, Houston, Miami, Detroit, and New Orleans. Blending personal and investigative journalism, Jayaraman shows us that the quality of the food that arrives at our restaurant tables is not just a product of raw ingredients: it’s the product of the hands that chop, grill, sauté, and serve it, and the bodies to whom those hands belong.

“Behind the Kitchen Door “ is a groundbreaking exploration of the political, economic, and moral implications of eating out. What’s at stake when we choose a restaurant is not only our own health or “foodie” experience, but the health and well-being of the second-largest private sector workforce—the lives of 10 million people, many immigrants, many people of color, who bring passion, tenacity, and important insight into the American dining experience.

Download the 2012 National Diners Guide – See how your favorite restaurant ranks

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Legal Avenues Exist for Dealing with Workplace Bullying

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

Bullying isn’t limited to the schoolyard. Bullying in the workplace is also a hot topic among employment lawyers and human-resource professionals.  One study states that 35 percent of employees are bullied at work. In general, if you are being bullied at work, you should document the bullying, try to constructively confront the bully and speak with HR if the bullying continues. If bullying is persistent, you should also consider looking for other employment.

Currently there are no state or federal laws in Nebraska that specifically address workplace bullying. However, in many situations, there are laws in place that employees can use to protect themselves against workplace bullying, from a legal perspective. Exercising your rights under these laws may not stop the bullying. But by exercising your rights under the laws described below you could force a smart employer to take some action against a bully. And by using these legal tools, you could also possibly expose your employer to a retaliation suit if you are fired after trying to stop a workplace bully.

1. Title VII and the Nebraska Fair Employment Practices Act:  Both of these laws make it unlawful to harass a worker based protected classes such as sex, race, nationality, disability, age, and religion. If you are being harassed based on one of these factors, the law forces you to address these complaints with management in order for you to successfully bring suit. While it is difficult to win a harassment case in Nebraska, the fact that you must bring the harassment to the attention of management at least forces management to address the situation. If management is smart they will realize that they need to address the harassment or else they could be subject to legal liability. If management is enlightened, they will realize the cost of employee turnover and address the situation regardless of any potential legal liability.

Many people believe that harassment based on sexual orientation is not against the law in Nebraska.  However, gays and lesbians in Nebraska may be protected from harassment in some situations under the legal theory of “sex plus” discrimination.

So what if workplace bullying is not based on a protected class?  Even then, employees might have legal protections under three laws: the National Labor Relations Act; the Americans with Disabilities Act; and the Family and Medical Leave Act.

2. The National Labor Relations Act. The NLRA protects workers’ rights to act together to address workplace conditions. The NLRA applies regardless of whether a workplace is unionized. If a boss or co-worker truly is a bully, then other people will likely believe they are being bullied as well. By acting collectively, employees stand a better chance of remedying the situation. For example, in the case of Teetor v. Dawson County Public Power District, employees essentially forced management to fire a longtime supervisor who was notorious for bullying subordinates. The supervisor’s bullying was one of the reasons why Continue reading

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$97 Million In Fraud: 2012′s Top 10 Workers’ Compensation Fraud Cases

CFO Jeff Atwater and Broward Sheriff Al Lamberti announced multiple arrests in Operation Dirty Money.

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

Over the past few years, many states have aggressively gone after workers’ compensation fraud (whether it’s the employee or the employer) and the amount of employer fraud being discovered continues to be staggering, notwithstanding these efforts. Legitimate business owners that pay for workers’ compensation, as required by law, are at a competitive disadvantage with those who cheat the system, and when people suffer a workplace disability and have no insurance local businesses that provide goods and services feel the pain along with health care providers who cannot get properly paid for their services. The cost of medical care and disability ends up being shifted to the taxpayer through Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, and in states where compliance is not vigorously enforced a culture of cheating continues. The top ten cases for 2012 are listed below.

2012 TOP TEN WORKERS’ COMPENSATION FRAUD CASES Total Fraud: $97,466,500.00

1. ‘Operation Dirty Money,’ Stings Workers’ Comp Fraud Check Cashing Scheme

Florida: July 27, 2012

Multiple arrests were announced in Florida’s joint task force’s ‘Operation Dirty Money,’ which led to the arrest of alleged ringleader Hugo Rodriguez, owner of the Oto Group, Inc., and seven other individuals. Mr. Rodriguez was the facilitator of 10 known shell companies that funneled in excess of $70 million in undeclared and undetected payroll through different money service businesses. By using shell companies, Rodriguez was able to run a large construction operation and avoid paying the cost of workers’ compensation coverage, leaving employees at risk and scamming legitimate businesses.

 

2. Firms Face Charges for Skipping Workers’ Comp Payments

Ohio: May 13, 2012 Thousands of Ohio companies violated state law by not paying their most recent workers’ compensation premium, which can drive up insurance costs for businesses that follow the rules, a Dayton Daily News analysis found. The bureau identified about 41,247 private employers in the state that failed to report their payroll data and submit premium payments by the deadline. As of May, more than 12,200 accounts remain outstanding, and those companies owe an estimated $5.6 million in premiums.

3. Case Proves Employee Leasing too Good to be True

Texas: July 10, 2012

$4,466,500.00 was awarded in a Texas court against a staffing agency and its workers’ compensation insurance company. Jackson Brothers Hot Oil Service hired Business Staffing, Inc., (BSI) in 1999 and required BSI to have workers’ compensation insurance for its leased employees. BSI had 150 client companies with 2,000 employees. BSI bought a policy from Transglobal Indemnity for a total premium of $4,100.00 to cover all its employees. After failing to pay the medical bills of a 27-year-old oil field worker who was in an explosion and had 18 surgeries, the employee and Jackson Brothers sued BSI and Transglobal for fraud. Neither Transglobal (who had its corporate headquarters in the Turks and Caicos Islands) nor BSI had a license to conduct insurance business in Texas.

4. Business Owner Faces Insurance-fraud Charges

California: May 2, 2012


George Osumi was indicted on numerous felony counts.

Construction business owner George Osumi of Irvine, California was indicted on numerous felony counts of misrepresenting facts to the State Compensation Insurance Fund, among other charges. From December 2001 to March of 2006, Mr. Osumi committed workers’ compensation premium fraud by reporting his payroll to SCIF at just over $1 million, under-reporting over $3.5 million in payroll. This fraud resulted in a loss of over $814,000.00 in premium owed to the insurance fund.

5. Watertown Roofing Company and its Owners Plead Guilty and are Sentenced for Labor Violations

Massachusetts: January 11, 2012


Newton Contracting Company misclassified half of its workforce as subcontractors.

The Massachusetts Insurance Fraud Bureau discovered that the company, Newton Contracting Company, Inc., owned by Shaun Bryan and Antoinette Capurso-Bryan, misclassified half of its workforce as subcontractors, as well as failing to disclose to auditors more than $3.4 million of their company’s misclassified subcontractor payroll during its annual workers’ compensation audits.

6. 7-Year Sentence in $3.1 Million Fraud Case

California: November 30, 2012

Steven Morales, 65, of Wildomar, CA was convicted and sentenced to seven years in prison for his part in a $3.1 million workers’ compensation scheme. His son Brian was also convicted and sentenced to 4 years in prison. Morales and his son had set up a sophisticated system of shell companies to hide payroll and avoid paying workers’ compensation premiums.

7. Construction Company President Accused of Payroll Fraud

Florida: March 29, 2012

Randall Seltzer, president of Navarre Industries, Inc., was charged with multiple felony counts, including workers’ compensation fraud. An investigation by Florida’s Department of Financial Services’ Division of Insurance Fraud revealed that Seltzer systematically and intentionally under-reported his corporation’s true payroll to his insurance carrier. The department’s Division of Workers’ Compensation issued the company two stop-work orders within a five-year period. Seltzer allegedly established a shell corporation in 2011 to intentionally violate the stop-work orders and continue operating his construction business illegally. If convicted, Seltzer could face up to 30 years in prison and pay over $2.8 million in restitution.

8. CFO Jeff Atwater Announces Arrest of Owner of Fake Company for Creating Fraudulent Insurance Certificates and Avoiding Millions in Premiums

Florida: April 13, 2012


Yucet Batista allegedly used a shell company to commit large-scale fraud.

Yucet Batista was arrested for allegedly creating more than 250 fraudulent certificates of insurance to help uninsured contractors avoid $2.1 million in workers compensation premiums. Batista created the company and obtained the workers’ compensation insurance policy for the purpose of “renting” it, or making it available to dozens of uninsured subcontractors for a fee.

9. Audits Uncover Almost $1.2 million in Workers’ Compensation Violations at Boston Marriott Project

Massachusetts: September 4, 2012

In 12 audits conducted by the Joint Enforcement Task Force on the Underground Economy and Employee Misclassification and the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development, it was discovered that there were $584,249.00 in misclassified 1099 wages and $584,287 in unreported W-2 earnings, for a total of $1,171,536.00 in unreported wages by subcontractors on the Marriot renovation project. Six companies misclassified workers as contractors rather than employees, and seven companies failed to report wages. Among the worst of the offenders were one company that misclassified 28 workers and failed to report over $410,000.00 in wages; another failed to report $462,081 in W-2 wages.

10. Inn Owners Facing Workers’ Compensation and Insurance Fraud Charges

California: June 13, 2012


Owners of the historic Brookdale Inn and Spa are facing trial on charges of falsifying wage information to obtain lower insurance premiums.

The owners of historic Brookdale Inn and Spa, Sanjiv and Neelam Kakkar, are facing trial on charges that they falsified wage information to obtain lower insurance premiums. According to records, the couple paid approximately $800,000 less in insurance premiums than they should have over a period of several years.

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What Should I Have Ready For My First Meeting With My Lawyer?

We provide a questionnaire for you to fill out before our first meeting

Most injured workers seeking an attorney’s help on their workers’ compensation claim have never hired an attorney before. This post gives a brief overview of how you can prepare for your first meeting with your attorney after you have been hurt at work.

The most important part of that first meeting takes place before you ever set foot in the attorney’s office. For your attorney, the goal of the first meeting is to gain an accurate understanding of the facts surrounding your injury. This is so the attorney can assess how the law will be applied to your case. In order for the attorney to make an accurate assessment, you have to be prepared to Continue reading

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What is the Most Common Mistake People Make When They File for Unemployment?

Cooperating with the unemployment claims adjudicator can help you get benefits.

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

Answer your phone.

This is the advice a friend of mine who works as an unemployment claims adjudicator would give to people filing unemployment. Oftentimes people are denied unemployment benefits they earned through their employer because they neglect to cooperate in the initial investigation of their claim. An adjudicator is assigned to determine eligibility for unemployment benefits. In short, they talk to you and your employer about why you are no longer employed. If the adjudicator determines that your were fired for intentionally disregarding reasonable work-related expectations of your employer or that you quit without good cause, then you will be found not to be eligible for unemployment benefits. Of course, you can appeal that decision, but that will lead to a delay in you receiving benefits, and it might also mean finding a lawyer to represent you in the appeal hearing.

The problem someone creates for themselves when they don’t talk to the adjudicator is that the adjudicator will only hear the employer’s side of the story. If an employee has documents that would show they did not commit work-related misconduct or that they quit with good cause, they should give those to the adjudicator as well.

Unemployment is stressful. Failing to communicate with people who might be able to help you just makes matters worse for yourself and family.