Injured Volunteer Firefighters And Ambulance Workers May Be Eligible For Benefits

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

New York workers are generally covered by the Workers’ Compensation Law, but there are special laws which cover volunteer first responders – firefighters and ambulance workers.

Closely aligned with the Workers’ Compensation Law are the Volunteer Firefighter Benefits Law (VFBL) and the Volunteer Ambulance Workers Benefit Law (VAWBL). As their titles suggest, these two laws protect people who volunteer in the potentially hazardous duties of fighting fires, responding to motor vehicle accidents and tending to those injured in a variety of circumstances. While not all firefighters and ambulance workers are unpaid, many areas outside the five boroughs of New York City and other smaller cities maintain volunteer forces to provide these indispensable services. Given the inherent danger involved, volunteers often suffer injury when “on duty”.

In the event of an injury, both laws provide wage replacement benefits and medical coverage. Also, there is a “built in” presumption of an earning capacity for volunteers; therefore, even if a volunteer is not otherwise employed, she or he may be entitled to benefits. In addition to physical injury, the laws cover such events as exposure to noxious fumes, smoke or chemicals and post-traumatic stress disorder. 

The list of what entails an “injury in the line of firematic or ambulance worker duty” is extensive. These events include maintaining vehicles and participation in certain department-sanctioned events. We take pride in representing those who volunteer their efforts in the service of others, especially when those efforts can be fraught with danger.

In order to best insure that your rights are protected, be sure to contact our office for a no-cost consultation. And thank you for volunteering!

Who Is Your Doctor?: Choice of Doctor Under Worker’s Compensation

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

A common dilemma faced by many injured workers: where to seek treatment following a work injury. Some employers force injured workers to a designated medical provider and many times the injured worker continues treatment with that provider. Workers often assume they cannot switch or see their own physician (which is not correct). Treatment at the employer-designated provider continues until the injured worker is sent back to work, even if the injured worker has not fully healed, which can lead to further injury or employment consequences.

Workers can receive treatment from their own doctor following a work injury.  An injured worker in Wisconsin has a right to two “choices” of treating practitioners. What constitutes a “choice” is defined in Wisconsin Statute §102.41(2)(a) and includes any physician, chiropractor, psychologist, dentist, physician assistant, advanced practice nurse practitioner, or podiatrist. The important aspect of physician choice is that referrals from one doctor to another do not exhaust a choice.    

We frequently receive calls from injured workers who believe that a referral from their primary care doctor to an orthopedic doctor is the second choice. But that is not how the law works.  Only if the injured worker leaves the referral chain do they use their “second choice.” 

A referral from a primary care physician to an orthopedic doctor is a single choice. If the orthopedic doctor refers to a pain management physician, again, it is a single choice. The injured worker has now seen three doctors (Primary Care, Orthopedic, Pain Management), but is still within the same “choice.”  Doctors within the same practice count as a single choice. 

Injured workers need to be aware of their options. Insurance companies may designate a referral to an Orthopedic doctor as the “second opinion” and therefore, the second choice, when really this is still only a single choice. This crucial distinction affords the injured worker the opportunity to receive quality care. 

What happens in an emergency? The employer may arrange for emergency treatment after which the injured worker can choose their own doctor without using a choice. This common-sense provision allows employers to direct emergency care without sacrificing the worker’s choice of quality care in the future. 

The best advice for injured workers is to always obtain a referral from a treating doctor to any other doctor or specialist.  In Wisconsin, the injured worker – not the employer or the worker’s compensation insurance company – controls treatment.

Somebody get me a doctor: Nebraska rules against P.A reports in workers’ compensation

Somebody get me a shot! (Sorry no appropriate Diamond Dave images to go with this post)

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

The Nebraska Supreme Court held recently that a written reports from a Physician’s Assistant or P.A. are inadmissible into evidence under the Rule 10 of the Nebraska Workers’ Compensation Act.

The decision resolves what amounted to a “circuit split” among the seven judges of the Nebraka Workers’ Compensation Court as to whether P.A. reports were admissible into evidence.

The decision didn’t come as a shock to me or any of the other lawyers at this firm. The decision shouldn’t impact how we or any other lawyers develop evidence in Nebraska workers’ compensation cases.

But I believe the decision harms workers in rural areas whose only access to medical care is often a P.A. The decision also harms workers without health insurance whose only treatment for a work injury might be treating with a P.A. at an urgent care clinic. If an employer denies compensability, the only medical evidence that employee may have would be a report from a P.A.

Most lawyers “fix” P.A. reports by having the supervising doctor sign the report. I’ve had P.As take offense at that request. I’ve also had defense lawyers attack medical opinions on hearsay grounds by getting a medical doctor to admit that the P.A. is the one with first-hand knowledge about the injured worker.

Lawyers are stuck with two options if a P.A report is the sole source of expert opinion from a treating provider: 1) Call the P.A. live as a witness in the same manner as in a civil trial or 2) retain an examiner.

Neither of those is a great option. The best fix would be for the Legislature or the Nebraska Workers’ Compensation Court to amend Rule 10 to allow P.A reports into evidence.

Time Off or Time-Loss?

Today’s post comes from guest author Jane Dale, from Causey Wright.

Our clients often come to us with issues relating to their employment that are not directly related to their work injury or workers’ compensation claim. Given how entwined a work injury can be with employment-related issues, it can be helpful to have a general understanding of both legal areas.

One issue that comes up quite frequently is whether an Employer can require our clients to use up their vacation, sick-leave, and/or PTO for time missed from work when the reason they are missing work is a work-related injury. The short answer is yes. At present, there is no law that prevents an Employer from forcing injured workers to use up their vacation or PTO while they are unable to work due to their injury. However, it could be unlawful for an Employer to create “special rules” that apply to only one employee or only to employees with L&I claims. If they do so, it is possible they are violating other laws that prohibit discrimination of disabled persons and/or retaliation against employees who have filed L&I claims. Regardless, even if such a policy exists, the Employer cannot prevent injured workers from obtaining monetary workers’ compensation benefits if they would otherwise be entitled to it. If an injured worker is entitled to time-loss or loss of earning power benefits, then it does not matter that they are also receiving PTO or vacation benefits.

Another issue that we may see more of given the recent passage (and soon to be enacted) laws relating to Paid Sick Leave are questions about whether injured workers can earn paid sick leave if they are not working full time or full duty. Depending on what type of employee an injured worker is (salaried or hourly), they may have the right to earn paid sick leave for each hour worked. An Employer should not be able to deny accrual of paid sick leave simply because an injured worker is unable to work full-time or full-duty. Additionally, an Employer cannot prevent an injured worker from using their paid sick leave while the injured worker is receiving benefits under their claim so long as the basis for using it would otherwise be appropriate.

Ultimately, these are difficult questions to answer. The specific circumstances of each case needs to be evaluated to arrive at an answer and may require the advice of both an attorney who focuses on workers’ compensation as well as one who focuses on employment law. If you have questions, please feel free to contact me to start the discussion.

Photo by bunkosquad on Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

U.S. Department of Labor

Today’s post was shared by US Dept. of Labor and comes from www.dol.gov

WASHINGTON, DC – The U.S. Department of Labor today announced the launch of the New and Small Business Assistance and the Compliance Assistance Toolkits webpages. These new online tools assist American small businesses and workers with simple, straightforward resources that provide critical Wage and Hour Division (WHD) information, as well as links to other resources.

The webpages were established in response to feedback received from new and small business stakeholders voicing their need for a centralized location to secure the tools and information they need to comply with federal labor laws. These new webpages provide the most relevant publications and answer the questions most frequently asked by new and small business owners. These tools, in conjunction with worker.gov and employer.gov, ensure greater understanding of federal requirements and provide tools to help employers find resources offered by other regulatory agencies.

“The Wage and Hour Division has long understood that the majority of employers want to do the right thing and comply with the law, but they need to know how,” said the Wage and Hour Division’s Acting Administrator Bryan Jarrett. “These new webpages demonstrate our ongoing commitment to proactively help employers comply with the law and provide them the tools they need to understand their responsibilities. We encourage all employers to visit these new webpages and reach out to us for assistance at any time.”

In…

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U.S. Department of Labor

Today’s post was shared by US Dept. of Labor and comes from www.dol.gov

DES PLAINES, ILThe U.S. Department of Labor has reached a settlement with Omnicare of Northern Illinois that requires the company to pay $300,000 in back pay and interest to 132 pharmacy technicians of Asian heritage to remedy pay discrimination violations identified at its Des Plaines, Illinois, facility.

The settlement follows a routine compliance evaluation by the Department’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP), where investigators found that, as of April 1, 2013, Omnicare of Northern Illinois paid Asian employees in pharmacy technician positions less than similarly situated employees.

"Employers should review their compensation processes to ensure that their employees do not suffer from discriminatory practices," said Carmen Navarro, Acting Regional Director, Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs in Chicago. "This settlement demonstrates the U.S. Department of Labor’s commitment to combating pay discrimination and holding companies with federal contracts accountable if they fail to ensure equal employment opportunity."

Omnicare of Northern Illinois also agreed to review employee compensation practices and make adjustments as necessary. Other non-monetary forms of relief contained in the settlement include compensation monitoring and Equal Employment Opportunity training for employees.

In addition to Executive Order 11246, OFCCP enforces Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Vietnam Era Veterans’…

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U.S. Department of Labor

Today’s post was shared by US Dept. of Labor and comes from www.dol.gov

WASHINGTON, DC – As part of its commitment to state and local partners facing a serious impact by Hurricane Michael, the U.S. Department of Labor today announced it is ready to make available National Dislocated Worker Grant (DWG) funding to help Florida assess its workforce needs.

"The Department of Labor will deploy resources to help Floridians who, as a result of Hurricane Michael, find themselves unable to work and without a paycheck," said U.S. Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta. "The American workforce – along with our volunteers and first responders – is the greatest in the world. As we did during last year’s destructive hurricane season, Americans will come together to rebuild their communities. The Department is here to help ensure the safety and stability of Floridians along the way."

DWG funding will be made available to impacted counties to supplement state and local response and recovery efforts. The Department is monitoring the situation to ensure it is doing everything it can to help Floridians and the mobility of the workforce.

As the severity and geographical extent of the damage becomes known, the Department will monitor activities and take additional actions as necessary.

Supported by the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act of 2014, DWGs temporarily expand the service capacity of dislocated worker training and employment programs at the state and local levels by providing funding assistance in response to…

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U.S. Department of Labor

Today’s post was shared by US Dept. of Labor and comes from www.dol.gov

WASHINGTON, DC – The U.S. Department of Labor today announced nearly $110 million in Trade and Economic Transition Dislocated Worker Grants (DWGs) for state, tribal, and non-profit entities that are working in collaboration with community partners and local Workforce Development Boards to prepare Americans for professions in high-growth employment sectors. These grants will assist in implementing innovative skills instruction and career services for Americans who are seeking reemployment as a result of changes in workforce needs or from economic changes across multiple sectors.

Supported by the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act of 2014, Dislocated Worker Grants temporarily expand the service capacity of dislocated worker training and employment programs at the state and local levels by providing funding assistance. An "economic transition," as defined in Training and Employment Guidance Letter (TEGL) No. 2-18, is a far-reaching economic or workforce trend or event, beyond the operating conditions of one employer, which has caused significant worker dislocations in a stated geographic area.

1

Ohio Department of Job and Family Services

$8,000,000

2

Cherokee Nation

$7,996,649

3

Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development

$2,000,000

4

Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity

$2,200,000

5

Michigan Talent Investment Agency

$3,200,000

6

Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development

$3,353,732

7

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