Category Archives: DLI

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           Winters’ workers’ comp coverage had been revoked eight months earlier for failing to pay premiums.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.

         

Return To Work is a Program; Return To Function is a Philosophy

Title: “Expression of pain” – Chris JL

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

Today’s post comes from workerscompensation.com, one of the blogs that I follow.  I am taking Bob’s advice and sharing his article with our network.  His concepts are spot-on.

I wish I had thought of the two concepts reflected in the title of this article. Alas, I did not. I did, however, once again take two dynamite ideas, combine them into one cohesive concept, thereby saving the universe while still managing to create an enticing, killer headline in the process.

I swear, sometimes it’s exhausting being me.

I now serve on the Disability Management & Return to Work Committee of the International Association of Industrial Accident Boards and Commissions (IAIABC). We met Tuesday during the associations 99th Annual Convention in San Diego, CA. Committee Chair Peter Federko tasked the group with defining a working strategy that would encourage and promote successful disability management and return to work programs for both the industry and injured workers. This prompted what I can best describe as a passionate discussion among the members, each with their own take and view on where barriers exist, and what segments should be targeted in any RTW effort. 

Federko, who by day is CEO of the Saskatchewan Workers’ Compensation Board, did a masterful job of keeping the conversation focused as we rambled about with our various opinions. Personally I believe that there are many “moving parts” within workers’ compensation that all must be aligned and engaged to effectively deploy any respectable RTW program. It requires a team effort from all players. Unfortunately, our current trend in claims management is taking us towards a dehumanization of the process, and this is not conducive for the development of such initiatives. 

Two members of this group gave what I believe to be stunning insight, and not just because they dovetail nicely with my beliefs (ok, mostly because they dovetail nicely with my beliefs). Joachim (pronounced Yoke-em) Breuer, with the German workers’ comp system and Chair of the ISSA Technical Commission on Accident Insurance, provided tremendous insight when he stated that Return to Work was not a program, but rather a philosophy; a philosophy that needed to be ingrained throughout the workers’ compensation system. He was followed in short order by Ken Eichler, Director of Government & Insurance Services, Guidelines Division, for Reed Group. Eichler, who is also Committee Vice Chair, talked of suspicion and resistance on the side of the injured worker. He suggested that, to allay fears that RTW was merely a cleverly disguised cost control scheme, the committee instead develop criteria for a “Return to Function” program. He correctly pointed out that “function” is at the core of all life necessities, and that if we can focus on improving that for injured workers, return to work would be a natural extension of any successful effort. 

Brilliant observations from both of them. Federko immediately instructed each to take an extra thousand out of petty cash for their input (not really – I made that up. Ever the cost control maven, Federko wouldn’t even open the committee liquor cabinet). Still, this theory was not quite complete. We haven’t quite finished mixing all ingredients for our RTW stew. We still have one more to add.

As you may notice, both suggestions by Eichler and Breuer fit quite nicely with my (as yet unsuccessful) effort to reposition and rebrand the workers’ compensation industry into the Workers’ Recovery industry. We will therefore include that as a third element in the recipe. This concoction produces the following final scrumptious result:

Successful Return to Function must be driven as an overriding philosophy ingrained throughout the Workers’ Recovery system.

There. Not too shabby if I do say so myself. 

The philosophy maintains that we must return as many people as possible to functional capacity for as normal a life as possible. Severely injured workers almost without exception wish to have some normalcy in their life. They have children or grandchildren they hope to hold. They want to dress, walk or go to the bathroom without assistance. They want to be able to do their own shopping, and they literally would like to be able to take a moment, bend over, and smell the roses. An entire system that embraces that knowledge, from employers, TPA’s, brokers, carriers, doctors, regulators and the workers themselves, can improve both outcomes and individual lives. With that return to function we offer a return to normalcy, a return to life, and indeed, a return to work. 

I cannot speak for the committee nor do I even wish to reveal the path we ultimately chose. Suffice it to say we’re on the right track, and have an amazing amount of work ahead of us. But it will be worth it, as it needs to happen. The current trends are not sustainable. Disability rates are on a dramatic rise, being completely dependent on others is becoming socially normalized, and as workers we are getting older by the day. Our knees are wearing out. Our backs are starting to fail. Many of us have no appreciable skills beyond our current jobs. It is a recipe for disaster if we don’t act, and act quickly.

Restoring life and viability by returning to function via the process of workers’ recovery must be the wave of the future. The choice is simple. Embrace the philosophy today or pay for the reality tomorrow. 

What choice will we make?

Photo credit: Chris JL / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

Klickitat County Lumber Company Fined

William Arthur Cooper: Lumber Industry, 1934

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

     The Washington State Department of Labor and Industries announced that a Klickitat County lumber company was fined nearly a quarter of a million dollars after worker gets caught in machinery.

     The SDS Lumber Company of Bingen, Wash., has been fined $244,600 for 69 workplace safety and health violations after a worker was seriously injured in March. The Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) cited the employer for one willful, 54 serious and 14 general violations of safety and health rules. A willful violation is cited when L&I alleges that the violation was committed with intentional disregard, plain indifference, or when employers substitute their own judgment for safety and health regulations.

     L&I determined that a lack of training and proper safety procedures left the lumber mill worker with severe injuries when his arms became entangled in machinery while trying to clear a jam. L&I began an investigation on March 9m 2013 after being notified that the worker had been hospitalized. By law, all employers are required to report to L&I within eight hours anytime a worker is hospitalized or dies due to work-related causes.

     “This incident shows the importance of Washington’s hospitalization reporting rule,” said Anne Soiza, assistant director for L&I’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health. “In most other states, a hospitalization involving only one worker does not have to be reported and the serious hazards could continue unabated. In our state, we are able to send inspectors right away to ensure the safety of the other workers.”

     The investigation found that managers and supervisors were aware that workers routinely bypassed machinery safety guards to try and clear jams while the machinery was still in motion.

     Consequently, the company was cited the maximum penalty allowed by law, $70,000, for a willful violation. Additionally, because the willful violation was associated with a worker’s serious injuries, the company will now be part of the Severe Violator Enforcement Program, an OSHA program that monitors severe safety violators.

     The injury incident prompted comprehensive safety and health inspections of the entire plant. In addition to the machinery violations, the department found serious hazards related to chemicals, hazardous and flammable substances, bloodborne pathogens, confined work spaces, electrical and fall protection. Many of the violations were corrected during the inspections. 

     The company has appealed the citations. 

 

Photo credit: americanartmuseum / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

 

Seattle Shooting – Another Case of Workplace Gun Violence, and Another Call to Action

By working together we can bring an end to gun violence in America

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

    

 

     A man entered a Seattle bar late Sunday night, January 27, 2013, and confronted his ex-girlfriend, brandishing a gun.  The gunman shot both his ex-girlfriend and the doorman before the gunman was fatally shot by Seattle police.  Both the ex-girlfriend and the doorman were taken to Harborview Hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.  Both were victims of senseless gun violence, but the doorman is also a workers’ compensation claimant due to this occurring while he was on-the-job.

 

2012 has been the worst year for these events in modern US history, with 151 victims injured and killed.

 

     Quoting an article published by Mother Jones (Mother Jones Investigates: The NRA Myth of Arming the Good Guys), Washington CeaseFire shared that there have been at least 62 mass shootings in the last three decades, attacks in which the killer took the lives of four or more people (the FBI’s baseline for mass murder) in a public place—a school, a workplace, a mall, a religious building. Seven of them have occurred this year alone. Along with three other similar though less lethal rampages—at a Portland shopping mall, a Milwaukee spa, and a Cleveland high school—2012 has been the worst year for these events in modern US history, with 151 victims injured and killed.

    On Tuesday, January 22nd, Washington CeaseFire presented the results of a statewide poll conducted by Alison Peters Consulting. The poll of 600 randomly selected registered Washington voters reveals a strong preference for stronger gun safety laws on both Eastern and Western sides of the state. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent. Findings included :

  • 76% of state residents support tighter gun laws;
  • 87% support a state law to require that everyone who buys a gun at a gun show undergo a background check;
  • 66% support a state law to ban semi-automatic assault weapons;
  • 68% are in support of a state law to increase mandatory penalties for youth firearm possession, starting with house detention at the first offense ;
  • 68% would support a state law to limit ammunition clips on guns to 10 bullets;  and,
  • 66% of respondents are in support of a state law requiring the signature of local police on every concealed weapons permit application.

     Washington CeaseFire states that it’s time to end gun violence in America, noting that gun deaths outnumber traffic fatalities in Washington and nine other states.  Now is the time to make our voices heard.  Please consider participating in a candlelight vigil and march on February 9, 2013 in Seattle, Washington, co-sponsored by CeaseFire.  More than 1000 people attended a similar march held in January (see prior post for details) and it is hoped that the upcoming vigil and march will draw more attention to this issue.