Too-young-to-die-1.jpg

Young Workers More Likely to Get Hurt

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

 

If you are a younger worker, you are more likely to get hurt on the job.  That is the conclusion in a recent interesting article in Occupational Health & Safety: Protecting our Future: Young Worker Safety on the Job.

The article offers theories on why younger workers are hurt more often, as well as suggestions on what employers can do to protect their workers.   In many instances, younger workers are performing more physical jobs, lack experience or proper training, and may be less likely to speak up or ask questions about what is being required.  The article offers some great suggestions for employers, including:

Remember that young workers are not just ‘little adults.’ You must be mindful of the unique aspects of communicating with young workers.”

This is a helpful reminder for all of us in positions of authority or supervision.

It should be noted that younger workers (under age 27 in Wisconsin) carry a “presumption” of maximum earnings for permanency benefits.  Wisconsin law recognizes that a worker’s earning capacity before age 27 may not be an adequate representation of their actual earning power/capacity.  Injured workers–under age 27–are wise (beyond their years) to consult with an experienced attorney. 

dib1.jpg

I Can’t Do My Old Job, So I Qualify for Disability, Right?

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

It’s not uncommon for workers to expect to qualify for disability when they are unable to work in a job that they have held for years. The question becomes does that mean they are disabled under Social Security Administration rules? As in most cases in dealing with the law, the answer is maybe!

For workers under the age of 50, applicants must prove that they are also unable to obtain any work in the general economy, even if they can’t do their typical jobs. This includes unskilled work, and the SSA makes no distinction for what type of pay cut a worker must accept to remain gainfully employed. For instance, let’s assume a worker was earning $20 an hour as an electrician, but could no longer handle the rigors of that employment. If that person can do a minimum-wage job full time or at the level of substantial gainful employment as set by the SSA, then a person is not considered disabled under the SSA rules. Many people are surprised that the SSA would require this. Even if jobs don’t exist within the current labor market, the SSA would require a worker to move herself to a larger market to continue to be employed. 

For individuals over the age of 50, the primary question is did they acquire skills from prior employment that would enable them to transition into other employment areas. If those skills would allow the worker to transition to alternate employment, then they are not considered disabled. If those skills are too specialized and don’t easily transition to alternate employment, the worker may very may well be disabled, according to SSA rules.

new_employee.jpg

New Employees Face Higher Risk, Harder Consequences for Work Injuries

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

As the holiday season approaches, many people will take on second or holiday jobs. Workers taking on such jobs will be taking on a heightened risk of injury. One academic study showed that temporary employees are two to three times more likely to be injured. An Omaha-based construction company found that 65 percent of lost-time injuries took place in the first 90 days of employment (this link is a downloadable presentation). This blog post will describe some causes of injury and then talk about some particular challenges faced by new employees who are injured.

Slips, trips and falls are the most common cause of work injury. This hazard can be particularly acute during the winter in retail and restaurant jobs because customers will track in snow and other moisture. Strain from lifting is also a common injury. Warehouse work is in high demand over the holiday season, and one risk particular to such work is the risk of falling pallets or boxes.

One challenge that new employees face when they get hurt is how to calculate their disability benefits. A worker may not have been employed long enough for an employer and/or insurer to accurately determine how much the employee should be paid in benefits after getting hurt. One approach may to be base this benefit rate on pay of similarly situated co-workers. If you believe you are getting shortchanged on benefits because you were a new employee when you were hurt, you should contact a lawyer.

Workers’ compensation is supposed to pay you benefits regardless of your fault in the injury. But fault can still play a role in work-injury claims. If your injury was the fault of someone other than your employer or a co-worker, then you might be able to pursue a negligence case against that party. Unfortunately, some employers have tried to reintroduce fault into the workers’ compensation system, to the detriment of newer employees. Some employers will fire or discipline employees who have preventable or lost-time accidents during the beginning of their employment. In my view, such policies amount to employers almost admitting that they are retaliating against employees who get hurt at work. If you have been disciplined under such a policy, you should contact an attorney.

8225598402_a410c23539_c.jpg

ACA Health Insurance Open Enrollment Begins November 1st

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

In Washington State, we have a healthcare exchange at www.wahealthplanfinder.org. If this is your first time obtaining health insurance through the WA State exchange, a little preparation and planning will help you through the process.  Gather the documents and information you will need to complete your online application.

Download a checklist of information you will need to apply.

Set aside time to work on your application.  Early morning or late evenings may be less busy and allow faster progress through the application program. Note that the website is down overnight from 10:00 pm to 2:00 am daily.  As you work through the application, save your work.  If you need, you can return to the application to complete it at a later time. 

Quick Tips for Completing the Application.

Workers’ Compensation Benefits are Not Taxable Income. Do NOT over-report your income by including time loss compensation in your in application.  You may qualify for insurance for you and your family at a much lower cost while you are receiving time loss compensation benefits.

Savings are based on your expected household income for the year you want coverage, not last year’s income. The exchange uses an income number called modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) to determine eligibility for savings. It’s not a line on your tax return.

See what’s included in MAGI and how to estimate it.

You can get free, in-person help from a navigator or broker. They can help you fill out the application and enroll in coverage. Search for a navigator or broker by your zip code or language preference. You can also call the Customer Support Center at 1-855-923-4633 for help with the application process.

Photo credit: ccPixs.com via Foter.com / CC BY

howard_and_michael.png

Labor Report Urges Study Of A Federal Role In State Workers’ Comp Laws

Howard Berkes and Michael Grabell have been investigating the decline of workers compensation for Pro Publica and NPR.

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

Howard Berkes and Michael Grabell have been shining a light on the deterioration of state workers’ compensation benefits over the last decade. A new U.S. Department of Labor report bolsters their investigative journalism, noting that those hurt on the job are at “great risk of falling into poverty” because state workers’ compensation systems are failing to provide them with adequate benefits.

The Workers Injury Litigation Group (WILG) has been fighting against this decline for 20 years, and we will continue to advocate for fair benefits for injured workers. The following is a summary of Mr. Berkes and Grabell’s recent article:

A “race to the bottom” in state workers’ compensation laws has the Labor Department calling for “exploration” of federal oversight and federal minimum benefits.

“Working people are at great risk of falling into poverty,” the agency says in a new report on changes in state workers’ comp laws. Those changes have resulted in “the failure of state workers’ compensation systems to provide [injured workers] with adequate benefits.”

In the last decade, the report notes, states across the country have enacted new laws, policies and procedures “which have limited benefits, reduced the likelihood of successful application for workers’ compensation benefits, and/or discouraged injured workers from applying for benefits.”

The 44-page report was prompted by a letter last fall from 10 prominent Democratic lawmakers, who urged Labor Department action to protect injured workers in the wake of a ProPublica/NPR series on changes in workers’ comp laws in 33 states.

The ProPublica/NPR stories featured injured workers who lost their homes, were denied surgeries or were even denied prosthetic devices recommended by their doctors.

A “race to the bottom” in state workers’ compensation laws has the Labor Department calling for “exploration” of federal oversight and federal minimum benefits.

“Working people are at great risk of falling into poverty,” the agency says in a new report on changes in state workers’ comp laws. Those changes have resulted in “the failure of state workers’ compensation systems to provide [injured workers] with adequate benefits.”

In the last decade, the report notes, states across the country have enacted new laws, policies and procedures “which have limited benefits, reduced the likelihood of successful application for workers’ compensation benefits, and/or discouraged injured workers from applying for benefits.”

The 44-page report was prompted by a letter last fall from 10 prominent Democratic lawmakers, who urged Labor Department action to protect injured workers in the wake of a ProPublica/NPR series on changes in workers’ comp laws in 33 states.

The ProPublica/NPR stories featured injured workers who lost their homes, were denied surgeries or were even denied prosthetic devices recommended by their doctors.

“The current situation warrants a significant change in approach in order to address the inadequacies of the system,” the report says.

That’s where federal intervention comes in. The Labor Department calls for “exploration” of “the establishment of standards that would trigger increased federal oversight if workers’ compensation programs fail to meet those standards.”

The agency also suggests a fresh look at reestablishing a 1972 Nixon administration commission that recommended minimum benefits and urged Congress to act if states failed to comply.

“In this critical area of the social safety net, the federal government has basically abdicated any responsibility,” says Labor Secretary Thomas Perez.

Without minimum federal standards for workers’ comp benefits, Perez adds, the current system “is really putting workers who are hurt on the job on a pathway to poverty.”

Prior to the report’s release, employers, insurance companies and others involved in workers’ comp programs expressed alarm at the possibility of federal intervention.

“There has never been federal ‘oversight of state workers’ compensation programs’,” says a statement posted on the website of a group called Strategic Services on Unemployment and Workers’ Compensation, which says it represents the workers’ comp interests of the business community.

“Federal requirements imposed on a national basis would be inconsistent with the state workers’ compensation system, which has been in place for more than 100 years without federal oversight,” the group wrote.

Federal minimum benefits could ensure that injured workers across the country would not receive lesser benefits for often shorter periods of time simply because they lived in a state where lawmakers dramatically cut workers’ comp costs for employers.

“This is a system with no federal minimum standards and absolutely no federal oversight,” says Deborah Berkowitz, a senior fellow at the National Employment Law Project. “Clearly, more federal oversight is necessary to assure that that this system works for those most in need of assistance.”

No direct administrative or legislative action is proposed in the report, but Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, says he’s “drafting legislation to address many of the troubling findings laid out in this report and will be working with my colleagues to advance it in the next Congress.” 

Brown echoes Perez, saying injuries on the job shouldn’t force workers into poverty.

“But without a basic standard for workers compensation programs, that’s exactly what’s happening in too many states across the country,” Brown adds. 

Another incentive for federal involvement, the report notes, is a shift of billions of dollars in workplace injury costs to taxpayers when state workers’ comp benefits fall short and workers are forced to turn to Medicare and Social Security for treatment and lost wages.

The report lays the groundwork for federal intervention by providing an extensive section detailing the government’s role in promoting national benefits standards in both Republican and Democratic administrations dating back to 1939.

But many in the workers’ comp world consider workplace injury policy and regulation a states’ right and any prospect of a controlling federal role will likely face stiff resistance.

Traffic-Tickets-in-North-Carolina-89.jpg

Hidden Fees In North Carolina

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

NBC Nightly News reported on December 9, 2015 that North Carolina is one of the worst states when it comes to charging hidden fees for traffic tickets. The segment reported that hidden fees in NC increased an original traffic ticket of $30 over seven fold to $218. While the State has to find funding for the many services they provide that are not profitable, NBC News reported that some of these “hidden fees” pay partly for court costs. But there might be more appropriate places to assess fines to cover court costs.

In 2014 the UNC School of Government wrote a blog based on the Court of Appeals decision in Tyll v. Berry, stating that a party held in civil contempt for failing to obey a court order can be assessed a fine, not just imprisonment.  However, the State Legislature just passed a law clarifying that when someone is found to be in civil contempt a monetary fine is not an appropriate remedy.

Seems to me that a fine is exactly the appropriate remedy when a party fails to obey a court order and that such a fine, payable to the court rather than the opposing party, could be a valuable source of funding for court-related costs. Fines for civil contempt could also alleviate some of the pressure to assess large “hidden fees” for minor traffic violations.  

Read more here: http://nccriminallaw.sog.unc.edu/thought-you-understood-contempt-think-again/

Voter ID (aka Suppression) in Wisconsin

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

On the heels of Wisconsin’s election results this past Tuesday, we are starting to see the potential true intent of the state voter ID law: vote supression.

One former Republican staffer expressed his views about Republican giddiness about the voter ID laws and the opportunity to suppress the voting power of certain group.

Then, on election night, we see an a Republican congressman–on the televised news!–explicitly state that the voter ID law will “make a difference” for Republicans in upcoming elections.

Reports of any alleged voter “fraud” is just a red herring.  We are seeing what many expected all along–the true intent of voter ID law is to eliminate certain voters and votes.  What an undemocratic callous and insidious idea.  If your party’s policy and positions do not hold enough weight to gain a majority of votes, let’s impose voter ID to gain an unfair advantage and suppress the vote.

corrections_officer.jpg

Honor Workers this Labor Day by Supporting Corrections’ Employees

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

Labor Day is to honor workers. We must never forget that. Labor unions have worked long and hard to improve the lives of workers. Safety and reduction of injury is one area that directly benefits all workers.

Most workplaces are safer than they were a decade ago. In Nebraska, correction workers are experiencing dramatic and frightening increases in violence and injury.

The stories of riots and inmates assaulting workers are all too frequent.  The root cause is simple. We don’t have enough corrections workers. This also seems to be the case in Iowa.

The Nebraska Association of Public Employees/American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees is fighting hard to get the governor of Nebraska to get more hands on deck and hire more workers to protect all corrections officers.

Wouldn’t it be great as Labor Day approaches if the governor decided to add more corrections officers and make that workplace safer? I don’t think we should hold our breaths for that to happen, but one can hope.

We can all lend our voices to support NAPE/AFSCME in its efforts. Keep up the good work!