Is it Illegal to Discriminate Against Me on the Job Because of My Accent?

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

Contrary to popular opinion, many immigrants work in professional and white-collar jobs. The explosive growth of immigration to the United States means that more immigrants will work in white-collar jobs in the United States. Since white collar jobs often require verbal communication, immigrants employed in white-collar professions and their employers will increasingly face the question of whether it is legal to discriminate on the basis of accent. 

Most federal and state courts that have addressed the issue believe that it is illegal for employees to discriminate based on accent if that discrimination is tied to nationality. Courts have even gone so far as to state that nationality and accent are intertwined, which means that they take such discrimination seriously. However, courts understand that employers have an interest in clear verbal communication. So what steps should you take if you think you are being discriminated against because of your accent? 

  1. Apply for a promotion for which you are qualified: Discrimination is only actionable if the company takes some action against you. One so-called adverse action is a failure to promote. If you are a trusted and valued employee, a company will often give you a reason why you were not promoted. If this reason is related to your accent, you can often get a decision maker to say as much. Legally, this is considered direct evidence of discrimination.
  2. If possible, reach out to other foreign-born employees in your workplace: If other foreign-born employees are being discriminated against for the same or similar reasons, it makes sense to work with them, as it can show a pattern by the employer. Also, when employees work together to fight discrimination, they are not just protected by civil rights laws, but they are also protected under the National Labor Relations Act.
  3. If possible, contact an employment attorney in your area before you decide to take action:  Every situation is different, and laws vary from state to state. A lawyer can give you tips about how to potentially build a case, can give you advice about actions and tactics to avoid, and can advise you about any legal deadlines that might apply to your potential case.

Countertop Workers Face Silicosis Risk from Engineered Stone Countertops

Engineered stone countertops, a popular fixture in today’s homes, pose a health risk to workers who cut and finish them. The danger stems from the material the countertops are made from, processed quartz, which contains silica levels up to 90 percent. Silica is linked to a debilitating and potentially deadly lung disease known as silicosis, as well as lung cancer and kidney disease.

While the countertops do not pose a risk to consumers in their homes, they do pose a risk to the workers who cut and finish them before they are installed. When the countertops are cut, silica particles are released into the air, which when breathed in by the workers can start processes leading to silicosis. Manufacturers of the engineered stone countertops assert that worker hazards can be reduced through the use of protective respirators and equipment designed to trap silica dust. Despite this assertion, many safety precautions taken by employers are often inadequate.

The first documented case of silicosis among countertop workers in the United States was reported two years ago. In countries such as Israel and Spain, where engineered stone products gained their popularity, many more countertop workers have been diagnosed with silicosis and have had to undergo lung transplants. The danger of silicosis in the construction industry led OSHA to recently issue new rules requiring construction workers’ silica exposure to be reduced by 80 percent beginning on June 23, 2017.

Eastern Washington Painter Accused of Illegal Contracting Agrees to Stop

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

A Colville, WA painter facing criminal charges of unregistered contracting agreed this week to stop working illegally.

Terry Foster, 82, agreed in court that he must register with the state and pay court fees if he works as a construction contractor. He’s accused of working as a painter without registering with the Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) and, in the past, has received nine civil infractions for unregistered contracting.

If Foster follows through with the agreement, breaks no criminal laws and pays $300 in court fees, criminal charges against him will be dismissed in two years, according to the Washington Attorney General’s Office.

If he violates any conditions of the agreement, the case will be reset for trial.

Faced three charges

Foster had faced three charges of unregistered contracting in Stevens County District Court in Colville, about 70 miles north of Spokane. Each is a gross misdemeanor punishable by up to 364 days in jail, a $5,000 fine or both.

He had been doing business under his own name and as “Terry the Consultant” and “Terry the Painter.” He served on the Colville City Council from late 2010 through April 2015.  

Tips from frustrated contractors

The case resulted from an L&I investigation. According to charging papers, L&I inspectors caught Foster or his son painting in Colville in 2013 and 2015 and in Chewelah in 2014. Contractors who were frustrated at having to compete against an unregistered contractor tipped off L&I to the job sites.

Since 2008, L&I has issued Foster nine civil infractions for unregistered contracting. The department is trying to collect more than $30,000 in fines and more than $130,000 for workers’ compensation insurance premiums that he owes L&I.

Law protects consumers, legal contractors

State law requires construction contractors to register with L&I, which confirms they are insured and bonded and meet other requirements. L&I can issue violators a civil infraction, refer them for criminal prosecution or both.

The registration requirement gives consumers some recourse if they have problems with a contractor, and prevents unregistered contractors from gaining an unfair advantage over law-abiding contractors.

 

Consumers can check whether contractors are registered at www.Lni.wa.gov/Verify.

 

Photo credit: Alain Wibert via Foter.com / CC BY-ND

Nationwide Decrease and Attack on Worker’s Compensation Benefits

Bernie Sanders and nine other federal legislators sent a letter to the Dept. of Labor scrutinizing increasing attacks on workers’ rights.

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

Recent news stories have begun to shed light on the ever-increasing attack on worker’s compensation benefits around the nation.   Further awareness has spurred legislators to action.  Click here for a recent letter from federal legislators to the Department of Labor Secretary to scrutinize what is happening to workers and worker’s rights in this country.
 
It does not appear any state is immune from these worker’s compensation “deform” proposals.  Rumblings in Wisconsin suggest proposed changes to our nationally-recognized model are coming.  We will keep Wisconsin workers and taxpayers informed as information occurs. 
 
We must always remember that as worker’s compensation benefits decrease and eligibility criteria become more difficult, the taxpayers are often left holding the bag.  Accidents unfortunately still happen.  Workers get hurt.  Medical treatment is needed.   If an employer or worker’s compensation insurance company avoids liability, those costs are shifted to the taxpayers through government-funded insurance (Medicaid/Medicare) and other social safety net mechanisms.   Legislators must be careful to not shift the cost of a work injury from the cost of doing business (employer) to the taxpayers.

Daylight Savings: Suggestions to help workers adapt to the time change

Today’s post was shared by Work Org and Stress and comes from blogs.cdc.gov

DaylightSavingsTimeWeb

Spring forward Fall back.

We all know the saying to help us remember to adjust our clocks for the daylight savings time changes (this Sunday in case you are wondering). But, what can we do to help workers adjust to the effects of the time change? A few studies have examined these issues but many questions remain on this topic including the best strategies to cope with the time changes.

By moving the clocks ahead one hour in the Spring, we lose one hour which shifts work times and other scheduled events one hour earlier. This pushes most people to have a one hour earlier bedtime and wake up time. In the Fall, time moves back one hour. We gain one hour which shifts work times and other scheduled events one hour later thereby pushing most people to have a one hour later bedtime and wake up time.

It can take about one week for the body to adjust the new times for sleeping, eating, and activity (Harrision, 2013). Until they have adjusted, people can have trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, and waking up at the right time. This can lead to sleep deprivation and reduction in performance, increasing the risk for mistakes including vehicle crashes. Workers can experience somewhat higher risks to both their health and safety after the time changes (Harrison, 2013). A study by Kirchberger and colleagues (2015) reported men and persons with heart disease may be at higher risk for a heart attack during the week after the time changes in the Spring and Fall.

The reason for these…

[Click here to see the rest of this post]

What I Wish I Had Known Earlier in My Workers’ Compensation Claim – Thoughts from a Former Client

What I Wish I Had Known Earlier in My Workers’ Compensation Claim – Thoughts from a Former Client

We frequently reach out to our clients for feedback on how to improve our services. Earlier this year, we received a very thoughtful email from one of our former clients and wanted to share his thoughts.

What I Wish I had Known Earlier

1.  Filing the workers’ compensation claim:  Employees need to know how to properly file a workers’ compensation claim. Also, there needs to be a list prepared for all employers and employees that sets out the steps both of them need to take. 

2.  Nurse Case Manager:  I wish I had better understood the nurse case manager’s role at the outset of the case. I wish I had known everything she was capable of doing, aside from just reporting to the adjuster.

3.  Emotional Toll:  The magnitude of emotional stress involved in going through a workers’ compensation claim was a surprise; was there an option for counseling? This is truly a life changing event. Counseling would have been beneficial to alleviate the stressfulness of the process and the overwhelming feelings of abandonment.  For example, the feelings of “I know I’m hurt but why can’t they see that” or “why don’t they care?”

4.  Communication:  The importance of discussing issues with an attorney as early as possible.

If you have been through a workers’ compensation claim, let us know if you have other items to add. 

Workers’ Compensation Fraud – North Carolina Statistics for 2014 – 2015

Several months ago, the North Carolina Industrial Commission published their Annual Report for 2014 – 2015. Based on the Annual Report, employer fraud was by far the overwhelming majority of investigated fraud in the North Carolina workers’ compensation system.

 

The Annual Report tracked investigations of suspected fraud and violations related to workers’ compensation involving employees, employers, insurers, health care providers, attorneys, and rehabilitation providers. The total figure of fraud investigations for 2014 – 2015 was 1,474 cases. Of those 1,474 cases, 1,336 cases related to employer fraud. That means that 90.64% of the investigated workers’ comp fraud was fraud on the part of the employer.  Whereas there were 129 cases of suspected employee fraud (i.e. 8.75% of the total investigated fraud cases).

 

The silver lining? Of the employer fraud that was prosecuted, the State of North Carolina was able to collect nearly $1,000,000 in revenue just in 2014 – 2015 in fraud penalties paid by noncompliant employers. 

Insult to Injury: ProPublica’s Series “Demolition of Workers’ Compensation” Focuses on Ongoing Workers’ Comp Woes Faced by Injured Workers Nationally

Recent years have not been favorable to injured workers. States across the nation have enacted “reform” measures curbing injured workers benefits. Disability caps have been introduced, medical care restricted. In our last blog, we discussed Oklahoma’s Opt Out provisions as an example of the court system declaring that the legislature had legislated away too much of the injured worker’s protections. A couple years ago, Florida workers’ comp laws were declared unconstitutional by a judge. Although the decision was later reversed, the Florida judge (Judge Cueto) expressed concerns regarding the loss of an employee’s right to wage-loss benefits after an accident.  

 

NPR and ProPublica have been authoring an in-depth series on national workers’ compensation issues. ProPublica reviewed “reams of insurance industry data” and their findings confirmed what many workers’ compensation attorneys suspected for years:  insurance companies are increasingly controlling medical decisions, workers are unable to pick their own doctor in many states, and insurers are denying medical care based on internal “guidelines.”

 

As an example, ProPublica’s article talks about a case in California where the insurance company reopened an old case and denied medical care based on the opinion of a doctor who never even saw the patient. “Joel Ramirez, who was paralyzed in a warehouse accident, had his home health aide taken away, leaving him to sit in his own feces for up to eight hours.”

 

The article also brings up a good point about workers’ comp fraud. Repeatedly studies show “most of the money lost to fraud results not from workers making false claims but from employers misclassifying workers and underreporting payroll to get cheaper insurance rates.”