Author Archives: Leonard Jernigan

Menards Agrees to Work Law Changes After Violations

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

Check out this article about the large Wisconsin home improvement retailer, Menards, and their previous disregard of workers’ rights: Menards Promises Changes After Violations of Federal Labor Laws.

As other stories have outlined,the company’s handbook allegedly threatened penalties for supervisors if they managed stores that unionized.  These tactics show the (sometimes extreme) lengths some employers may go at the expense of their workers.

Port of Bellingham Ordered to Pay Injured Ferry Worker

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

Seattle Times staff reporter Mike Carter writes that the Port of Bellingham has been ordered to pay $16M in damages to an Alaska Ferries employee injured in 2012.

The verdict was returned Friday, April 1st, after a nine-day trial before U.S. District Judge Marsha Pechman. Jim Jacobsen, one of the attorneys representing the employee, Shannon Adamson, and her husband, Nicholas, of Juneau, said the eight-member jury deliberated about five hours before deciding the case.

The jury found the port negligent for failing to fix a control panel that operated the passenger gangway ramp at the Bellingham Cruise Terminal, even though evidence at the trial showed the port knew the panel was faulty and officials there knew of a previous, similar accident in 2008.

The Bellingham Herald’s Samantha Wohlfeil reported in September of 2014 that the Port of Bellingham Commission had settled a dispute over insurance coverage and was then able to go forward with repairs to the passenger ramp – two years after the accident that injured Ms. Adamson.


Photo Credit: THE BELLINGHAM HERALD

Attack on Workers’ Rights Around the Country

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

As this article correctly notes, “Beware the wolf in sheep’s clothing”!  Our work comp colleague in Pennsylvania are facing further attacks on their workers’ compensation system.  The article astutely points out: “Across the country, in state houses largely influenced by insurance industry interests, there is an insidious attack on workers’ rights masquerading as ‘workers’ compensation reform’.”

These deform measures are creating a race to the bottom across the country for workers’ benefits and rights.  Medical providers and the medical community should be on high alert when legislation mentions fee schedules or treatment guidelines.  Putting aside the political double-speak, many of these legislative efforts result in a direct burden shift for the costs of medical expenses from the worker’s compensation insurance company to the worker (through private health insurance) or the public (in the form of government insurance, like Medicaid and Medicare).  Be aware.

Status of Workers’ Compensation in the United States

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

For all those concerned about worker’s compensation in our country—which really is all citizens—take a look at this important report on the current status of worker’s compensation systems.  The report, from the Worker’s Injury Law & Advocacy Group (WILG) highlights the scary place where some legislators and big businesses want to take worker’s compensation.

Click here for the report. (PDF)

Back Injuries in Nursing – One Nifty Idea to Avoid Them

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

The American Nursing Association’s Handle with Care campaign seeks to educate, advocate, and facilitate change from traditional practices of manual patient handling to emerging, technology-oriented methods. The campaign seeks to highlight how safe patient handling produces benefits to patients and the nursing workforce.  The ANA’s Handle with Care Fact Sheet provides the following thought-provoking data:

A Profession at Risk

  • Compared to other occupations, nursing personnel are among the highest at risk for musculoskeletal disorders. The Bureau of Labor Statistics lists RNs sixth in a list of at-risk occupations for strains and sprains that included nursing personnel, with nurses aides, orderlies and attendants (first); truck drivers (second); laborers (third); stock handlers and baggers (seventh); and construction workers (eighth). 
  • Additional estimates for the year 2000 show that the incidence rate for back injuries involving lost work days was 181.6 per 10,000 full-time workers in nursing homes and 90.1 per 10,000 full-time workers in hospitals, whereas incidence rates were 98.4 for truck drivers, 70.0 for construction workers, 56.3 for miners, and 47.1 for agriculture workers. 
  • Lower back injuries are also the most costly musculoskeletal disorder affecting workers. Studies of back-related workers compensation claims reveal that nursing personnel have the highest claim rates of any occupation or industry. 
  • Research on the impact of musculoskeletal injuries among nurses:
    • 52 percent complain of chronic back pain; 
    • 12 percent of nurses “leaving for good” because of back pain as main contributory factor; 
    • 20% transferred to a different unit, position, or employment because of lower back pain, 12 percent considering leaving profession; 
    • 38 percent suffered occupational-related back pain severe enough to require leave from work; and 
    • 6 percent, 8 percent, and 11 percent of RNs reported even changing jobs for neck, shoulder and back problems, respectively.

One Possible Tool

The website idées créatives posted this elegant video of an automatic bed that could allow for patient repositioning and assist with moving into and out of the bed, shown in a nursing home or hospital setting. 

 

 

 

Employer Fraud in Workers’ Compensation

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

Legislatures around the country (including ours in Wisconsin) seem to be preoccupied with employee fraud in workers’ compensation, despite overwhelming evidence that employee fraud is virtually nonexistent. 

Employer fraud, however, continues to plague the industry.  Over the last decade, my friend and colleague Len Jernigan has published a Top 10 Workers’ Comp Fraud Claims.  The list from 2015 can be found at this link.

None of the Top Ten includes only an injured worker.  The top six of the Top Ten stem from California claims.  Others are from New York, Washington, Utah, and Massachusetts. 

This year’s dollar amounts were particularly substantial, with nearly $850 million in total frauds, the largest being a $580 million kickback scheme out of California.  The California kickback scheme involved surgeons and the owner of a hospital.  The other California claims included FedEx mislabeling their drivers as Independent Contractors in order to avoid insurance, and the owners of a translation service fraudulently billing the workers’ compensation system.  Additional mislabeling involved California truck drivers from Pacer Cartage, which owed over $2 million to seven truckers, due to unlawful payroll deductions and misclassifications as Independent Contractors.

The single case involving a worker is a professional football player from the New York Giants who colluded with a claims adjuster, providing fictitious invoices and statements for more than $1.5 million.  The New York, Washington, and Utah claims also involved misclassification in which no workers’ compensation insurance was paid for actual employees.

Another popular theme is the under-reporting of earners in order to be granted lower insurance premiums.  That scheme was uncovered in Massachusetts, avoiding more than a half million dollars in insurance premiums.

The workers’ compensation insurance industry has done a marvelous job in diverting attention from the real culprits (employers, medical providers, and insurers) to the very rare, but sometimes spectacular claims involving employee fraud.  (A worker claiming permanent and total disability climbing around on rocks is far sexier than a financial officer mischaracterizing his employees in a closed office.)

CNBC: If you’re sitting at your desk, GET UP NOW!

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

Causey Law Firm has taken small steps to implement ergonomic planning in our office.  We have one Varidesk sit/stand desktop conversion in use, like the one shown in the video, as well as a fully convertible sit/stand desk and adjustable-height rolling cart in our file room.  Several people use a FitBit or similar device to encourage and track movement throughout the day. It’s not easy to integrate motion into a desk job, but it can really help!  Take a look at this great piece from CNBC for inspiration:

If you’re reading this article at your desk and you’re sitting, get up. It is one of the best things you can do for your health. If you don’t want to stand, then do something active while you’re sitting. Millions of workers are choosing to do both, thanks to a slew of new office products that are gaining traction — and dollars — fast.

“This is no longer just a one off, it’s a product category,” said Thompson Research Group’s Kathryn Thompson, an analyst who covers the office furniture industry. “Fitness equipment is a critical part of the new office, and it’s really a critical part of the office of the future.”

The “healthy office segment” is the fastest growing sub-sector of the $10 billion office furniture industry, and Thompson estimates it could grow to one-third of the industry in the next three to five years. Workers and employers alike are demanding it. 

“Good health makes good economic sense,” Thompson said.

Attention to workplace fitness really ramped up in just the last few years, after the Mayo Clinic published a study on the detrimental effects of sitting for long periods of time. Mayo’s Dr. James Levine is credited with coining the term “sitting is the new smoking.” He is also inventor of a treadmill desk.

Read the rest of the article here…

 

Medical Records Important for Workers’ Compensation Claim

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

Medical records are necessary to substantiate an injured worker’s claim. At a minimum, injured workers and attorneys need the records from doctors and hospitals to show the diagnoses the workers have and the treatment that they have received. This includes records from physical therapy, MRI, pain management, orthopedic, etc.  

Every injured worker has a right to receive her or his medical records, and by law should be able to obtain those records promptly at a fair cost.

Federal law is clear: a patient has the “right to obtain from [their health care providers] a copy of [their medical records] in an electronic format,” 42 USC § 17935(e)(1), and that health care providers may bill “only the cost of … copying, including the cost of supplies for and labor of copying,” 45 CFR 164.524(c)(4)(i). This is all part of the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH Act).

Rehm, Bennett & Moore employs the HITECH Act on behalf of injured clients to represent them in an efficient and cost-effective manner.