Author Archives: Leonard Jernigan

North Carolina’s Bathroom Bill

Whether you are a Republican, a Democrat, or a supporter of some other party, don’t we all want fairness and a right to be heard? In North Carolina, those who control the legislature do not seem interested in due process rights.

House Bill 2 (the bathroom bill) was passed and signed by the Governor in 24 hours, without any debate or discussion. I didn’t know there was a problem. Is there a problem? What’s the rush? Where is due process? What happened to a fair hearing?

Fortunately, people are speaking up. People recognize discrimination. They are becoming aware of what’s going on, because it can happen to them. It reminded me of that famous statement in 1946 by a German Pastor, Martin Niemöller:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

Wage Theft in the U.S. Senate

Last year, the Department of Labor (DOL) recovered nearly $247 million in back wages for more than 240,000 workers. Since 2009, the DOL has recovered nearly $1.6 billion in back wages for 1.7 million workers. These amounts are just a fraction of the amount owed to workers because of wage theft (employers not paying workers the amount they have legally and rightfully earned), according to Catherine Rampell, an opinion columnist at The Washington Post.

In July, the DOL ordered a private company that had been hired to run the U.S. Senate cafeteria to pay 674 cafeteria workers $1,008,302 in back wages after the DOL discovered that the company misclassified employees, underpaid employees for the time they worked, and failed to pay required health and welfare benefits since 2010.

Congress, as a whole, has taken little to no action to combat wage theft. In March 2016, Senators Patty Murray and Sherrod Brown and Representative Rosa DeLauro introduced the Wage Theft Prevention and Wage Recovery Act to Congress. The bill would require employers to pay full wages owed to an employee, and would also impose civil penalties on employers for violating the Fair Labor Standards Act. The bill does not have a good chance of being passed into law.

If you have questions or concerns about whether you are being paid properly and for all the hours you work, contact the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division at 1-866-487-9243. If you work in North Carolina, you can also contact the North Carolina Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Bureau at 1-800-625-2267.

Holdrege, Nebraska, BD Plant Cited by OSHA Again

Becton, Dickinson and was recently fined by OSHA for workplace hazards leading to partial amputations of workers’ fingers.

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

“Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA’s role is to ensure these conditions for America’s working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance.”

This paragraph from a recent news release gives an overview of OSHA’s role. In Nebraska, that role comes into focus when investigators look for safety violations, often after a workplace incident that causes injury, as was the case at Becton, Dickinson and Co. in Holdrege in 2015.

Earlier this month, the news release at the link describes how BD was cited for machine hazards in both April and September of 2015. However, in October, in two separate incidents, two different workers “suffered partial amputations of their index fingers” at the Holdrege manufacturing plant.

“The agency has proposed penalties of $112,700,” after finding one repeat and 12 serious safety violations when the amputations were investigated. Best wishes are being sent to the two workers whose lives were altered after their on-the-job injuries.

In this case, it is obvious that the workers’ injuries were related to these specific workplace incidents, because their amputations resulted in an OSHA investigation of the business. But sometimes there are questions when it comes to workers’ compensation in Nebraska. If a business or its insurance company questions or denies a workers’ compensation claim, then it’s time to get help from an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer. Our attorneys are licensed in both Nebraska and Iowa and have decades of experience helping injured workers in situations like the one above, so please contact us if you or a loved one have been hurt on the job.    

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.