Halloween: a Holiday for Children … and the Young at Heart

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trick or treatersGuest author Jon L Gelman LLC in New Jersey wrote today’s Halloween safety tips blog post. But just who is Halloween for? It seems these days that Halloween decorations rival the Christmas displays of a couple of decades ago. But does this decadence translate into more fun and understanding for kids? Although I greatly appreciate the enthusiasm the young at heart bring to the party, I would argue that you’re only a kid once, and there’s even a blog post going around that rightly argues to allow even teens to hold on to a childhood ritual of trick-or-treating that one last time, even if it’s for only one night. Halloween also elicits many different emotions in children, even from year to year, but as a parent, I hope for great inclusivity for all children.

Although Halloween comes every year for us adults, it’s important to remember that many children are more impulsive and are more likely to “forget” the rules because they’re excited for the evening’s plans. Especially if you’re working or driving on Halloween, I would add to the tips below by saying to really watch out for trick-or-treaters, regardless of the weather, because even on a clear, bright afternoon, some high-energy kids are challenged by looking both ways to cross the street.

In addition, as a parent of a small child, thanks in advance to everyone who opens up their homes by giving out treats to costumed children. I would also encourage thoughts of continued understanding, so the trick-or-treating experience can be the best one possible for all children who go.

Something that may be a safety tip for many children is to be mindful that different children approach Halloween differently, and it’s not always obvious that a child may be having challenges. There are so many examples I can give, but one that comes to mind includes, for a painfully shy child, just saying trick-or-treat and thank you at each house may be an effort in social graces. And trick-or-treaters on the autism spectrum may not be able to speak at all. Trick-or-treaters with Sensory Processing Disorders might not be able to even wear a costume!

In addition, food allergies are much more prevalent. For my family, Halloween safety tips include bringing a charged cell phone, packing our Auvi-Q epinephrine shots to respond if our child were to have a reaction, and making sure he doesn’t eat anything with nuts or with nut warnings on the wrappers. And bless people for trying, but I don’t think anyone these days takes treats that are homemade, so those are better shared with loved ones. (Fortunately, we don’t have airborne allergies, so it is relatively safe for our son to do trick-or-treating, but we practice what he is to say and do numerous times before the actual trick-or-treating. Different parents have different comfort levels for what they’re willing to expose their children with allergies to, so we respect that, too.)

So for those kind enough to give treats, please don’t take it personally if the response from the trick-or-treater isn’t what you expected. Because in addition to the safety tips below, many families are being as safe as they can for their individual situations, and those needs aren’t readily obvious on the holiday.

Thanks in advance for the empathy and for looking out for the community’s children on one of the biggest and scariest days of the year. Please don’t be offended if something doesn’t go as planned – let’s make it the best Halloween for the kids, and let’s hope trick-or-treaters take and enjoy the nut-free, individually wrapped pretzel packets that we’re leaving on the porch for them!

Halloween traditionally infers scary and dark. Those elements, complicated by sensory limiting costumes and environment, gives rise to the need for elevated safety concerns in the workplace and at-home surrounding Halloween events.

From a fall resulting in a dislocated shoulder, to an open flame resulting in second degree burns, each year the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) receives reports of injuries involving Halloween-related costumes, décor, and lighting. These incidents are preventable. Using CPSC’s three-step safety check (pdf), consumers can ensure that their fright night fun is not haunted by Halloween injuries

“Too often Halloween make believe has resulted in real life injury,” said CPSC Chairman Inez Tenenbaum. “Fortunately, prevention is simple. Choose flameless candles, flame-retardant materials, and well-fitting costumes to reduce the risk of injury this Halloween.”

With CPSC’s quick and easy Halloween safety check (pdf) and just five minutes of inspection, consumers can avoid problems that previously have plagued the trick-or-treat trail. This safety check will help consumers to: (1) prevent fires and burns, (2) ensure that kids can see and be seen, and (3) outfit kids for safety.

Halloween-related incidents can involve a number of hazards, including burns from flammable costumes that come into contact with open flames-particularly candles used to illuminate jack-o-lanterns; falls and abrasions from ill-fitting costumes, shoes, and accessories; and fires caused by burning candles left unattended, near combustible decorations or knocked over by kids and pets.

The federal Flammable Fabrics Act (FFA) requires costumes sold at retail to be flame-resistant. To prevent costume-related burns, CPSC enforces this requirement and recalls costumes and other products that violate the FFA. When making a costume at home, CPSC encourages consumers to use fabrics that inherently are flame resistant, such as nylon and polyester.

According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), Halloween ranks among the top 5 days of the year for candle-related fires. To prevent candle fires, CPSC encourages consumers never to leave a burning candle unattended. Battery-operated flameless candles and other flameless lighting are safe alternatives to traditional candles.

Unique jack o’ lanterns and creatively-carved pumpkins are a new popular trend. Read CPSC’s OnSafety blog on pumpkin-carving injuries and how to prevent them

Additional safety tips to help make this year’s holiday safe:

Decorations

Halloween DecorationsKeep candles and jack o’ lanterns away from landings and doorsteps, where costumes could brush against the flame.

Remove obstacles from lawns, steps, and porches when expecting trick-or-treaters.
When indoors, keep candles and jack o’ lanterns away from curtains, decorations, and other items that could ignite. Do not leave burning candles unattended.

Whether indoors or outside, use only decorative light strands that have been tested for safety by a recognized testing laboratory. Check each set of lights, new or old, for broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires, or loose connections. Discard damaged sets.

Don’t overload extension cords.

Costumes

Halloween costumes

When purchasing costumes, masks, beards, and wigs, look for flame-resistant fabrics, such as nylon or polyester; or look for the label “Flame Resistant.” Flame-resistant fabrics will resist burning and should extinguish quickly. To reduce the risk of contact with candles and other fire sources, avoid costumes made with flimsy materials and outfits with big, baggy sleeves, large capes, or billowing skirts.

Purchase or make costumes that are light colored, bright, and clearly visible to motorists.
For greater visibility during dusk and darkness, decorate or trim costumes with reflective tape that will glow in the beam of a car’s headlights. Bags or sacks also should be light-colored or decorated with reflective tape. Reflective tape is usually available in hardware, bicycle, and sporting goods stores.

Children should carry flashlights to be able to see and to be seen.

To guard against trips and falls, costumes should fit well and not drag on the ground.
Children should wear well-fitting, sturdy shoes. High heels are not a good idea.
Tie hats and scarves securely to prevent them from slipping over children’s eyes and obstructing their vision.

If your child wears a mask, make sure it fits securely, provides adequate ventilation, and has holes for eyes large enough to allow full vision.

Swords, knives, and similar costume accessories should be made of soft, flexible material.

Treats

halloween treatsChildren should not eat any treats before an adult has examined them carefully for evidence of tampering.

Carefully examine any toys or novelty items received by trick-or-treaters who are younger than 3 years of age. Do not allow young children to have any items that are small enough to present a choking hazard or that have small parts or components that could separate during use and present a choking hazard.

Here’s Rehm, Bennett & Moore’s Slate for the Nov. 4 Nebraska Election

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We support Chuck Hassebrook for Governor of Nebraska

We support Chuck Hassebrook for Governor of Nebraska

Election Day is only 7 days away. Elections are very important for our clients and their families. Voting for good candidates helps protect your rights to receive proper compensation for injuries, lost earnings and damages.

We are supporting the following Nebraska candidates because we believe they will be supportive of preserving, defending, and improving our civil justice system, workers’ compensation law, and the judiciary.

Chuck Hassebrook for Governor

Legislative Candidates supported by NATA (Nebraska Association of Trial Attorneys) PAC:

Election Day is November 4th. Please vote. Your vote is important. We recognize a lot of issues are involved in the decision of whom to support. We believe that this list of candidates will support laws and judges that will protect our clients and their families’ right to full and fair justice.

If you need assistance getting to the polls or don’t know your district, feel free to contact Rod Rehm or Jon Rehm.

Beware of Medicare Scams

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Today’s blog post comes from respected colleague Mr. Leonard Jernigan of The Jernigan Law Firm, who practices law in North Carolina.

Many of us have older loved ones who benefit from Medicare. Another group who are eligible for Medicare is those who have been on Social Security Disability for two years. Often, navigating the choices of the part D prescription plan and other Medicare enrollment options can be overwhelming and challenging, so it’s a decision made with the advice of others. If you’re involved with helping make choices for a loved one during the Medicare open enrollment that is going on until December 7, please discuss this blog post, too.

As is quoted in Mr. Jernigan’s blog, “Medicare will never call you and ask for your personal information, such as your Medicare number, over the phone. Never,” says CMS spokesman Aaron Albright. That’s especially important to understand because giving one’s Social Security number out opens that person to identify theft and a host of other potential problems.

Please continue to take care when sharing your personal information, and encourage your loved ones to do the same.

            It’s open enrollment season for Medicare, and that means increased risk of scams. Medicare beneficiaries can make changes to their policies from October 15 to December 7. So during this time, be on the lookout for identity thieves, calling to get your information by posing as government agents. Don’t answer any calls or give any information to anyone claiming they need to “verify” your Medicare number (which is usually the same as your Social Security number) in order to issue you a new card. There are no actual plans to issue new Medicare cards and “Medicare will never call you and ask for your personal information, such as your Medicare number, over the phone. Never,” says CMS spokesman Aaron Albright.

             Take precautions. As a general rule, never give out your account numbers. Medicare, Bank Account or otherwise. Additionally, monitor your records carefully for unusual activity, including your Medicare Summary Notice that you should receive quarterly. Don’t fall for offers of free supplies in exchange for your credit card number for shipping charges.

             Be careful during this open enrollment season through December 7 and be on the lookout for scammers.

 For more information, check out the source of this article by Sid Kirchheimer from AARP called “Beware of the Fall Frauds” located at http://www.aarp.org/money/scams-fraud/info-2014/medicare-open-enrollment-scams.html.

Photo Source: http://www.ivhp.com/Site/DontbeaVictimofMedicareScams.aspx

Are You Kidding Me? Jimmy John’s Makes Sandwich Makers Sign Non-Compete Agreements

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I thought I was reading “The Onion” when I read that Jimmy John’s was forcing lowly paid sandwich makers in Illinois to sign non-compete agreements. Unfortunately, this is true, and that is tragic for Jimmy John’s employees and employees everywhere.

If there is a silver lining to this dark cloud for employees, it is that these agreements are generally not enforceable. My reading of Nebraska law leads me to believe that a non-compete agreement for a sandwich maker would not be enforceable. In Nebraska, non-compete agreements are only enforceable if 1) they are not injurious to the public and 2) protect some legitimate interest of the employer and 3) are not unduly harsh and oppressive upon the employee. Obviously these non-competes are unduly oppressive and harsh to employees, but they likely also do not protect a legitimate interest of Jimmy John’s. Employers can be protected from unfair, but not ordinary, competition. What unfair competitive advantage can an $8-per-hour sandwich maker give to another sandwich-making shop? Nebraska has struck down non-compete agreements for much more highly paid workers, like sales professionals whose livelihood depends on building relationships with customers. I cannot see how any court could equate a sandwich maker making the minimum wage with a highly-compensated software or farm-products salesperson.

But such legal reasoning is cold comfort for a low-wage worker who is stuck with one of these agreements. Such treatment of Jimmy John’s and fast-food workers in general explains efforts to unionize Jimmy John’s workers and other fast-food workers. If you are a food worker who receives one of these non-compete agreements, I would be happy to consult with you. I would also encourage you to visit jimmyjohsnworkers.org and/or fightfor15.org.

Also remember that an election is 12 days away in Nebraska, Iowa, and most of the rest of the country. Please get out and vote, and vote for candidates who support employee rights.

Does Workers’ Compensation Cover Ebola?

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The recent news of Ebola in the United States has given me pause to think whether the nurses in Texas who contracted the Ebola virus are covered under the workers’ compensation system.

Here in Nebraska, the nurses with Ebola would almost certainly be covered. In Nebraska, occupational diseases are covered as long as the illness or injury was peculiar to the particular trade or employment. Generally, regular diseases that the general public is exposed to are not covered occupational diseases. For example, influenza, colds, or even MRSA (a type of antibiotic-resistant infection) would probably not be covered for a healthcare worker. Those diseases could be contracted in limitless places or circumstances. However unlike those diseases, I would think that Ebola coming from one single, easily identifiable source would be covered and would easily be proven to have come from the job of being that patient’s nurse.

Let’s just hope we never get to a point where Ebola becomes widespread enough that it would not be a covered occupational disease. If it does, we will have more problems than the compensability of a workers’ compensation claim. 

Truckerlawyers.com Announces Mobile Website

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A new mobile website for truckerlawyers.com has gone live, said Rod Rehm, owner of truckerlawyers.com and Rehm, Bennett & Moore law firm.

It can be found on truckerlawyers.com/mobile or by searching for trucker lawyers on a mobile device. The site will make it easier for drivers who use cell phones and tablets to contact the firm for help with workers’ compensation, personal injury and employment-law issues, Rehm said.

“I have represented truckers from all over the United States for more than 25 years,” Rehm said. “We use technology a great deal in the firm’s day-to-day business when working with clients. Offering a mobile website to drivers is a choice that we made to give drivers an easier way to contact us. The reality is that not everyone is on the road with a laptop, so a mobile website is more convenient.”

The firm’s attorneys have over 70 years of collective experience in workers’ compensation and personal-injury law. For more details about the firm and its work with truck drivers, go to www.truckerlawyers.com to read about informational topics such as “Finding a Qualified Lawyers to Handle Your Case.”

To continue the conversation, feel free to reach out and follow or interact with the firm through these sites:

Finally, the firm’s blog continues to include news on workers’ compensation, employment, personal injury, Social Security disability, and consumer safety and alerts.

Examining Workers’ Compensation’s ‘Grand Bargain’ and the Upcoming Election

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Here’s why people should support candidates who will protect workers’ rights. Understand that the ongoing workers’ compensation issues faced by state legislatures are not going away, so state legislatures are the front lines when it comes to making sure workers’ compensation systems are not diluted even more for injured workers and their loved ones.

Here’s some background. Over 100 years ago, workers’ compensation law was developed across the United States. Nebraska was actually one of the pioneering states, back when we were more progressive.  Workers’ compensation was viewed as the “Grand Bargain,” with several presumptions on how the system should work. A January 2014 LexisNexis Legal News Room Workers Compensation Law blog post addresses these presumptions. The blog itself is a respected neutral source on workers’ compensation issues.

While employers and insurance companies are chipping away at the protection workers’ compensation systems offer to injured workers and their loved ones through stalling tactics such as disputing if an injury happened at work or just straight out refusing coverage, those same interests are bending the ears of each state’s politicians to further erode the “Grand Bargain.”

Year in and year out, business and insurance groups cause a large number of bills to be filed that take away benefits from workers or make it more difficult for workers to obtain benefits or take control of their treatment for work injuries.

A recent study’s results, written in the same blog by the same author, reinforces what many injured workers, their loved ones, and their attorneys already know: essentially that workers in New Mexico (and I would argue that this is easily applicable to injured workers in many states) are no longer benefitting from the “Grand Bargain.”

The Grand Bargain Is Out of Equilibrium

“An important part of the ‘grand bargain’ between employers and employees within the workers’ compensation arena is the idea that just as the wear and tear on an employer’s machinery ought to be reflected in the price of the employer’s goods or services, so also should the wear and tear on the employer’s work force. A product’s price should reflect the total cost of production, including the costs associated with work-related injuries and illnesses. The Seabury study adds weight to the argument that the grand bargain is out of equilibrium, that workers’ compensation benefits do not adequately replace what a worker loses through his or her injury, that the physical and economic costs associated with work-related injuries and illnesses are not being fully addressed, and that the injured worker is at least partially subsidizing the overall cost of America’s goods and services with his or her lost income.”

The bottom line from this respected author is that workers’ compensation benefits should not be reduced, made more difficult to obtain, etc., when workers who get injured already make less money over a 10-year period of time than workers who aren’t injured.

So let’s elect legislators who will both restore and support the “Grand Bargain” for injured workers and their loved ones.

Did a Local Manufacturer Violate Federal Law with a Sudden Layoff?

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Employees at the Store Kraft plant in Beatrice, Neb., were stunned to find out on Monday morning that Monday would be their last day on the job. Such short notice may be against federal law and entitle the laid-off workers to back pay and benefits for up to 60 days.

Under the WARN Act (Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act), employers of more than 100 employees are required, in most instances, to give workers 60 days of notice in the event of a plant closing or a mass layoff.

Press coverage of the plant closing appears to show that Store Kraft is roughly at 100 employees. If Store Kraft had more than 100 employees, then it is very possible that their former employees may have a case under the WARN Act. The closing of the Store Kraft factory is devastating for its workers and hurtful to Beatrice and the surrounding community, but former workers may have a claim against Store Kraft for the abrupt manner in which the employer shut down the plant.