Author Archives: Jon Rehm

Can Ride-Hailing Be Done Right in Rural America?

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Lincoln-based startup Liberty has announced that it has partnered with Panhandle Trails in rural western Nebraska for a ride-hailing app similar to Uber or Lyft to supplement public transportation options. This could be a positive development for injured workers in rural areas, as long as Liberty protects the rights of its potential drivers.

It is fairly well known that disability rates are higher in the rural United States than in urban areas. This is often attributed to physical nature of rural jobs and the older rural population. However, transportation costs are another factor in these higher rates of disability. The cost of transportation from a relatively isolated rural area can be too high to justify taking a job. This concern is frequently an issue in workers’ compensation litigation in Nebraska. If Liberty can make it easier for injured rural residents to find employment, I wish for its success.

But the problem with ride-hailing apps is that companies want to deem their drivers to be independent contractors rather than employees. Driving jobs are relatively dangerous, and the costs of those work injuries will be shifted onto taxpayers and the drivers rather than workers’ compensation. However, innovation need not mean that workers go without the protections of workers’ compensation. Debbie Berkowitz with the National Employment Law Project points to the example of the Black Car Fund where Uber drivers in New York have created a workers’ compensation plan.

Liberty states that they want to comply with their legal obligations, which is encouraging. But when Uber CEO, Travis Kalanick, calls Uber drivers the “other dude in the car” and wants to have driverless cars so he can get rid of Uber drivers altogether, workers and their lawyers have good reason to be skeptical of the sharing economy. That’s part of the reason that advocates for employees are fighting legislative efforts to broadly exempt sharing-economy employees from workers’ compensation and fair-employment laws. Other advantages of having drivers classified as employees means that states will not miss out on tax revenue. Holding the status of an independent contractor also increases paperwork and the risks of not complying with tax laws for a driver.

Aside from the issues related to workplace law, I would hope that expanding ride-hailing apps to rural America won’t be used as an excuse to stop funding rural public transportation. But overall, ride-hailing will be a net positive for rural areas, as long as it is done in a way that protects the rights of drivers.

The offices of Rehm, Bennett & Moore, which also sponsors the Trucker Lawyers website, are located in Lincoln and Omaha, Nebraska. Five attorneys represent plaintiffs in workers’ compensation, personal injury, employment and Social Security disability claims. The firm’s lawyers have combined experience of more than 95 years of practice representing injured workers and truck drivers in Nebraska, Iowa and other states with Nebraska and Iowa jurisdiction. The lawyers regularly represent hurt truck drivers and often sue Crete Carrier Corporation, K&B Trucking, Werner Enterprises, UPS, and FedEx. Lawyers in the firm hold licenses in Nebraska and Iowa and are active in groups such as the College of Workers’ Compensation Lawyers, Workers' Injury Law & Advocacy Group (WILG), American Association for Justice (AAJ), the Nebraska Association of Trial Attorneys (NATA), and the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA). We have the knowledge, experience and toughness to win rightful compensation for people who have been injured or mistreated.

This entry was posted in Misclassification, Sharing Economy and tagged , , , , , .

Nebraska Employers Should Be Required to Post Information about Workers’ Compensation Benefits

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hanging-300x300The federal government requires that employers post summaries of rights under laws like the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH) and anti-discrimination laws like Title VII at their worksites. Most states, including Nebraska, have similar requirements. But Nebraska is among a minority of states that does not require employers to post notices about an employee’s rights under our state’s workers’ compensation act. This lawyer believes that this practice needs to change in Nebraska.

My informal inspection of worksites in Nebraska has shown me that when anything is posted about workers’ compensation, it is usually a poster about treating with an occupational medicine clinic if a person is hurt at work. The problem is that if you are hurt on the job in Nebraska, you can pick your own doctor. If an employee doesn’t exercise the right to pick their own doctor, they are taking the risk of undercutting their workers’ compensation claim.

Illinois has a good poster that explains an injured employee’s rights and responsibilities under their workers’ compensation act. I particularly like the Illinois poster because it tells employees that 1) they have some right to pick their own doctor and 2) they can’t be discriminated against for filing a claim. To me, the Illinois poster reads a lot of what an attorney like me would tell a prospective client who called with a work injury claim.

But not all posters are created equal. I think Kansas provides an example of a poster that doesn’t really help employees. Though the poster is bilingual, it doesn’t really tell employees anything about their rights and responsibilities besides what they need to do to file a report of injury. The poster also encourages workers to call their employer’s workers’ compensation insurer or claims administrator for help. This is problematic, because employees and employers don’t always have the same interests in a workers’ compensation claim.

My view is that readily available, accurate and unbiased information is good for injured employees to protect their rights under any state’s workers’ compensation act. I think posters like the Illinois poster meet these qualifications. Of course, detractors might say that employees can readily find information on the internet, so posters are a relic of the 20th century.

In response, I would say that information off the internet isn’t always reliable. Part of the reason has to do with how search engines work. Marketers and lawyers try to game the system so when an injured worker is looking for a lawyer, those firms always show up in searches. Frankly, that’s part of the reason I write blog posts like the one you are reading now. Even though I try my best to explain the law accurately, I have a slant toward representing employees, so I can’t claim to be unbiased.

But a good poster or summary of rights is about as close to unbiased as you can get. Employers also have some fear of displaying unbiased information about workplace rights in the workplace. Some employers fought a poster from the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) informing employees about their right to form a union.

Knowledge is power, which is why I believe all Nebraska employees should have complete, unbiased and clear information about their rights under the Nebraska Workers’ Compensation Act readily available in their workplace.

The offices of Rehm, Bennett & Moore, which also sponsors the Trucker Lawyers website, are located in Lincoln and Omaha, Nebraska. Five attorneys represent plaintiffs in workers’ compensation, personal injury, employment and Social Security disability claims. The firm’s lawyers have combined experience of more than 95 years of practice representing injured workers and truck drivers in Nebraska, Iowa and other states with Nebraska and Iowa jurisdiction. The lawyers regularly represent hurt truck drivers and often sue Crete Carrier Corporation, K&B Trucking, Werner Enterprises, UPS, and FedEx. Lawyers in the firm hold licenses in Nebraska and Iowa and are active in groups such as the College of Workers’ Compensation Lawyers, Workers' Injury Law & Advocacy Group (WILG), American Association for Justice (AAJ), the Nebraska Association of Trial Attorneys (NATA), and the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA). We have the knowledge, experience and toughness to win rightful compensation for people who have been injured or mistreated.

This entry was posted in employment law and tagged , , , , , , .

Nebraska Convenience Store Clerks Need More Protection from Violence

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Lincoln residents awoke to find out that a convenience store clerk was killed early on Thursday morning at a store in northwest Lincoln. Unfortunately, this type of violence is not uncommon in Lincoln, Omaharural Nebraska or anywhere else in the United States.

While the federal government has long recognized the problem of violence against convenience store clerks working overnight shifts, it has been left to the states and even cities like Milwaukee and Irving, Texas, to write laws and regulations to protect convenience store clerks from violence.

The Indiana Department of Labor did a comprehensive study of measures taken by other states and cities on how they protect convenience store clerks from violence.  Common practices included bulletproof glass and cages to protect clerks in high-risk areas, security cameras, clear views of cash registers, and having at least two clerks on dangerous overnight shifts. Barriers around cash registers in particular would be crucial in high-risk stores that are robbed regularly because robbers will often jump behind unprotected counters.

Though the city of Omaha has done some proactive policing to protect convenience stores in the recent past, neither Omaha, Lincoln nor the state of Nebraska has any legislation, regulations or ordinances in place to protect convenience store clerks from violence. I would encourage Nebraska’s state senators and city council members in Omaha, Lincoln and other Nebraska cities to put laws in place to protect convenience store workers. If you do not know who your state senator is, you can look that up here. Omaha residents can click here to find out how to contact their city council member, and Lincoln residents can click here to find out how to contact their city council member. Nebraska has legislative elections this fall, and Lincoln and Omaha have city elections next spring. I would urge voters in these races to pay attention to which candidates have a good record and ideas about workplace safety and which candidates value profits over safety.

The offices of Rehm, Bennett & Moore, which also sponsors the Trucker Lawyers website, are located in Lincoln and Omaha, Nebraska. Five attorneys represent plaintiffs in workers’ compensation, personal injury, employment and Social Security disability claims. The firm’s lawyers have combined experience of more than 95 years of practice representing injured workers and truck drivers in Nebraska, Iowa and other states with Nebraska and Iowa jurisdiction. The lawyers regularly represent hurt truck drivers and often sue Crete Carrier Corporation, K&B Trucking, Werner Enterprises, UPS, and FedEx. Lawyers in the firm hold licenses in Nebraska and Iowa and are active in groups such as the College of Workers’ Compensation Lawyers, Workers' Injury Law & Advocacy Group (WILG), American Association for Justice (AAJ), the Nebraska Association of Trial Attorneys (NATA), and the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA). We have the knowledge, experience and toughness to win rightful compensation for people who have been injured or mistreated.

This entry was posted in Government, Legislation and tagged , , , , , .

Overtime and Minimum Protections Laws Upheld for Home Health Aides

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On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to review a federal circuit court’s decision upholding a rule by the U.S. Department of Labor that would extend overtime and minimum wage protections to home health aides. This decision is a win for workplace fairness and safety.

This blog has been following this issue since a federal district court struck down this rule early in 2015. Though this rule may not have an impact on workers’ compensation directly, the fact that home health aides are covered by wage and hour laws would make it more likely that they would be treated as employees and more likely to be covered by workers’ compensation laws as employees.

The fact that home health aides appear poised to gain overtime and minimum wage protections should also improve pay and benefits for Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs) who perform similar to work to home health aides. Higher pay for CNAs could lead to better patient care and fewer injury claims.

The Supreme Court’s refusal to hear the appeal relieves uncertainty over whether the rule applies or not. The U.S. Labor Department declared the rule was effective on Oct. 13, 2015. Since the court challenge failed, the rule should be effective. If you have questions as to whether you are covered by the rule or not, please visit the Labor Department’s site about wage and hour protections for home care workers.

The offices of Rehm, Bennett & Moore, which also sponsors the Trucker Lawyers website, are located in Lincoln and Omaha, Nebraska. Five attorneys represent plaintiffs in workers’ compensation, personal injury, employment and Social Security disability claims. The firm’s lawyers have combined experience of more than 95 years of practice representing injured workers and truck drivers in Nebraska, Iowa and other states with Nebraska and Iowa jurisdiction. The lawyers regularly represent hurt truck drivers and often sue Crete Carrier Corporation, K&B Trucking, Werner Enterprises, UPS, and FedEx. Lawyers in the firm hold licenses in Nebraska and Iowa and are active in groups such as the College of Workers’ Compensation Lawyers, Workers' Injury Law & Advocacy Group (WILG), American Association for Justice (AAJ), the Nebraska Association of Trial Attorneys (NATA), and the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA). We have the knowledge, experience and toughness to win rightful compensation for people who have been injured or mistreated.

This entry was posted in Courts and tagged , , , , .

March Tragic Month for Nebraska Workers: 4 Deaths So Far

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Did you know that four people in Nebraska have died in work-related incidents this month? And March isn’t even over yet.

This recent news release from the U.S. Labor Department’s Occupational Health and Safety Administration goes into more detail about the circumstances regarding each person’s tragic, and as noted, “preventable work-related death.” Sympathies go to the loved ones of a 62-year-old worker in Sutherland; a 42-year-old worker in Hayland; a 42-year-old worker in Walthill; and a 61-year-old worker in Alliance.

It seems like the firm’s social-media channels have been inundated with these sad announcements, because all of these tragedies have occurred over less than two weeks. Four deaths in two weeks compares to 12 total on-the-job deaths in 2015, according to the news release.

“Additionally, OSHA has also opened 41 investigations since Jan. 1, 2016, 32 incidents were hospitalizations and nine were due to amputations. Last year, 162 severe Nebraska worker injuries were reported to OSHA, 113 of those required hospitalization and 52 involved amputation injuries.”

I agree with OSHA officials that it is essential for Nebraska’s business to review their safety and health programs and also make sure employees know and are using those procedures on a regular basis.

“Employers and workers alike can prevent job-related injury and death with simple, common sense safety procedures,” said Jeff Funke, OSHA’s area director in Omaha. “With spring now upon us, construction and other seasonable work will soon be in full swing. Once again, workers will be exposed to some of the most frequently cited OSHA hazards such as falls, struck-by, and trenching – three of the hazards suspected in the most recent fatalities.”

If you have questions about potential safety hazards in your workplace or you or a loved one has been injured at work, please contact an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer who can help you determine how to proceed. In addition, OSHA’s toll-free hotline is 800-321-OSHA (6742), and OSHA’s Omaha office number is 402-553-0171.

The offices of Rehm, Bennett & Moore, which also sponsors the Trucker Lawyers website, are located in Lincoln and Omaha, Nebraska. Five attorneys represent plaintiffs in workers’ compensation, personal injury, employment and Social Security disability claims. The firm’s lawyers have combined experience of more than 95 years of practice representing injured workers and truck drivers in Nebraska, Iowa and other states with Nebraska and Iowa jurisdiction. The lawyers regularly represent hurt truck drivers and often sue Crete Carrier Corporation, K&B Trucking, Werner Enterprises, UPS, and FedEx. Lawyers in the firm hold licenses in Nebraska and Iowa and are active in groups such as the College of Workers’ Compensation Lawyers, Workers' Injury Law & Advocacy Group (WILG), American Association for Justice (AAJ), the Nebraska Association of Trial Attorneys (NATA), and the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA). We have the knowledge, experience and toughness to win rightful compensation for people who have been injured or mistreated.

This entry was posted in Workplace Injury, Workplace Safety and tagged , , , , , , .

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

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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.

The offices of Rehm, Bennett & Moore, which also sponsors the Trucker Lawyers website, are located in Lincoln and Omaha, Nebraska. Five attorneys represent plaintiffs in workers’ compensation, personal injury, employment and Social Security disability claims. The firm’s lawyers have combined experience of more than 95 years of practice representing injured workers and truck drivers in Nebraska, Iowa and other states with Nebraska and Iowa jurisdiction. The lawyers regularly represent hurt truck drivers and often sue Crete Carrier Corporation, K&B Trucking, Werner Enterprises, UPS, and FedEx. Lawyers in the firm hold licenses in Nebraska and Iowa and are active in groups such as the College of Workers’ Compensation Lawyers, Workers' Injury Law & Advocacy Group (WILG), American Association for Justice (AAJ), the Nebraska Association of Trial Attorneys (NATA), and the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA). We have the knowledge, experience and toughness to win rightful compensation for people who have been injured or mistreated.

This entry was posted in employment law and tagged , , , , .

Will It Hurt My Workers’ Compensation Case to Get a Job?

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accommodations“Will getting a job hurt my case?”

I hear this question on a regular basis from my workers’ compensation clients. In my experience, the answer is almost always “no.” But if you do find alternate or part-time employment during your workers’ compensation case, you need to keep track of and disclose your earnings.

Why working when you are injured can help your case:

  1. Working helps your credibility with doctors and judges:
    Doctors and judges are the two most important people in your case, because the doctors drive the medical evidence and the judge weighs that evidence. Ultimately, those decisions come down to a doctor or judge’s determination of your character. A judge is going to give the benefit of the doubt to someone who is trying to help themselves. That’s also why complying with doctor’s orders and rehabilitation programs helps your credibility in court.
  2. Just because you’re working doesn’t mean that you are not significantly or even totally disabled:
    Maybe your company is bending over backward to keep you. Maybe a sibling or a parent has you working at their business. In situations like that, a court is going to understand you are earning wages beyond your real potential to earn wages. You may also be enduring tremendous amounts of pain to maintain employment. In cases like that, especially if you had a good employment record and complied with your doctor’s orders, the fact that you are working through pain could very well help your credibility.

How to hurt your case when you work:

  1. Not disclosing your wages and employment:
    This is especially true if you are working while receiving temporary disability benefits or unemployment benefits. This makes you look dishonest, and you might be committing fraud in many states. Additionally, once you are in the legal process, you normally have a duty to disclose that information to your employer/insurer anyway. Even if a judge believes that you inadvertently forgot to turn over this wage information, you are still making it more difficult for your attorney to win you benefits.
  2. Clearly working beyond your medical restrictions:
    Let’s say a doctor takes you off work as a nurse because you can’t lift more than 25 pounds and bend and twist on a regular basis, but you keep working as a CrossFit instructor, where you regularly do heavy lifting that involves bending and twisting. If you are that person, don’t call our law firm. Though employee fraud is a very small percentage of overall fraud, conduct like that would likely be workers’ compensation fraud. Again, working can help with your credibility in a workers’ compensation case, but being dishonest about that work can hurt your case.

If you have questions about specifics in your or a loved one’s workers’ compensation case, please contact an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer.

The offices of Rehm, Bennett & Moore, which also sponsors the Trucker Lawyers website, are located in Lincoln and Omaha, Nebraska. Five attorneys represent plaintiffs in workers’ compensation, personal injury, employment and Social Security disability claims. The firm’s lawyers have combined experience of more than 95 years of practice representing injured workers and truck drivers in Nebraska, Iowa and other states with Nebraska and Iowa jurisdiction. The lawyers regularly represent hurt truck drivers and often sue Crete Carrier Corporation, K&B Trucking, Werner Enterprises, UPS, and FedEx. Lawyers in the firm hold licenses in Nebraska and Iowa and are active in groups such as the College of Workers’ Compensation Lawyers, Workers' Injury Law & Advocacy Group (WILG), American Association for Justice (AAJ), the Nebraska Association of Trial Attorneys (NATA), and the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA). We have the knowledge, experience and toughness to win rightful compensation for people who have been injured or mistreated.

This entry was posted in Work Injury, Workers' Comp Basics, Workplace Injury and tagged , , , , .

Exoskeletons and the Workplace

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Due to Japan’s rapidly aging demographics, they are using exoskeletons to make older workers more productive in heavy-labor jobs.

“’We expect that exoskeletons, or power-assist suits, will be widely used in people’s lives in 15 years,’ said Panasonic spokesperson Mio Yamanaka, who is based in Osaka, Japan, as quoted by Tech Review.”

“The suit, which weighs just over 13 pounds and attaches to the back, thighs, and feet, allows its wearer to carry an additional 33 pounds,” according to the Business Insider article. Industries that have tested the suit in Japan include warehouse handlers and forestry workers. Another suit in testing that’s larger “could help workers carry up to 220 pounds.”

I see some upsides and downsides to this trend:

Positives:

  1. This preserves manual-labor jobs. The human brain is still more sophisticated than a computer when it comes to having the skills to perform many tasks. Robotically enhanced humans might preserve human labor.
  2. It’s potentially easier to accommodate injured and disabled employees. There might be fewer workers’ compensation payments, but employers may find it harder to fire injured workers.  Not having an exoskeleton available for injured or disabled employees could be considered discrimination.
  3. Less discrimination against older workers would occur when physical limitations are decreased.

Negatives:

  1. Using an exoskeleton opens the potential of abuse by employers. The machines may push production workers to perform their duties even faster. Employees may still have injuries or maybe even develop new work-related injuries from using exoskeletons.
  2. Are exoskeletons really safe? Who is responsible if they cause injury?

In summary, if you or a loved one have questions about current workplace trends as they apply to injured workers, please contact an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer.

The offices of Rehm, Bennett & Moore, which also sponsors the Trucker Lawyers website, are located in Lincoln and Omaha, Nebraska. Five attorneys represent plaintiffs in workers’ compensation, personal injury, employment and Social Security disability claims. The firm’s lawyers have combined experience of more than 95 years of practice representing injured workers and truck drivers in Nebraska, Iowa and other states with Nebraska and Iowa jurisdiction. The lawyers regularly represent hurt truck drivers and often sue Crete Carrier Corporation, K&B Trucking, Werner Enterprises, UPS, and FedEx. Lawyers in the firm hold licenses in Nebraska and Iowa and are active in groups such as the College of Workers’ Compensation Lawyers, Workers' Injury Law & Advocacy Group (WILG), American Association for Justice (AAJ), the Nebraska Association of Trial Attorneys (NATA), and the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA). We have the knowledge, experience and toughness to win rightful compensation for people who have been injured or mistreated.

This entry was posted in Workplace Injury, Workplace Safety and tagged , , , , .