Author Archives: Rod Rehm

Happy Holidays to You and Yours

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Holiday greetings go out to you and yours this season. Special thanks are extended to those who are working hard to keep folks safe but are away from family during the holiday time, whether truck driver, first responder, nurse, or retail worker. Safety at home and safe travels are wished for all your celebrations.

We hope that this holiday season brings peace to so many who are hurting and hurt. May each of you have the opportunity to visit with loved ones who are held dear and take the time to appreciate those relationships with friends and family.

I hope that we can be mindful through our joy and celebrations to reach out to those who are alone but also respect those who want or need to be alone. And in this season of merriment, let’s appreciate our comfortable lives and good health and strive to help those who go without.

We are thankful for so much, and especially at this time of year, we are very thankful for family, friends, and the opportunity to advocate for clients who make our work worthwhile.

Take care traveling wherever you’re headed. Please take the time and use common sense to get to your destination safely. I send a special thank you to all, truckers, nurses, first responders and folks in other occupations who can’t be with their families because they are serving the public and keeping us safe.

I hope that all know happiness this holiday season and throughout the coming year.

The offices of Rehm, Bennett & Moore and www.truckerlawyers.com will close at 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 24, and remain closed on Thursday, Dec. 25, and Friday, Dec. 26, for Christmas. We will be open again on Monday, Dec. 29, at 8:30 a.m.

In addition, the offices will close at 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 31, and remain closed on Thursday, Jan. 1, and Friday, Jan. 2, for New Year’s Day. We will be open again on Monday, Jan. 5, at 8:30 a.m.

Happy Holidays, take care, and be safe!

James Brown and Attorney/Client Relations

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Artist James Brown

Today’s post comes from respected colleague Leonard Jernigan of The Jernigan Law Firm in North Carolina. His reflection on the documentary about legendary funk musician James Brown is a great philosophy for working with clients and can also be applied to many other situations in life. In this season of giving and the hustle and bustle toward the end of the year, give yourself permission to think about how this year has gone and what your goals are for next year. Take care, and be safe.

If you haven’t seen the recent movie or HBO documentary on James Brown, you should check it out. He made me think about these top ten client relation tips:

  1.  Treat all clients with respect and dignity.
  2.  Try to understand the stress that our clients are under, especially when they are upset.
  3.  At the same time, do not tolerate verbal abuse from clients. Respect works both ways.
  4.  Keep boundaries. Clients need you to have an objective view, not become their best friend.
  5.  Clients don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.
  6.  Be honest in all things, at all times. Keeps you out of trouble.
  7.  Building good relationships are the foundation blocks of success.
  8.  Keep the client informed about what you are doing.
  9.  Be prepared and be thinking about going to trial from the first day. Cases settle more often and you get better results when you are prepared.
  10. Think about James Brown. He was the “hardest working man in show business” for a reason. He gave it everything he had, and it showed.

 

 

Administration Warns Employers: Don’t Dump Sick Workers From Plans

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Today’s post was shared by Gelman on Workplace Injuries and comes from www.npr.org

I think the post is timely because it is currently open enrollment at healthcare.gov for 2015. Here’s a link with the details of deadlines and the nuances involved. Generally speaking, open enrollment is now through Feb. 15, 2015.

For those with 2014 coverage through the Affordable Care Act, current coverage ends on Dec. 31 of this year, according to healthcare.gov. Keep this deadline in mind: “If you want a new plan to start January 1, 2015, you must renew or change your plan by December 15, 2014.”

Here’s an incentive for those who are more financially motivated than motivated by having insurance to prepare for the unexpected. “If you don’t have health coverage during 2015, you may have to pay a penalty. The fee in 2015 is higher than it was for 2014 — 2% of your income or $325 per adult/$162.50 per child, whichever is more,” according to the marketplace deadlines page on healthcare.gov.

Also, a person can enroll in Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) anytime, according to this website. Qualifications vary by state and depend on income level or disability.

Although Nebraska was not a state that expanded Medicaid in 2013 or 2014, it is likely that the legislature will address the issue again in 2015, according to this recent newspaper article.

If you have questions about whether your employer is discriminating against you, please contact an experienced employment attorney like Jon Rehm.

Man holding pills with banknote money flying away
Man holding pills with banknote money flying away

As employers try to minimize expenses under the health law, the Obama administration has warned them against paying high-cost workers to leave the company medical plan and buy coverage elsewhere.

Such a move would unlawfully discriminate against employees based on their health status, three federal agencies said in a bulletin issued in early November.

Brokers and consultants have been offering to save large employers money by shifting workers with expensive conditions such as hepatitis or hemophilia into insurance marketplace exchanges established by the health law, Kaiser Health News reported in May.

The Affordable Care Act requires exchange plans to accept all applicants at pre-established prices, regardless of existing illness.

Because most large employers are self-insured, moving even one high-cost worker out of the company plan could save a company hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. That’s far more than the $10,000 or so it might give an employee to pay for an exchange plan’s premiums.

"Rather than eliminating coverage for all employees, some employers … have considered paying high-cost claimants relatively large amounts if they will waive coverage under the employer’s plan," Lockton Cos., a large brokerage, said in a recent memo to clients.

The trend concerns consumer advocates because it threatens to erode employer-based coverage and drive up costs and premiums in the marketplace plans, which would absorb…

[Click here to see the rest of this post]

Take the Time for Ag Safety This Holiday Season

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I hope you and yours were able to have a nice Thanksgiving break. Many people aren’t afforded that luxury because of work or other circumstances, so thoughts go out to them during the holidays. Due to an incident that recently happened on a local turkey farm near Waverly, the loved ones of Mr. Joaquin Danilo Mina Munoz are grieving his death. Sympathies are definitely extended to his loved ones.

Although original reports of being “sucked into grain while working with a running auger” were incorrect, Mr. Munoz did apparently die “when his clothing got tangled on the auger blade shaft” of a grain truck, according to the tragic story.

That incident got me to thinking about safety in agriculture. Now that the corn and soybean harvests are done, some folks breathe a big sigh of relief, but they shouldn’t be lax when it comes to safety.

Unfortunately, farming is one of the most dangerous jobs on the planet. And, as firm partner Todd Bennett wrote in a previous blog post, workers’ compensation is complicated in Nebraska when it comes to ag and farming operations. In fact, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) only covers a part of the nation’s grain-handling facilities, according to a recent in-depth story in the Lincoln Journal Star. That is why safety in grain handling and in agriculture in general is so important.

In addition, OSHA recently cited Double Dutch Dairy in Shelby, Neb., for four serious violations and proposed fines of $22,500 for an incident on June 17 where a worker was “fatally injured by a front-end loader,” according to the news release in the link. The Wisconsin-based dairy was cited “after an inspection found that the driver’s view was obstructed,” when the driver struck the worker.

Now that the busy harvest season is done and the busy-in-a-different-way holiday season is upon us, I urge all workers, but especially those in agriculture, to review their safety practices and take care so all can have the luxury of spending a little bit of time with their loved ones over the upcoming holidays.

Roger Moore Chairs Nebraska State Bar Association Work Comp Section Seminar

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Attorney Roger Moore

Firm partner Roger Moore recently completed his term as the chairman for the Nebraska State Bar Association (NSBA) Workers’ Compensation Section for 2014 with the conclusion of the Annual Workers’ Compensation Seminar on Nov. 14.

“My responsibilities were to develop topics, secure speakers and serve as master of ceremonies for the seminar by communicating with a variety of individuals over the course of numerous months,” Moore said. Roughly 100 people attended this year’s seminar, including firm associates Brody Ockander and Brianne Rohner Erickson

Moore completed his final year of serving a four-year rotation of leadership positions within the Workers’ Compensation Section, which started when he was nominated for and elected to the treasurer position three years ago. Moore was the third member of the firm to serve as chairman of the NSBA Workers’ Compensation Section. Partner Todd Bennett and I are past chairmen as well. Moore has participated as a member of the WC Section for the last 14 years, and is admitted to practice law in both Nebraska and Iowa.

There are currently more than 30 sections in the NSBA, according to its website. Each section is made up of a group of attorneys who share similar interests and voluntarily join that section. Attorneys can belong to more than one section.

The Workers’ Compensation Section is consistently one of the largest sections of the association. The section’s goals, according to Moore, are similar to the NSBA’s mission, which can be found here. Some of the priorities that Moore highlights include “to foster and maintain integrity, professionalism, civility and high standards of conduct by NSBA members,” and to help “provide quality support and services for NSBA members.”

Moore’s service is yet another example of the efforts our attorneys and staff have made to be leaders in the legal community, both as participants and leaders in shaping the legal conversations that affect our clients.

Low Wage Jobs are on the Rise

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Today’s blog post was written by respected colleague Thomas Domer of Domer Law Offices in Milwaukee. Although the blog post was originally in reference to Wisconsin, as he writes, “the findings in Wisconsin mirror nationwide findings of the National Law Employment Project,” so I think they can be reasonably applied to Nebraska and Iowa. One thing that I found especially interesting in the article is that even when the quantity of jobs is increasing, the quality of pay for those jobs isn’t quite there yet. But it also turns out that employers may not have to pay the higher wages as people are still hoping to find jobs. As an example from the original Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is telling: an entire category went from “middle-wage” to “low-wage” because the hourly rate of pay was that much lower.

“By 2013 the occupation had added about 13,000 jobs in Wisconsin, and stood at 55,520. Meanwhile, median pay had fallen to $12.16 an hour, so all 55,000 jobs — the 13,000 new ones and the 42,000 that were ‘middle-wage’ three years earlier — were classified as low-wage in 2013,” according to the Journal Sentinel article.

As we move into the holiday season and past the election where Nebraska voters resoundingly voted to raise the minimum wage over two years, I would challenge both employers and consumers to consider what their hourly wage would be and into what category they would fit within the information in this article. Most people in the middle and low-wage categories are very aware of where they land for a category. But it is something important to think about as wage inequality continues to be discussed: in addition to thinking about the minimum wage, what is an appropriate living wage for the place in which we live? And are we as consumers prepared to maybe pay a bit more for services and products if businesses provide that living wage to workers? On the other side of the coin, businesses should also be willing to sacrifice a small part of their profits to provide employees a living wage so people don’t have to work two or more low-wage jobs like the ones below, just to make ends meet. Because in the end, it is the whole of society that benefits.

Those of us representing injured workers have recognized a trend in recent years affirmed by a new study by University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee Professor Mark Levine. His study indicates jobs in low wage occupations have increased substantially since 2000, with that growth accelerating since 2010.

Levine’s study found that in 2000, low wage occupations accounted for about one quarter of Wisconsin’s jobs with middle wage occupations accounting for more than half. But by 2013, low wage occupations made up over 30% of the State’s employment. 

The study indicated low wage occupations with a median wage of $12.50 per hour or less, middle wage occupations with a median of $12.50 to $25.00 per hour, and high wage occupations with a median above $25.00 per hour. Jobs in the high wage occupations increased substantially through 2007, then fell during the recession and recovery.

The findings in Wisconsin mirror nationwide findings of the National Law Employment Project, an advocacy group for low wage workers and the unemployed. Commentators also noted the findings in the Wisconsin study confirm findings for the U. S. national economy, which indicates job growth has been mostly in low skill, low wage areas.

Those of us that practice in the worker’s compensation arena have noted the number of workers earning maximum wages in Wisconsin (over $1,320 weekly) are much more rare since the Great Recession. Worker’s compensation benefits for Loss of Earning Capacity, for example, is obviously much greater for a maximum earnings worker than for a worker earning $8.00 or $9.00 per hour. The loss of high paying manufacturing jobs that used to exist in Milwaukee and throughout the Midwest Rust Belt has had a substantial impact on worker’s compensation claims and recoveries.

Changes in OSHA’s Incident-Reporting Rules

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Today’s post comes from guest author Leonard Jernigan, from The Jernigan Law Firm in North Carolina. He writes about updates that the United States Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) will require of businesses when it comes to reporting workplace incidents. I found the links at the end of the article both informative and eye-opening. In addition, I thought the article from the industry publication, Risk and Insurance, was especially telling as to how businesses should be prepared for the new reporting requirements. It will definitely be interesting to see how these new requirements affect the number of incidents and hopefully result in safer workplaces for all.

Starting January 1, 2015 the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) will enact new changes in its workplace incident reporting rules. These rules will increase the amount of reporting when it comes to hospitalizations caused by workplace injuries, as well as increase accountability and transparency among employers. According to U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez, the new requirements will “help OSHA focus its resources and hold employers accountable for preventing [workplace injuries and deaths].”

Here are the changes that will soon be in place:

  • Employers must notify OSHA within 24 hours of a workplace injury that led to in-patient hospitalization, amputations or loss of an eye.
  • Employers must notify OSHA of workplace death within eight hours of the incident.
  • More industries will be required to keep OSHA 300 injury and illness records, which will be made available on OSHA’s website. Some of these industries include: specialty food stores, bakeries, automobile dealers, museums, activities related to real estate, and more.
  • All employers must follow these requirements, including those who have been exempt from keeping OSHA records.

If you’d like to learn more about OSHA’s new record keeping and reporting rules, visit the following websites for more details:

 

Celebrate Veterans Day by Promoting Jobs for Vets

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Veterans Day is next week. This blog has featured stories about veterans and job training in both the public and private sectors on various outlets before.

Now, just in time for Veterans Day, here’s an informational news release from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), which is part of the United States Department of Transportation.

Although I know some truck drivers aren’t huge fans of the FMCSA, I was pleased to see that it recently awarded $1 million in grants to provide training and job placement for returning veterans. They will be trained for jobs as commercial bus and truck drivers through grants awarded to nine technical and community colleges.

I was especially pleased to see that Metropolitan Community College in Omaha will be provided $47,614 as part of the grant process. The training will benefit nearly 400 new students, according to the news release.

“Those that we entrust to protect and serve our nation deserve opportunities that utilize the skills and training they received on the job on military bases overseas and at home,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in the news release.  “We can think of none more appropriate to safeguard our highways as commercial vehicle drivers than the thousands of veterans who have already proven they can safely handle large vehicles under extremely stressful circumstances.”

In addition, earlier this year, FMCSA expanded the Military Skills Test Waiver Program to include all 50 states and the District of Columbia. This means that “state licensing agencies have authority to waive the skills test portion of the CDL application for active duty or recently separated veterans who possess at least two years of safe driving experience operating a military truck or bus. Waiving the skills test expedites the civilian commercial drivers licensing application process and reduces expenses for qualified individuals and operating costs to state licensing agencies.”

Thanks again to all veterans and their loved ones for their service. I hope these job training efforts will help some vets find a good fit in civilian life.