Author Archives: Rod Rehm

Safety, Workers’ Compensation Rights Are Concern in Many States

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Here is another sad round in the endless battle to preserve human rights against bigger profits.

On May 5, the Illinois House of Representatives met as the “committee as a whole” and heard testimony from an injured Oklahoma worker who had been devastated by cost- and benefit-cutting “reforms” similar to measures the governor of Illinois wants to impose on Illinois workers.

The article about this extraordinary event is important. One victim of losing long-held rights to compensation stood before a legislature of another state, educating them on what really happens to injured workers as a result of “reform.”

Fair workers’ compensation benefits are a fundamental human right. Human beings and their loved ones suffer with each takeaway, while CEOs are paid outrageous sums to increase profits. Injured Oklahoman John Coffell described exactly how he and his loved ones were affected.

“Coffell told the legislators that after injuring a disc in his back last summer, his pay dropped dramatically because Oklahoma had reduced the maximum wage-replacement benefits injured workers could receive from $801 a week to $561 a week.

“Almost immediately, he said, his utilities were cut off, his truck was repossessed and his family was evicted from their rental home. Because no relative could accommodate all of them, Coffell sent his three children, aged 5 to 9, to live with grandparents. He and his wife only had enough gas money to see them on weekends. They’ve had to rely on food stamps to get by.”

Because of his state’s workers’ compensation “reform,” Coffell’s children only got to see their parents on weekends.

Others who were affected by workers’ compensations in two different states – Illinois and Indiana – also painted the stark reality of how harsh a system can be at the hearing in Illinois. The contrast was obvious. “Laurie Summers — an Illinois nurse who dislocated her shoulder lifting a patient at a hospital in Indiana — said she had to drain her retirement savings and fight to get surgery.” But “Christine Fuller — who lived in Indiana, but whose father died from falling off a roof on a job in Illinois — said the survivor benefits she received from workers’ comp helped pay the mortgage and put her through college and graduate school.”

This testimony and hearing demonstrates that workers and their allies are gaining strength and finding new ways to fight the never-ending efforts to reduce costs, increase profits, and improve the business climate. These tactics frequently and all-to-often sacrifice workers’ safety and the safety net that is workers’ compensation.

This unusual event also shows that even though workers’ compensation programs are run at the state level, workers’ compensation “reforms” don’t happen in a vacuum. Businesses may tout the alleged advantages they get over other states by pushing these reforms through state legislatures. But a worker like Coffell from Oklahoma pushed back against the Illinois legislation, even though it didn’t directly affect him. He showed the struggle that a worker often has, regardless of the state where he or she was injured, to get workers’ compensation benefits, especially in states focused on “reform.”

“The ProPublica and NPR series has led to bills to raise benefits in Alabama and prevent medical care from being cut off in California. Officials have also warned insurers in California not to abuse the process and have launched an audit of how one insurer handled a claim in which a paraplegic’s home health care was terminated,” according to the recent ProPublica article about the Illinois hearing.

All concerned about the human rights of injured workers must keep working to find better, stronger and more effective ways to protect these human rights. Because a state’s business climate should not be more important than workers’ rights, safety and dignity.

The offices of Rehm, Bennett & Moore and Trucker Lawyers are located in Lincoln and Omaha, Nebraska. Six attorneys represent plaintiffs in workers’ compensation, personal injury, employment and Social Security disability claims. The firm’s lawyers have combined experience of more than 90 years of practice representing injured workers and truck drivers in Nebraska and Iowa in state-specific workers’ compensation systems. 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, Workers' Compensation and tagged , , , , .

ALF-CIO Report: Here are Some of Nebraska’s Numbers and Rankings

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How did Nebraska fare in the recent AFL-CIO Death on the Job annual report? Generally speaking, better than some but not as well as all the other states.

Here’s some helpful information that quantifies how things are going for working Nebraskans when it comes to safety at work, looking through information from many sources, including the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

“When it comes to job safety enforcement and coverage, it is clear OSHA lacks sufficient resources to protect workers adequately. A combination of too few OSHA inspectors and law penalties makes the threat of an OSHA inspection hollow for too many employers,” according to the report.

Staffing levels are stark at federal OSHA. Nebraska is one of 10 states (others include Arkansas, California, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, South Dakota, Texas and West Virginia) where “it would take 150 years or more for OSHA to pay a single visit to each workplace,” based on current staffing levels, with the actual number in Nebraska being 163 years. Though at the current level of state and federal OSHA inspectors there is one inspector for every 71,695 workers, Nebraska is one of the states where “the ratio of inspectors to employees is greater than 1 per 100,000 workers.” That means for the 932,768 employees in the state in 2013, there were 9 actual inspectors, leading to a ratio of 1/103,641, according to the table “Number of OSHA Inspectors by State Compared with ILO Benchmark Number of Labor Inspectors.” Note that Nebraska relies on the federal program only, so unlike Iowa, there is no state OSHA program.

Here’s some statistics from the table “Profile of Workplace Safety and Health in the United States.” For Nebraska, there were 39 fatalities in 2013, meaning a rate of 4.0 fatalities per 100,000 workers, ranking the state 31st in the nation for worker fatalities that year.

In addition, there were 24,700 worker injuries or illnesses reported in 2013, resulting in a rate that was 3.8 injuries or illnesses per 100 workers. OSHA’s penalties in fiscal year 2014 averaged $2,569, or 4th in the nation, for “averages per serious citation for conditions creating a substantial probability of death or serious physical harm to workers,” according to the same table cited above.

The table “State-by-State OSHA Fatality Investigations, FY 2014” shows that 12 OSHA fatality investigations were conducted in Nebraska in fiscal year 2014. A total of $268,671 in penalties was proposed, with the average penalty per investigation being $22,389. The median initial penalty proposed by OSHA was $10,800, while the median current penalty is $4,800.

Businesses often negotiate down their penalties with OSHA, and OSHA also tends to decrease or eliminate penalties once there is evidence of the safety issues being fixed. This is because OSHA’s ultimate focus is on workplace safety, not on holding businesses’ accountable for workers’ injuries or deaths.

To get your questions answered about specific Nebraska or Iowa workplace safety concerns, please contact lawyers who are experienced in workers’ compensation law.

The offices of Rehm, Bennett & Moore and Trucker Lawyers are located in Lincoln and Omaha, Nebraska. Six attorneys represent plaintiffs in workers’ compensation, personal injury, employment and Social Security disability claims. The firm’s lawyers have combined experience of more than 90 years of practice representing injured workers and truck drivers in Nebraska and Iowa in state-specific workers’ compensation systems. 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 , , , , , , .

Death on the Job Annual Report from AFL-CIO Informative, Useful

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workplace death graphicThe AFL-CIO’s annual report about “the state of safety and health protections for America’s workers” has been written about in a previous year on this blog. The recently released 2015 version focuses in an in-depth manner on data from 2013 and includes around 200 pages of text, tables, details and information, along with a bit of jargon.

The report is extremely informative, and Nebraska and Iowa’s numbers will be examined in more detail in future blog posts, as these are states where the firm’s attorneys are licensed.

The report can also feel overwhelming once a person processes through the fact the each numeral on each chart represents the death of one person due to the workplace. There is also a ripple effect, as each person represented here had loved ones who both cared about and relied on that person. And for many involved, their lives changed drastically when their loved one died.

I appreciate the work, funding, thoughtfulness and effort put into compiling and analyzing the data, which includes a methodology section at the end of the report.

Here’s some sobering information from the summary.

“In 2013, 4,585 workers were killed on the job in the United States, and an estimated 50,000 died from occupational diseases, resulting in a loss of 150 workers each day from hazardous working conditions.

“Nearly 3.8 million work-related injuries and illnesses were reported, but many injuries are not reported. The true toll is likely two to three times greater, or 7.6 million to 11.4 million injuries each year.”

States with the highest fatality rate in the nation include a couple of relative neighbors: North Dakota and Wyoming. West Virginia, Alaska and New Mexico round out the top five. Lowest state fatality rates in 2013 were Hawaii, Washington, Connecticut and Massachusetts (tied) and New York and Rhode Island (tied).

Please contact an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer if you or a loved one is hurt on the job or has questions about job safety.

The offices of Rehm, Bennett & Moore and Trucker Lawyers are located in Lincoln and Omaha, Nebraska. Six attorneys represent plaintiffs in workers’ compensation, personal injury, employment and Social Security disability claims. The firm’s lawyers have combined experience of more than 90 years of practice representing injured workers and truck drivers in Nebraska and Iowa in state-specific workers’ compensation systems. 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 AFL-CIO, Workers' Compensation, Workplace Injury and tagged , .

Improving Workers’ Compensation for Workers: Another View

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There’s a lot to debate and digest in the recent NPR/ProPublica workers’ compensation series. The Center for Effective Government has published an analysis that adds to the discussion. The piece’s catchy title is Six Charts Explain How Workers’ Compensation is Deteriorating. It points to evidence that supports the need for change that protects workers, rather than reducing business costs.

The article points out: 

  • The amount employers pay into workers’ compensation programs is at historic lows.
  • Workers’ comp is not burdening business.
  • The costs of workplace injuries and illness have shifted to workers.

I don’t agree with the author’s recommendations for improving workers’ compensation (federal preemption) but am convinced that the evidence is strongly on the side of ending the current spate of “cost reduction aka profit enhancement” proposals that show up in state legislatures annually. We should be focusing on improving the system for workers and reducing the human and economic costs for injured workers and their families.

The offices of Rehm, Bennett & Moore and Trucker Lawyers are located in Lincoln and Omaha, Nebraska. Six attorneys represent plaintiffs in workers’ compensation, personal injury, employment and Social Security disability claims. The firm’s lawyers have combined experience of more than 90 years of practice representing injured workers and truck drivers in Nebraska and Iowa in state-specific workers’ compensation systems. 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, Workers' Compensation and tagged , , , , .

April 28: Celebrate Workers’ Memorial Day and World Day for Safety and Health at Work

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Workers’ Memorial Day and World Day for Safety and Health at Work is set for April 28 this year. The history of Mary “Mother Jones,” whose name graces a progressive magazine, is noteworthy. She fought tirelessly to improve worker safety, and events such as Workers’ Memorial Day are part of her legacy. 

A recent article from John Speigelhoff and Dale Moerke, a pair of Minnesota labor leaders, shares some of her history and calls attention to Workers’ Memorial Day.

I agree with the authors’ closing thoughts, quoted below, and encourage all of our readers to remember and observe Workers’ Memorial Day in some way. I also encourage all worker advocates and activists to keep up the hard work and dedication, because the efforts to limit and outright take away worker protections seem to be like the coming and going of the tide. It never ends.

“On April 28, 2015, take a moment to reflect upon those who have come before us and tirelessly championed the cause of a safer workplace, oftentimes being beaten and imprisoned for their advocacy. Every worker deserves to come home safe to their family. It is only when we remember our history, view ourselves (workers) as having a common bond and demand better working conditions will we prevent tragedy.  Observing Workers’ Memorial Day is the first step.”

The offices of Rehm, Bennett & Moore and Trucker Lawyers are located in Lincoln and Omaha, Nebraska. Six attorneys represent plaintiffs in workers’ compensation, personal injury, employment and Social Security disability claims. The firm’s lawyers have combined experience of more than 90 years of practice representing injured workers and truck drivers in Nebraska and Iowa in state-specific workers’ compensation systems. 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 AFL-CIO, Legislation, Memorial Day, OSHA, worker rights, Workplace Injury, Workplace Safety and tagged , , .

Nebraska Legislature Should Act on Medical Marijuana Bills

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A columnist in one of our local newspapers, the Lincoln (Nebraska) Journal Star, recently wrote a feature story about the experience that one couple had with traveling to Colorado for medical marijuana to deal with Christy Gibson’s pain from “CRPS, a chronic pain syndrome that made her leg feel like it was plunged in ice or stuck in scalding water.”

Gibson told columnist Cindy Lange-Kubick about what happened to her when she used medical marijuana.

“I tried various strains of cannabis, in various forms,” she wrote. “And. It. Worked. It not only managed my pain, it allowed me to FUNCTION; I could manage my pain without being in a pharmaceutically induced, drugged-out zombie state.”

Because of her positive experiences with medical marijuana in Colorado, Gibson has written her state senators about LB643, a bill from Sen. Tommy Garrett that would legalize medical cannabis.

According to Lange-Kubick’s article, however, “the bill is stuck in committee.” It is helpful that Lange-Kubick wrote the article to bring additional light to one of the issues that affects real people on a daily basis: treating chronic pain through medical marijuana.

CRPS (Complex Regional Pain Syndrome) is a very real diagnosis for many injured workers. It is promising to read about Gibson’s success managing her pain. Her success is a great illustration of how medical marijuana works for a very “Nebraska Nice” citizen in her struggle with chronic pain.

The firm’s lawyers represent literally hundreds of workers who are injured on the job. Chronic intractable pain such as CRPS is becoming more common, while at the same time, efforts that limit traditional pain medication are hot topics in the legislative arena nationwide.

As I wrote in a recent blog post, I would encourage the Legislature to keep moving forward on both Sen. Garrett’s priority bill and also a priority bill from Sen. Sue Crawford, LB390, that advocates for marijuana-related research at the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC). “The pilot program would give patients who suffer from severe, untreatable or treatment-resistant epileptic seizures access to low-THC cannabidiol oil for the purpose of the study,” according to an article earlier this year in the Daily Nebraskan, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s independent student newspaper.

That way, Gibson and other Nebraska citizens in chronic pain, as well as those suffering from epileptic seizures that disrupt lives, wouldn’t have to travel great distances for well-deserved relief. Over the years, I have observed that seeing loved ones in pain rightly affects and challenges that person’s family and friends, so any steps that can be taken to alleviate this pain are positive.

I urge the legislature to act on and pass both of these bills, and I wish Gibson, and others who suffer, the best in their journey to control their pain.   

The offices of Rehm, Bennett & Moore and Trucker Lawyers are located in Lincoln and Omaha, Nebraska. Six attorneys represent plaintiffs in workers’ compensation, personal injury, employment and Social Security disability claims. The firm’s lawyers have combined experience of more than 90 years of practice representing injured workers and truck drivers in Nebraska and Iowa in state-specific workers’ compensation systems. 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, Workers' Compensation and tagged , , , , , .

Safety, Health a Struggle at Wal-Mart, Nation’s Biggest Employer

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Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is the nation’s largest employer, according to USA Today. Including Sam’s Club, 2.2 million people worldwide work there, and more than 1.3 million work for the company in the United States.

Being the nation’s largest employer also should mean being responsible for employees’ health and safety. Sadly, that’s not really the case.

Charlene Obernauer, executive director of the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH) recently wrote this blog post for HuffPost Business.

Her framework starts with OSHA’s citation of $7,000 when security guard Jdimytai Damour died after being trampled on Black Friday almost 7 years ago. Earlier in March, after spending more than $1 million fighting the fine, “Wal-Mart decided to withdraw their appeal and pay up, not because they admitted wrongdoing, but because of a desire to put the matter to rest,” according to Obernauer’s article.

She goes on to list examples of health and safety violations by “Wal-Mart-affiliated warehouse distributors” and Wal-Mart stores themselves.  This included the following scenario:

“The company was also cited several serious violations for not immediately providing employees with adequate personal protective equipment and never offering a Hepatitis B shot after they cleaned up blood on the job, along with a number of other violations of OSHA’s bloodborne pathogen standard.”

In addition, the firm’s blog has previously featured posts that include Wal-Mart’s attitude toward injured workers on transitional duty and paying workers so little that they need public benefits.

I agree with Obernauer’s final paragraph completely.

“While finally agreeing to stop appealing a $7,000 fine after a worker died on Wal-Mart’s watch is a step in the right direction, it is a puny step down a prolonged path towards creating healthier, safer and more just jobs at Wal-Mart. They have a long way to go.”

The offices of Rehm, Bennett & Moore and Trucker Lawyers are located in Lincoln and Omaha, Nebraska. Six attorneys represent plaintiffs in workers’ compensation, personal injury, employment and Social Security disability claims. The firm’s lawyers have combined experience of more than 90 years of practice representing injured workers and truck drivers in Nebraska and Iowa in state-specific workers’ compensation systems. 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 , , , , .

Workers’ Compensation Covers Truckers’ Injuries from Falling Asleep at Wheel

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASleep disorders are a significant health problem for truck drivers.  Trucker injuries resulting from falling asleep at the wheel can be compensated by workers’ compensation, as shown in this recent article from the LexisNexis Legal Newsroom.

Former FMSCA administrator Anne Ferro put it this way in remarks she made at the 2010 Sleep Apnea and Trucking Conference in Baltimore.

“I count fatigue among those high risk behaviors and sleep apnea is a condition that contributes to fatigue. This is a highly sensitive subject which is why this meeting is so important. The challenge here is to focus on sleep apnea as a serious medical condition and identify affordable screening and treatments that work in the truck driving environment.

“In many cases, truck drivers experience poor health because of the challenges associated with their job and lifestyle.

“According the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the average life expectancy for a driver is less than 61 years – is 16 years younger than the average American. That is simply not acceptable.

“From our own estimates, almost three out of 10 truck drivers currently suffer from mild to severe sleep apnea. And we know from our research that drivers with severe sleep apnea are known to be at a much, much greater risk of being involved in a severe crash.

“Fatigue is estimated to be an associated factor in 13 percent of all truck crashes annually and 28 percent of single vehicle truck crashes, based on the Large Truck Crash Causation Study.”

As has been written on the firm’s blog before, “sleep is essential for health and well-being. And not getting enough sleep is a compensable condition.”

In a guest blog post a few years ago, respected lawyer Jon Gelman of New Jersey shared information from the National Sleep Foundation and CDC. In addition to falling asleep when a person was planning to stay awake, people who don’t sleep enough are at “increased risk of motor vehicle accidents; increase in body mass index – a greater likelihood of obesity due to an increased appetite caused by sleep deprivation; increased risk of diabetes and heart problems; increased risk for psychiatric conditions including depression and substance abuse; and decreased ability to pay attention, react to signals or remember new information.”

Please contact an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer with questions about specifics in yours or a loved one’s case. In addition, please work to get both the quantity and quality of sleep that is needed to be safe and healthy.

The offices of Rehm, Bennett & Moore and Trucker Lawyers are located in Lincoln and Omaha, Nebraska. Six attorneys represent plaintiffs in workers’ compensation, personal injury, employment and Social Security disability claims. The firm’s lawyers have combined experience of more than 90 years of practice representing injured workers and truck drivers in Nebraska and Iowa in state-specific workers’ compensation systems. 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 Business Travel, Driving, Health, mental health, Night Shift Work, Safety, truck driver, Trucking, Work Injury, Workers' Compensation, Workplace Injury and tagged , , , .