100 Years of Nebraska Workers’ Compensation
The year 2013 will mark 100 years of workers’ compensation law in Nebraska. This state was a leader in adopting the new protections and benefits for workers. The first workers’ compensation laws in the United States were enacted two years earlier, and few states had followed by 1913. Workers’ compensation laws were hailed as social progress, if not outright human-rights triumphs. Nebraska was a leader in protecting workers’ rights. Much has changed since then.
The current workplace is not the workplace that existed 100 years ago. The jobs then were much more physically demanding and dangerous. The injuries and diseases are not the same. Repetitive-motion injury was not contemplated or compensated. Cancer from industrial solvents was not contemplated or compensated. Mental disease was stigmatized by society and essentially not compensated. Medical practice was less specialized, and treatment options were much more limited.
Interested parties have long been working to keep the law in sync with the times. The law has changed from time to time, but some of the bedrock concepts, such as requiring “accident” have resulted in some rules that lawyers call legal fictions, for instance. Medical benefits that experts consider the most basic protection are the most costly part of the system, and cost increases are an area of constant concerns.
Competing legislation is presented each year with incremental changes resulting. The last major revisions happened 20 years ago. The annual arguments sometimes get heated, but the law seems to advance. The big picture is something we can be proud of.
Nebraska law has the highest rating of any state under presidential-commission guidelines established in 1972. Premiums and costs are in the mid-range of the states, as are worker benefits. Nebraska is rated as the 2nd-best state legal climate by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Nebraska is one of few states that has robust vocational rehabilitation benefits for injured workers. Hopefully we can continue working together to maintain and improve Nebraska’s workers’ compensation law in ways that benefit all of the competing interests.
Bottom-line conclusion: Nebraska law is doing well for a centenarian. Let’s keep cooperating to ensure progress.
Dangerously long working hours are a problem around the world.
Workers’ compensation laws exist in virtually all industrial countries. Our respected colleague Jon Gelman from New Jersey provides an interesting article on Japanese law. Issues in the United States are similar and change as the workplace changes. Japan provides workers’ compensation death from overwork because prolonged extremely long work weeks are so common. As American work weeks get longer, perhaps we will see similar developments.
Since the 1960s there has been serious social concern over health problems due to long working hours in Japan. Around that time the term Karoshi, or “death from over work,” became known. Recent national statistics show that more than 6 million people worked for 60 hours or more per week during years 2000 and 2004.
Approximately three hundred cases of brain and heart diseases were recognized as labour accidents resulting from overwork (Karoshi) by the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare (MHLW) between 2002 and 2005. Consequently, the MHLW has been working to establish a more appropriate compensation system for Karoshi, as well as preventive measures for overwork related health problems.
In 2001, the MHLW set the standards for clearly recognizing Karoshi in association with the amount of overtime working hours. These standards were based on Continue reading
Pictured at the WILG Board of Directors’ meeting are Paul McAndrew (Iowa), Hank Patterson (North Carolina) and Rod Rehm (Nebraska).
Rod Rehm and Jon Rehm recently traveled to Washington, D.C., for the Workers’ Injury Law & Advocacy Group (WILG) Board of Directors’ Meeting and Legislation Day on April 17. Rod has served as a board member of this organization for 15 years, and he strongly supports this group. The attorneys were advocating for workers by lobbying Congress to improve the system for federal employees and all workers on Social Security who settle their workers’ compensation cases. Rod and Jon met with key representatives from Illinois as advocates for workers on the national level through WILG.
Here’s WILG’s mission statement:
“Workers’ Injury Law & Advocacy Group is the national non-profit membership organization dedicated to representing the interests of millions of workers and their families who, each year, suffer the consequences of workplace injuries and illnesses. The group acts principally to assist attorneys and non-profit groups in advocating the rights of injured workers through education, communication, research, and information gathering.”
We encourage all lawyers who are serious about representing injured workers to join WILG.
Rod also spoke for workers at the Nebraska Breakfast, a weekly tradition since 1943. “The Nebraska Breakfast, now in its sixth decade, is the oldest and only ongoing state gathering for constituents on Capitol Hill,” according to the Nebraska Society of Washington, D.C.’s web site. All five members of the Nebraska Congressional Delegation were in attendance at that Wednesday’s breakfast. Following the breakfast, Rod discussed the legislation with Sens. Ben Nelson and Mike Johanns as well as Congressman Lee Terry.
Today’s post comes to us from our colleague Len Jernigan of North Carolina. We feel strongly that employer workers’ compensation fraud is a widespread and costly problem. If you see fraud in your workplace in Nebraska, report it to Nebraska’s Attorney General on his website or by calling 402-471-2682 or if you see fraud in your workplace in Iowa, report it to Iowa’s Attorney General on his website or by calling 515-281-5164.
All employees should be on the lookout for signs that their employer or potential employer is engaging in workers’ compensation fraud.
The list of signs below was inspired by this one from the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries.
These signs may indicate that your employer is not paying workers’ compensation insurance for their employees. If they aren’t, this could put you in a very difficult situation if you are ever injured on the job.
If any of these signs sound familiar, report the employer to the Fraud Investigations Department of the North Carolina Industrial Commission and, if at all possible, find another job.
Your employer may be engaged in workers’ compensation fraud if:
- They pay you in cash and don’t give you any kind of payroll stub.
- They give you a 1099 form instead of the standard W-2.
- They pay you other than in cash or check, by such things as free rent, reimbursement of expenses, barter, etc.
- They pay you on a piecework basis and do not record hours. Continue reading