Tag Archives: WILG

Examining the Reality of Workers’ Memorial Day

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We write this blog post to bring attention to an article that was a big dose of perspective about all the recent Workers’ Memorial Day celebrations. The official day is April 28 for Workers’ Memorial Day, and many groups spend a lot of effort in organizing events, discussing safety, and holding memorials. Unfortunately, as the article points out, those efforts don’t always translate into safer workplaces and fewer fatalities.

What Karen C. Yotis and Robin E. Kobayashi did was talk to “a few thought leaders in the workplace safety arena” to get the reality of the situation by asking the question: “Has worker safety improved at all during the past year?” The experts they spoke with included “Tammy Miser, Founder/Executive Director of United Support & Memorial For Workplace Fatalities; Kim Bobo, Executive Director for Interfaith Worker Justice; Charles R. ‘Chuck’ Davoli, 2014 President of Workers’ Injury Law & Advocacy Group and a Louisiana Workers Advocate; and Rebecca Shafer, attorney, author, and a workers’ compensation/risk management maven who has spent her professional life advocating for safe workplaces.”

There is often a disconnect between thought and reflection and then taking action to change a situation. The blog post treads into the waters of holding people and businesses accountable and also taking action that leads to long-term change in the form of safer work environments.

Attorneys Rod and Jon Rehm are members of WILG’s Board of Directors, which is currently led by Mr. Davoli, and the other attorneys at Rehm, Bennett & Moore are all members of WILG because of the group’s efforts towards both accountability for businesses and safety for workers.

While we urge you to read the entire blog post that’s linked to in the first paragraph, here are a couple of thought-provoking highlights.

First, it is striking that a “cost containment expert” like Ms. Shafer describes how businesses must focus on safety. Although it’s at the end of the linked article, Ms. Shafer’s commentary is excellent – the article says that she “speaks out so passionately on the employer’s obligation to keep an unrelenting focus on safety.” Here’s a partial quote that she gave to the article: “ … the bottom line is that each employer needs to make safety the #1 priority. … Until worker safety is TOP priority, a company will continue to have very little success in achieving a balanced workers’ compensation insurance program.” She writes about making safety a higher priority than profitability, but realistically, companies would be much more profitable if they were also much safer.

Finally, Mr. Davoli shared a list of “nine safety elements” for “the construction and building trades” that a Workplace Safety Task Force created in Louisiana with WILG’s help.

Here’s that excellent list:

“1. A designated safety budget as part of the normal operating budget.

 2. A formal safety committee that meets on a regular schedule.

 3. An employer that pays employees for the hours they spend attending voluntary off-duty safety training sessions.

 4. A formal personal protective equipment training program.

 5. Written and formal safety goals that are updated periodically.

 6. Safety training for subcontractors.

 7. Detailed safety reports to employees on a regular basis.

 8. Regularly scheduled safety training programs for existing employees.

 9. A disciplinary procedure for employees who commit unsafe acts.”

The reflection portion of Workers’ Memorial Day must turn to action. The reality is that until businesses buy into and change their work culture to be safe, there will always be a need to remember those who were killed at work.

Thanks to Ms. Yotis and Ms. Kobayashi for writing such an excellent piece.

Is Worker’s Comp Profitable Because Disabled Workers Don’t Get Benefits?

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My friend Tom Domer of The Domer Law Firm in Milwaukee, who happens to be one of the most knowledgeable workers’ compensation lawyers I know, wrote a great blog post explaining why workers’ compensation insurance companies profit mightily and injured workers struggle. Workers need to avoid the kind of thinking that leaves them with empty pockets and insurance companies with growing bank accounts. Injured workers should speak with qualified experienced lawyers before deciding whether to pursue workers’ compensation benefits or to abandon a claim if they are being denied.

I recently wrote an article in the national magazine for the Worker’s Injury Law Advocacy Group (WILG), the Worker’s First Watch, Fall 2013 reviewing the worker’s compensation resources research report indicating that the worker’s compensation industry is extremely profitable.  I began representing injured workers in 1976.  It seems every year since then worker’s compensation insurance carriers have complained they are not making profits and the culprit responsible is increased benefits paid to workers.  In fact, over the last 20 years the insurance industry has been profitable in 16 of 19 years and broke even in one year.  Several factors account for this profitability, including worker’s compensation insurance carriers successfully pursuing deregulation and “reform” measures to restrict eligibility. 

The net result of increasingly restrictive rules for compensability in many State worker’s compensation systems as a result of “reform” resulted in many workers with disabilities caused by work who did not receive worker’s compensation benefits.

The general trend since the early 1990s has been to restrict coverage through State statutory and administrative “reform”.  Many workers face lengthy litigation and frustration.  More restrictive regulations may preclude claims where the worker lacks “objective” medical evidence for his injury, or is unable to medically document persistent pain, or has a disease resulting from multiple causation that cannot be distinguished from workplace disease, or has job stress related disorders.  One significant problem is that many injured workers fail to file for benefits.  (For those of us in the trenches daily, these pose obstacles to compensability.)  Among the many reasons for failure to file are:

  • Ignorance of worker’s compensation and eligibility.
  • Ignorance of the work-relatedness of the condition.  (Many workers know they suffer an impairment but do not know the health condition is caused by work.)
  • Reimbursement for medical care or Short Term Disability benefits available.  (Many workers use Short Term Disability or group medical insurance rather than worker’s comp.)
  • Belief that the injury is lacking in sufficient severity.
  • Many workers fear job loss or other forms of retaliation, who do not want to report a condition as work-related.
  • Workers do not want to be perceived as complainers or careless.
  • Deciding not to file based on the negative experience of co-workers.
  • Fear of the stigma associated with being a worker’s compensation claimant.  (Much of this stems from the intense focus on fraud perpetrated by the insurance industry, resulting in increased levels of stigmatization, decreasing the likelihood injured workers will file for benefits.)
  • Pressure from co-workers on safety incentive programs.  (These programs, sometimes called “Safety Bingo” create incentives not to report.)

Those of us who have hearings daily that involve the non-reporting of an injury, or significant time delay between the occurrence of an injury and the reporting of an injury, can refer to the above list for some ammunition on the “non-filing” or “late filing” issues.

The Origins of Workers’ Compensation in the United States

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Today’s post comes from guest author Jay Causey from Causey Law Firm in Seattle. Mr. Causey is a longtime friend, and we are members of the Board of Directors of WILG: the Workers’ Injury Law & Advocacy Group. He is also a past president of the group. Attorney Jon Rehm in our office also serves WILG on its Board of Directors and recently represented the firm at a WILG meeting. Members of WILG meet four times a year to share resources, advocate for legislation, participate in training, and enhance relationships with other lawyers to better serve clients. The video below is just one example of the resources available through WILG. It is a powerful reminder of why our firm does what we do to represent workers and their families. It shows not only how far workers’ protections have come but reminds us to be vigilant and make sure employees’ rights and health continue to be protected through legislation and the courts.

Today’s post is a film on the history of workers’ compensation, presented by the Workers’ Injury Law & Advocacy Group at the National Symposium on the 40th Anniversary of the National Commission on Workers Compensation, which in 1972 found the state workers’ compensation systems to be inadequate and unfair.

This film is a great reminder that the workers’ compensation systems we work under today were created to correct issues with unsafe workplaces and the effects of injuries on the job during a time when workplace safety was not yet a reality.  We need to remember our history, lest the lessons hard-won be forgotten.

Attorneys Advocate for Workers through WILG

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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.