Will fading federal privacy rights limit ability of injured workers to protect privacy?

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But if states enshrine privacy rights in their state constitutions in reaction to probable Roe reversal will it limit the influence of insurance case managers in workers’ compensation claims?

If the United States Supreme Court does in fact overturn Roe v. Wade, as it seems they will based on a draft opinion leaked last week, it would be the most important Supreme Court decision in decades. But does the decision have any impact on the state-based, statutory and administrative world of workers’ compensation?

I think it could when it comes to the use of nurse-case managers and the right to privacy. Case managers will often attend medical appointments with injured workers. Experienced case managers are able to direct medical care in a way advantageous to employers in workers’ compensation cases.  States that have rights to privacy in their state constitutions such as Illinois and Montana, are able to reign in insurance case managers from interfering with the medical care of injured workers in workers’ compensation cases.

But, Justice Alito’s draft opinion in the Dobbs case calls into question the right to privacy under the United States Constitution. In theory, even if a state constitution didn’t expressly contain a guarantee of privacy, an employee could at least at least use a  federal right to privacy to limit the access of a case manager to medical information. But if Roe v. Wade is gone or dead letter law, that option is gone for injured workers.

Red states v. Blue states and the right to privacy

In 2020, I wrote that anti-abortion organizations and elected officials would likely try to block any efforts to impose a state right to privacy in the Nebraska state constitution. I could see that happening in other Republican-dominated red states. But will other “blue” or Democratic-governed states follow Democratic-governed Illinois in guaranteeing a right to privacy in their state constitutions to protect reproductive health and abortion rights? We will see. But if those states did enact right to privacy amendments, they could impact the day-to-day business of workers’ compensation claims in a way that could benefit workers.

Waiving privacy in an injury case?

But even if employees can keep hostile third-parties out of medical appointments in workers’ compensation cases, normally private medical information is usually fair to ask about and disclose in a workers’ compensation case. Nebraska follows the civil discovery rules in workers’ compensation cases which gives employers a lot of leeway to look into medical history and subject injury claimants to medical examinations. Sometimes these inquiries can be demeaning. Employees do have some tools to stop excessive and unreasonable requests for medical information, but if the right to privacy is weakened they have one less tool to protect their dignity in a workers’ compensation claim.

The offices of Rehm, Bennett, Moore & Rehm, 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.

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Hopefully SCOTUS just sticks to intergovernmental immunity in Hanford occupational disease presumption case

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The United States Supreme Court is set to hear arguments Monday on what is hopefully the narrow issue of whether inter-governmental immunity applies to a Washington state law that creates a presumption of compensability for occupational diseases for workers at the federal Hanford nuclear site.

Under the Supremacy Clause, states can’t tax or regulate federal entities without the permission of the federal government. During the New Deal era, Congress allowed state workers’ compensation laws to apply to workers’ on federal projects.

In United States v. State of Washington, the federal government is arguing the State of Washington is unlawfully discriminating against the federal government by enacting a law that only applies to workers at the Hanford site. The state of Washington amended the statute to apply the presumption to all nuclear workers and is arguing the federal government’s case is now moot.

So why should anyone outside the state of Washington care about this case? Beyond the conflict between state workers’ compensation laws and federal law (what Professor Micheal Duff sometimes deems empty preemption), this case interests me because it places the issue of issue of burden-shifting presumptions in front of the United States Supreme Court.

To be clear, the federal government isn’t contesting the state of Washington can create presumptions. But in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, many states created presumptions of compensability for COVID-19 exposure in the workplace because of the difficulty of proving whether COVID-19 was covered under traditional workers’ compensation statutes. Some of the employer/insurer-side of workers’ compensation are complaining about the unfairness of these presumptions. Thankfully, no one from the employer/defense-side has filed an amicus brief in this case.

However, the Workplace Injury Law and Advocacy Group (WILG) filed a brief in support of the Washington law. (I am a board member for WILG) I think the WILG brief does a good job of arguing that workers’ compensation is traditionally a state law concern and that presumptions have been found constitutional by state Supreme Courts. But I have a lingering fear about some footnote, dicta, concurring opinion or dissent that criticizes the idea burden-shifting presumptions in general. While that language wouldn’t be controlling on states, it could certainly be persuasive for parties seeking to challenge presumption laws.

The offices of Rehm, Bennett, Moore & Rehm, 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.

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Failure of Weil nomination heralds more of the same for federal involvement in workers’ comp.

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Democratic Senators Joe Manchin, West Virginia, joined Kyrsten Sinema and Mark Kelley, Arizona, and 50 Republicans to torpedo the nomination of Professor David Weil to the head of the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour division.

Weil, who held the same position during the Obama administration, was a critic of gig economy firms like Uber who misclassify workers as independent contractors. Independent contractor status exempts companies from having to comply with wage and employment laws such as workers’ compensation.

Readers of this blog, likely know state workers’ compensation laws determine whether a worker is an employee and that is a separate analysis about what constitutes an employee for purposes of federal law. Readers of this blog also know that Weil likely would have ran into a steel re-enforced concrete wall of the federal judiciary in trying to enforce federal wage and hour laws for the benefit of workers.

But the failure of Weil likely signals that there is likely no substantive federal legislation that will address deficiencies in state workers’ compensation laws. In 1970, Congress established OSHA and authorized National Commission on State Workers’ Compensation Laws in response to concerns over the sufficiency of state workers’ compensation laws. The recommendation of the Commission lead many states to improve workers’ compensation laws for the benefit of workers.

But if the Senate can’t even confirm someone like Weill to the Department of Labor, then it seems unlikely that the federal government will do anything to improve state workers’ compensations laws.

Many lawyers who represent injured workers take Ronald Reagan’s adage about the government to heart in their practices when it comes to federal law. Whether it’s the byzantine workers’ compensation laws for federal employees, the difficulties of ERISA liens, headaches with Medicare in settling cases or what Professor Michael Duff describes as empty pre-emptions around nuclear workers and air ambulances, workers’ compensation plaintiff’s lawyers are often among the most vehement supporters of state’s rights.

But as evidenced by OSHA and the National Commission, the federal government can be a positive influence on workers’ compensation. But for most workers’ compensation lawyers in practice today, federal law and federal agencies are just another hurdle to overcome in getting justice for client’s injured at work. Unfortunately, that reality doesn’t look to change anytime soon.

The offices of Rehm, Bennett, Moore & Rehm, 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.

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Why Ketanji Brown Jackson could hear a workers’ compensation case at the beginning of her Supreme Court career

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TLDR: In short, I think the issue of whether requiring insurers/employers to reimburse employees for medical marijuana under state workers compensation laws is pre-empted by federal criminal law is one the Supreme Court will take up. Federal criminal law is a strong federal basis to review a preemption question. I also believe medical marijuana in workers compensation addresses federal criminal law issues in addition to separation of powers issues.  All of these factors distinguish medical marijuana from the issue of air ambulances charges in workers compensation that also involves preemption, but the Supreme Court declined to address in 2021.

District Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals Judge and Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson is going through Senate confirmation hearings this week. But if she is confirmed, could one of her first cases involve an issue about workers’ compensation?

I think so.

Last month, the Supreme Court asked the Solicitor General to submit a brief to help them decide to whether to hear an appeal from two Minnesota cases where that state’s high court decided that federal drug laws preempted Minnesota insurers/employers from needing to reimburse injured workers for medical marijuana under their state’s workers’ compensation laws.

Minnesota joined a growing number of states that have split over whether federal drug laws preempt their state workers compensation laws when it comes to medical marijuana. Last spring the United States Supreme Court declined to hear another conflict between state and federal law over air ambulances that split many state and federal jurisdictions.

But after reading the Minnesota decisions, I think it is more likely the Supreme Court will weigh-in over medical marijuana and workers’ compensation. Not only does medical marijuana involve a conflict between state and federal law, it is also implicates criminal law and separation of powers between the executive branch and the executive branch of the federal government.

Criminal law and medical marijuana in workers’ compensation

The split over medical marijuana in workers’ compensation turns on two questions 1) are insurers/employers aiding and abetting illegal activity under federal law by re-imbursing injured workers for medical marijuana through workers compensation and 2) are employers/insurers at risk of breaking the law by re-imbursing workers for medical marijuana.

The first question turns on how to interpret “aiding and abetting” and intent under criminal law. The second question goes to separation of powers issues. While marijuana is illegal under federal law, Congress has passed legislation through spending bills that prohibits the Department of Justice from prosecuting users and distributors of medical marijuana.

Further complicating the analysis is that fact the Department of Justice has shifted its policies about whether they will prosecute medical marijuana users and distributors depending on which party controls the White House.

As stated above, the medical marijuana cases also involve a question between whether federal powers to regulate interstate commerce conflict with state’s 10th Amendment police powers that are the constitutional basis for workers’ compensation. The court declined to ponder that conflict in the Texas air ambulance appeal last year. My hunch is that the Supreme Court believes federal criminal law provides a stronger basis to preempt state workers’ compensation laws than laws regulating air travel

For example, federal courts are moving away from giving deference to how federal agencies that regulate the domestic economy interpret the laws they enforce. But courts are still deferential to the executive branch when it comes to matters of national security.  My feeling is that conservative-leaning Supreme Court is going to federal criminal law as closer to a matter of national security than economic regulation.

The offices of Rehm, Bennett, Moore & Rehm, 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.

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Workplace safety violation as violent crime? Employer jailed for workplace death

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In a bit of good news, former OSHA official Jordan Barab, blogged about a Washington employer who will serve jail time in connection with the death of an employee.

Alki Construction company owner, Phillip Numrich, will serve 45 days in jail, pay a $100,000 fine and agree to change business practice after pleading guilty to attempted reckless endangerment. The plea was in connection with the death of 36 year-old Harold Felton in a trench collapse in 2016.

King County prosecutors originally charged Numrich with second-degree manslaughter. Numrich was also fined by the Washington Department of Labor and Industry for the injury before criminal charges were filed.

I think this criminal prosecution is a positive development for injured workers for many reasons that I will spell out below.

Deterrence for employers – Workers’ compensation pays limited benefits to employees in exchange from them not having to prove employer fault. For the most part, I think this is a good deal for employees. But employees who get injured when their is clear fault on their employer think otherwise. They feel, somewhat legitimately, that their employer isn’t being held to account.

Now, OSHA or state agencies can fine employers for safety violations. But those fines are usually fairly small and employers sometimes don’t pay these fines . In the Washington case, the state fine was $25,750.

But the threat of prison time for workplace safety violations increases the risk for employers. I also like criminal liability as it leaves the no-fault aspect of workers’ compensation undisturbed. By that I mean, employees who are injured because their employer was at fault often don’t understand why they can’t sue them for negligence. But if fault analysis starts creeping in to how work injuries are compensated employees who may have been at-fault aren’t compensated.

Criminal liability for safety violations short-circuits that discussion. Employers are punished in the criminal justice system.  Victims of workplace safety violation usually want financial compensation. But criminal cases can involve financial restitution. I don’t know the details of the Washington case, there is no reason why a criminal sanction for a workplace death could not involve financial restitution for harms caused to a family.

Deterrence part 2, fines: The Washington case also involved a $100,000 fine. That amount seems fair and reasonable for the loss of a life. Back in 2019, I wrote about courts striking down excessive fines against employers for not carrying workers’ compensation insurance as unconstitutional.  I believe a different analysis applies to fine levels for a violent crime versus a financial crime.  I could certainly see a court strike down a $100,000 fine for not carrying workers’ compensation insurance as excessive, I can’t see a court striking down a $100,000 fine for a death.

Fairness to employees – In 2019, I wrote that I preferred civil remedies to criminal remedies for workers’ compensation fraud. On the balance I think that employees are more vulnerable to fraud convictions than employers. I don’t think the same analysis applies to workplace deaths. Employers control or should control the conditions of their workplace in a way that employees don’t. Employers are granted near dictatorial powers in the workplace, but with great power comes great responsibility.

More criminal prosecutions for workplace deaths? Even in Nebraska? Barab concluded his post with a list of prosecutors who had prosecutors who have prosecuted employers for workplace deaths. Could this national trend come to Nebraska? So far, I haven’t seen it, but that may change if Adam Morfeld is elected as Lancaster County attorney and or if Dave Pantos is elected as county attorney in Douglas County. I haven’t heard the candidates address the issue, but I am acquainted with both candidates. My impression is that Morfeld might be persuaded into prosecuting an employer, but I think Pantos would require less persuading to bring charges.

The offices of Rehm, Bennett, Moore & Rehm, 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.

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Will Cajio v. Agra Transport make it easier for Nebraska employers to avoid workers comp.?

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The Nebraska Court of Appeals upheld a trial court ruling against a trucker that held he was an independent contractor rather than an employee, thus ineligible to receive workers compensation benefits for an on-the-job injury.

The decision, Cajio v. Agra Transport,  turned on what the court found to be the employers lack of control over the details of how the injured worker did its job on a day-to-day basis. If the decision remains controlling law, it could mean that more workers in Nebraska get classified as contractors and lose the protections of the Nebraska Workers’ Compensation Act.

A tough decision on worker classification

From an employee-advocate point of view, this decision is tough for a lot of reasons. The court held that decisions about employment status are mixed questions of law and fact, however the court did not cite to decisions that hold legal questions should be interpreted in favor of the injured worker under the beneficent purpose of the act. The absence of a beneficent purpose analysis may have reflected in the court citing to a tort case rather than a workers compensation decision for guidance as to why the workers was a contractor rather than an employee. Finally the court cited to Omaha World-Herald v. Dernier to support their conclusion without noting Dernier was largely overturned by the Legislature in 1999.

In his blog post about the decision, Thomas Robinson implied the case could have been decided differently under an ABC Test rather than Nebraska’s ten factor common law test. Robinson, who thought the case was correctly decided, stated approvingly that “states are free to allow greater contract flexibility between purported employers and those who perform the work.

I respectfully disagree with Robinson’s paean to the alleged intelligent design of federalism in workers compensation. Nebraska applies an ABC Test to unemployment benefits under Neb. Rev. Stat. 48-604(5). The decision about legal standards to apply are policy-driven in the courts and political in the legislative branch

In a blog about worker misclassification in general, Professor Michael Duff made the point I made above in more detail. He pointed out that the common law test was originally developed in tort law without any reference to workers’ compensation or guidance from the legislative branch.

Statutory employer laws to remedy misclassification?

While the so-called beneficent purpose doctrine isn’t per se guidance from the legislature, the Nebraska legislature has expressly provided guidance on the use of contracting to avoid workers’ compensation liability. Neb. Rev. Stat. §48-116 can make employers “statutory employers” if they engage in a “scheme, artifice or device” to avoid workers compensation. Judges seem to willing to find statutory employer liability in schemes involving multiple layers of contractors.

The Nebraska Supreme Court appeared to weaken statutory employer protections through the Aboytes case. My problem with the Aboytes case is that it applies the ten factor test at the bottom of the scheme where it may be more difficult to prove employment status. But I have read trial court decision, post-Aboytes that hold that “at-will” contract status can create the control necessary to prove control. I think this is sound logic, because the at-will doctrine does give employers vast control over their workers.

The offices of Rehm, Bennett, Moore & Rehm, 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.

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What opponents of Lincoln’s fairness ordinance get wrong, but why they may partially win even if they lose in Lincoln

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Lincoln voters will soon find out whether the Nebraska Family Alliance succeeded in forcing a city wide vote on striking sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes within Lincoln’s municipal human rights ordinance. Their petition drive is in response to the Lincoln City Council finally voting to include sexual orientation and gender identity within the ordinance after first broaching the subject nearly a decade ago.

Supporters of the expanding Lincoln’s municipal human rights ordinance to include sexual orientation and gender identity describe the expansion as the fairness ordinance.

Arguments made by the organizers of petition to repeal the fairness ordinance are misguided. To be charitable, I assert that one contributing factor to the misapprehension is probably misunderstanding the substantive details of civil rights laws and how Lincoln enforces its human rights ordinance.

Here what I think are the misconceptions and misunderstandings about the expanded protection in Lincoln’s human rights ordinance when it comes to workplace law.

The new ordinance is a radical expansion of the law. Trump-appointee, Associate Justice Neal Gorsuch wrote the opinion in 2019 that held discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity constituted unlawful sex discrimination in the workplace. That ruling applies to employees with 15 or more employees. The expansion of Lincoln’s human rights ordinance now means the employers with between 4-14 employees can not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

The ordinance discriminates against Christians – Civil rights laws protect religious discrimination on the job. In fact, religious exemptions are one way employees can legally be exempted from vaccine mandates. Further, evangelical Christians have successfully sued non-Christian employers for religious discrimination.

The ordinance discriminates against conservatives – The 1st Amendment doesn’t apply to private employers. Secondly, political ideology or belief isn’t a class protected by civil rights laws. So private employers have some ability to discriminate based on political belief in Nebraska.

The civil rights ordinance will be enforced by extra-legal means – The Lincoln Commission on Human Rights (LCHR) enforces Lincoln’s municipal ordinance on employment, housing and public accommodation.  Opponents of expanding anti-discrimination protections to the LGBT community portray the LCHR as some sort of over-woke star chamber looking to cancel conservatives and evangelical Christians for their beliefs. I served on the LCHR from March 2014 to December 2020. I can tell you that isn’t true.

According to the last annual report from the LCHR, the LCHR only found reasonable cause of discrimination in 3 of 44 cases in the last year. A reasonable cause finding doesn’t mean monetary penalties either. In order for that to happen, there is either needs to be a public hearing which amounts to a trial or a claimant can go to court.

I can tell you from personal experience that civil courts give little to no deference about what an agency like the LCHR or its commissioners believe about a case.  But even if parties go through the public hearing process, appellate courts can and sometimes do overturn decisions made by the LCHR.

In fact, the only way employees can sue their employer for discrimination if they work for an employee of 4-14 employees is to file with the LCHR. If they don’t file within 180 days, the employee can’t bring a claim. I believe these requirements to file administrative charges before suing actually protects employers.

However arguments made by opponents of legal protection of expanding civil rights based on gender identity under city law have some a sympathetic ear with an important audience – at least two current United States Supreme Court justices.

Why courts may agree with critics of Lincoln’s amended human rights ordinance

At least two Supreme Court justices, Neil Gorsuch and Clarence Thomas, believe that ordinances that prohibit public accommodation discrimination based on sexual orientation violate freedom of religion.  

In that case, Masterpiece Cake Shop v. Colorado Commission on Human Rights, a majority of the court overturned a finding against a business that refused to decorate a cake for a gay wedding because of comments made by state human right’s commissioners during proceedings to sanction Masterpiece.

I know when I served on the LCHR, commission staff used Masterpiece to cautions commissioners about how commissioners discussed cases during reasonable cause determinations. But I believe Masterpiece and its aftermath just re-enforces how courts freely disregard and second guess determinations made by human rights agencies such as the Lincoln Commission on Human Rights.

Also critics of civil rights laws have long argued that these laws violate the first amendment. Further religious employers have fairly broad protections against civil rights laws even in classes that wouldn’t directly seem to implicate religious practices such as disability discrimination.

The offices of Rehm, Bennett, Moore & Rehm, 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.

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Nursing injuries soar during pandemic even as work injuries sink overall

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Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) showed that work injuries and illnesses for nursing employees soared in 2020 even as overall injury rates sank during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Injuries for nursing employees increased by 249 percent even as the number of non-fatal injuries by employees dropped form 2.7 million in 2019 to 2.1 million in 2020. Part of the increase in nursing injuries came from a jump in workplace respiratory illnesses that jumped from 10,000 in 2019 to 428,700 in 2020. That jump respiratory illnesses can likely be attributed to the COVD-19 pandemic.

But is the increase in nursing injuries solely due to COVID-19 infections? Probably not, health care workers are working longer hours and fatigued employees are more at risk of being injured. The COVID-19 pandemic is also leading to staffing issues. Short-staffed medical facilities tend to have more work injuries. Health care workers, like other workers, are also changing jobs as part of the so-called Great Resignation. New employees are at a higher risk for work injuries.

Short-staffing in nursing facilities is a particular concern in sparsely populated parts of Nebraska. Local media recently featured stories of nursing facilities closing in rural Nebraska due to staffing issues.

Fewer work injuries, more difficult claims?

The data from the BLS indicates some potentially challenging times for attorneys representing injured workers. Overall injuries decreased greatly during the first year of the pandemic. While occupational COVID-19 exposures might have come close to making up for the decrease in traditional work injuries, COVID-19 exposure cases are generally more difficult cases for employees to prove. Potentially hundreds of thousands of employees could go uncompensated or be vastly undercompensated for conditions related to COVID-19 exposure on the job.

The impact of the decline of service sector job losses due to the pandemic

It will be interesting to see the work injury data from the second year of the pandemic. The service sector has been most hard hit by job loss during the pandemic. While service-sector jobs are thought to be easier and safer than manufacturing, BLS statistics from 2018 showed injury rates in the retailing sector exceeding that of the manufacturing sector. The large drop in work injuries during the pandemic can likely be explained in part by massive job losses in the service sector due to the pandemic.

The offices of Rehm, Bennett, Moore & Rehm, 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.

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