The Lincoln City Council is scheduled to vote on an ordinance on October 16th that would formally eliminate a requirement that Uber and Lyft drivers pass a physical, background check and test about Lincoln that taxi cab drivers currently have to pass in order to drive a taxi in Lincoln.
The City of Lincoln doesn’t have a workers’ compensation ordinance. But allowing Uber competitive advantages over taxi cab companies indirectly impacts workers compensation because if Uber takes market share away from traditional taxi cabs fewer drivers will be covered under workers compensation.
Lincoln does a have a human rights ordinance that covers more employees than either state or federal anti-discrimination laws. By allowing Uber a competitive advantage over traditional taxi cab companies, Lincoln is potentially excluding workers from coverage of that ordinance since Uber denies it is an employer. Traditional taxi cab companies are subject to Lincoln’s human rights ordinance.
Unfortunately, U.S. employment laws are not equipped to deal with the day-to-day mental strains placed on retail workers. Workers compensation laws generally do not compensate purely mental injuries. Workplace bullying or harassment is only legally actionable if the harassment is severe or pervasive and motivated by an unlawful factor like race, religion, nationality, sex, disability, etc.
In a report chock full of statistics about safety and the workforce in Lincoln, there was no mention about the number of workplace injuries and/or deaths in Lincoln. The Nebraska Workers Compensation Court tracks workplace injuries and deaths statewide. In Fiscal Year 2016, the last year statistics were available, there were nearly 40,000 reported workplace injuries in Nebraska and 40 reported workplace deaths. By a rough estimate, nearly 6000 of those workplace injuries would have taken place in Lincoln and roughly six of those workplace deaths would have taken place in Lincoln.
There is an old adage that goes “Measure what counts and what counts is measured.” If workforce deaths and injuries aren’t measured in Propser Lincoln’s “Vital Signs” does that mean that workplace safety doesn’t count in Lincoln, Nebraska because it wasn’t measured?
It might be harsh to conclude that workplace safety doesn’t matter to groups like Prosper Lincoln, but if you look at who is behind Prosper Lincoln you can see why concerns about workplace safety may have been excluded. Propser Lincoln is heavy on voices from the business community, government, academia and the non-profit sector. There aren’t a lot of voices for employees who are part of Propser Lincoln. I believe that many of these people, some of who I am friends with, are for the most part well-meaning but live in such a white-collar world that the idea of getting hurt at work is almost far-fetched. Maybe this cloistered mindset explains why a supposedly comprehensive report about Lincoln’s economy excludes information about workplace safety. Maybe the same mindset explains ignoring fairly well-publicized links between work injuries and poverty.
City and local governments can take actions to promote workplace safety. Many cities have taken actions to protect convenience store clerks and and other retail workers who work overnight shifts. Sometimes occupational safety and public safety are thought of as separate topics, but protecting retail workers is something that comprises both public and occupational safety. Protecting retail workers from violence in Lincoln would be a good first step, counting workplace fatalities and injuries within the City of Lincoln would be another.
The total solar eclipse skirted just south of our Lincoln office on Monday. The once or twice in a lifetime event was a tourist draw for Nebraska and all around eastern Nebraska today there was a semi-festive atmosphere surrounding the eclipse. (When the eclipse passed over Lincoln around 1 p.m., the cloud cover combined with the eclipse created the temporary appearance of a severe storm coming in at dusk)
In and of itself the eclipse is interesting and even awe-inspiring, but I am not sure it completely explains why people are so fascinated by the event. I believe that part of the attraction of the eclipse is that it gives people an excuse to get away from work on a Monday – especially a Monday in summer.
I don’t mean that in a judgmental way. Americans work hard.
Earlier this year, the Heinz Corporation announced it was giving its employees a vacation day on Super Bowl Monday. Corporate America realizes that American workers work hard and some companies realize that giving people a little extra time off isn’t going to hurt the bottom line. And whether it’s a solar eclipse, the Monday after the Super Bowl or “Black Friday” hard working Americans are going to take some deserved time off from work if they are able.
While efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act and cut Medicaid appear to have stalled for now, any successful effort to cut Medicaid will adversely impact workplace safety for nurses and nurse’s aides.
Lawmakers on a state or federal level are correct in having concerns about PBMs if they want to address drug costs and opioid use. The PBM industry has argue that state laws are “pre-empted” by federal laws regulating prescription drugs, so state laws are unconstitutional. Pre-emption is premised on the fact that federal laws are superior to state laws if there are federal and state laws on both subject matters. Recently the U.S. Supreme Court has used pre-emption to strike down state-based consumer protection laws in favor of corporate defendants. The threat of successful litigation may scare states, especially smaller states, from passing laws to regulate PBMs.
But state laws regulating the use of PBMs in the context of workers’ compensation may be easier to defend from a legal standpoint. Workers compensation laws are enacted under a state’s police powers under the 10th Amendment. The constitutional basis of workers’ compensation laws is arguably a fluke of legal history but workers’ compensation is traditionally seen as a state law concern so federal courts may be less to strike down laws regulating PBMs in the context of workers’ compensation.
“A national CLE for workers compensation can be difficult to organize because workers’ compensation laws are so state specific. But there are some trends that effect all practitioners and federal laws that impact the workers’ compensation practice that you can and should discuss at a national level,” Rehm said.
“ I appreciate the support of the firm in being able to serve AAJ in this capacity. I am also thankful to AAJ staff for their help in organizing the CLE. I would also like that thank my colleagues Robert Riojas, Deb Kohl and Aida Carini for taking the time to write papers and present on the CLE.”