Author Archives: Jon Rehm

Who is this nurse case manager and why are they talking to doctor about my workers’ comp. case?

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Work injuries create many problems; pain and loss of function from the injury, medical bills, lost wages and fear of employer-retaliation to name a few. But today I want to post about another hassle that comes with a work injury:

Nurse case managers.

Nurse case managers are nurses from the insurance company or workers’ compensation claims administrators who attempt to “manage” medical care for injured workers. While nurse case managers talk about “patient advocacy”, they work for the insurer or claims administrator. From what I can tell, their version of “patient advocacy” is to talk doctors into releasing injured workers from care without restrictions and without future medical care.

Nebraska courts hold that nurse case management services benefit employers. So why does Nebraska allow nurse case managers to run amok, while other states strictly regulate them? Nebraska’s state constitution and our state’s workers compensation rules explain why nurse case managers can get away with violating the privacy of injured workers.

The right to privacy under state constitutions

Nebraska does not recognize a right to privacy in our state constitution.  Montana and Illinois recognize a right to privacy in their state constitutions. That right to privacy under those state constitutions is part of the reason why nurse case managers on a tight leash in those states. Courts in those states have ruled that injured workers have a strong privacy interest in their medical records and laws that impair that privacy should be subject to strict scrutiny.

But it’s not just nurse case managers who try to interfere with the doctor-injured worker relationship In Nebraska attorneys for employers and insurance companies often to talk to the doctors of injured workers.  These conversations are usually had for the purpose of getting doctors to change their mind about their opinions in the case. Since these lawyers are representing an insurance company who pays their bills, most doctors are willing to speak with these attorneys. (It’s a different story for lawyers who represent injured workers in workers compensation cases.)

Like defense attorneys, nurse case managers are a representative of the insurance company/employer. They have a right to communicate with medical providers under Nebraska law. And again, the nurse case managers have some leverage over medical providers. They may also develop professional relationships with providers that can help their work.

Will Nebraska amend our state constitution to guarantee a right to privacy? The right to privacy is often used to support abortion rights, so any effort to amend our state constitution to allow for a right to privacy would likely be opposed by anti-abortion activists who are influential in Nebraska.

Why the Rules of Discovery undermine privacy

But even if Nebraska had a right to privacy in our state constitution, Nebraska would either need to pass legislation and or change the workers’ compensation court rules to regulate nurse case managers. I’m not sure that would be feasible without some other changes to rules within the Nebraska Workers’ Compensation Court.

The rules of civil discovery apply within the Nebraska Workers’ Compensation Court. Those rules give employers and insurance companies broad leeway to pry into the medical history of injured workers. States like Illinois adjudicate workers’ compensation claims as administrative claims. In administrative systems employers have more restricted access to an injured workers’ health history.

Fighting back against nurse case managers

While Nebraska law permits the use of nurse case managers, Nebraska law can be used against nurse case manager. Many attorneys in Nebraska believe that nurse case manager notes are discoverable. Those notes often reveal admissions that help injured workers.

Our firm routinely tells nurse case managers not to have contact with our clients. Sometimes that means nurse case managers will stay out of examination rooms. I have used the discovery rules against nurse case managers on the issue of when they knew about permanent impairment for the purposes of penalties under Neb. Rev. Stat. 48-125. I think it’s fair to inquire about any licensing issues a nurse case manager may have had through discovery. I think its also fair to impeach a nurse case manager with evidence of licensing issues on cross-examination.

Final thoughts on nurse case managers

Overall, Nebraska has good workers’ compensation laws – particularly in comparison with neighboring states. But, Nebraska law is less favorable than other states when it comes to nurse case managers. If one gets involved in your workers’ compensation case, it might be a good idea to call a lawyer.

(Credit to Mark Perper and Tom Murphy for sharing Illinois and Montana claw on this issue on the WILG listserv)

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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More questions than answers on apportionment in Nebraska workers comp.

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Instead of pension benefits or 401k balances, many workers accumulate work injuries. But does compensation for a prior injury rule out compensation for a subsequent injury? After a recent state Supreme Court decision, some workers in Nebraska could be subjected to that outcome.

In Picard v. P&C Group 1, the Nebraska Supreme Court held that an employee who was compensated for permanent disability for a two wrist injury in 2012 could not be compensated for a permanent disability for a lower back injury in 2015 since they had returned to work in at higher pay/

Apportionment or not?

To workers’ compensation lawyers this is apportionment.  Apportionment is attributing permanent disability for a current injury to a prior injury. However, the Nebraska Supreme Court specifically held Nebraska does not apportion injuries and is a full responsibility state. 

But the court held that plaintiff had already been compensated for permanent disability for their two-hand injury. So as a result. they could not be compensated for their lower back injury. This decision reversed a trial court decision holding the plaintiff had a 75 percent loss of earning power for the wrist injury in 2012 and a 50 percent loss of earning power for the 2015 injury.

The court relied on the fact that the defendant had placed plaintiff in an easier job after the 2012 injury and that plaintiff continued to do their job after the 2015 injury. The court also pointed out that plaintiff was earning more after the 2012 injury and more than they were after in the 2015. These facts lead the court to hold plaintiff had not suffered a loss of earning power for the 2015 injury.

SMH

The decision left many workers’ compensation lawyers in Nebraska shaking their heads. First, the 2012 injury and the 2015 injury involved restrictions to different body parts. There were two separate sources of disability. But the court reversed the trial courts decision to award benefits to for the second injury.

Secondly, the decision appeared to ignore established definitions of loss of earning power. Sure the plaintiff was earning the same (or more) wage after the 2015 injury as before, but that back injury would likely disable the employee in the broader job market. The injury would also likely prevent them from working at some jobs within the plant. That’s why the vocational counselor found the plaintiff had a loss of earning power. The court ignored that and just found that the plaintiff had higher wages than they did before the accident, so they had no loss of earning power.

I’m also disturbed by the argument that plaintiff was earning higher wages post-accident. I hear this argument all the time from employers when I have cases when employees are still employed. True, wages go up in a nominal sense, but so does the cost of living. A worker who receives a cost of living raise doesn’t really increase their earnings.

This decision further ignored several other precedents set by the court when dealing with compensated and non-compensated injuries. It also ignored combining pre-existing conditions and injuries with a current work injury that results in a higher disability for an injured worker. 

What Picard doesn’t change

To be clear, the Picard decision only applies to permanent disability. Injured workers can still receive medical benefits and temporary disability benefits if they were injured previously. The Picard decision also only applies to so-called “non-scheduled” injuries. Workers who previously had a “scheduled injury” can be paid for another scheduled injury or for a new non-scheduled injury. Workers who previously had a scheduled injury can be paid for non-scheduled injuries. Scheduled injuries are paid based on the damage done to the body. In contrast, non-scheduled injuries are paid based on how the injury effects your ability to earn wages.

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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Update: Nebraska placed on NYC-area COVID quarantine list

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This is an update of a post published on July 6, 2020

Americans can live and work where they want within the United States. But as I wrote last year, they aren’t free to claim workers’ compensation where they want. But true to form, COVID-19 has added another complication to this constitutional conundrum.

New York, New Jersey and Connecticut announced fines for residents who did not quarantine for 14 days after travelling to states with rising COVID-19 cases. New York, New Jersey and Connecticut added Nebraska to the quarantine list on July 21st.

The City of Chicago implemented a similar quarantine policy, but have not added Nebraska to their list of states.

In short, injured workers in those states face a 14-day quarantine if they forced to travel to Nebraska for their workers’ compensation case. The new quarantine will impact truckers who live in those states who got hurt working for Nebraska-based Crete Carrier and Werner.

A rock and a hard place for injured workers

I sympathize with and share the public health concerns of my friends and colleagues in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Illinois. But if COVID cases continue to increase and or more states start imposing quarantines, more injured workers are going be facing the prospect of a quarantine if they travel out of state for their workers’ compensation cases.

As enhanced unemployment benefits expire this month, a worker under quarantine faces a lot of uncertainty over income. This is especially true for an injured workers who may have already been facing financial hardship before the pandemic. Quarantines may give employers/defendants more leverage in settlement negotiations as well.

Alternatives to interstate travel?

Are there alternatives to in-person workers’ compensation hearings? Per Neb. Rev. Stat. 48-177, in Nebraska parties can agree to video hearings. But there is no way for a Judge to force a video hearing. Many lawyers and judges seem to prefer in person hearings when they need to weigh the credibility of witness testimony. Many workers’ compensation trials have the injured worker as the sole witness. But the credibility of the medical records submitted into the records often relies on the credibility of the witness.

Before trial, employers will often depose or question injured workers. Courts have more power to force video or telephonic depositions. So an out of state worker is more likely to avoid a trip back to Nebraska for a deposition. But I have had out of state clients compelled to travel to Nebraska for depositions.

Travel within Nebraska

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, I have seen more efforts to move depositions from central and western Nebraska to Lincoln. Within Nebraska, employers have less power to compel an injured worker to travel long distances for trial or deposition. At the IRS mileage rate, the cost of driving across Nebraska can equal the cost of air travel to a regional air hub like Denver or Chicago.

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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When is a cut not just a cut?

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Most people will cut accidentally cut themselves doing chores around the house. But a cut on the job can lead to serious consequences for many workers. So when is a cut not just a cut?

Industrial amputations and crush injuries

Workers in meatpacking and manufacturing frequently suffer serious cuts and amputations from blades and crush injuries. From a legal perspective, employers often accept initial responsibility for these injuries under workers’ compensation.

But even if the employer accepts responsibility for paying workers compensation, the employer may attempt to blame the employee for the injury. This means employers will pay medical bills related to a cut or amputation,  but will fire the employee for some safety violation. Employers will often deny paying temporary disability benefits to an employee they accuse of violating safety rules.

Safety violations and retaliation

Employers can argue employee safety violations as a defense to paying workers’ compensation benefits. I will concede that sometimes employees violate safety rules. But other times, employers fire employees on flimsy pretext of a safety violation. Employees may be able to bring a retaliation case in that circumstance.

But, Nebraska workers’ compensation law might also provide some additional remedies for an employee fired for a bogus safety violation. Nebraska workers’ compensation law awards a 50 percent penalty and attorney fees if there is no reasonable controversy about entitlement to benefits. No reasonable controversy is a difficult standard for an employee to meet. But a flimsy termination related to a work injury used to deny benefits  is one circumstance where fees and penalties may be likely.

Moisture,  infection and amputation

But even less serious cuts can present complications. The complication I see the most is moisture. Workers in packinghouses often work in wet environments. This moisture can infect cuts and lead to amputations.

Moisture can also present other issues. For example, a food service employee required to wear gloves during their work would sweat under the gloves. That sweat would increase the risk of infection of a cut and could lead to an employee missing work.

Side effects of medication

Medications can reduce the risk of infection for a serious cut. But medications have side effects that can sometimes require medical treatment. In a recent Virginia case, a bowel disorder caused by medication prescribed to prevent infection was an injury covered by workers compensation. The Virginia decision relied on the so-called “compensable consequences” doctrine. Nebraska recognizes the “compensable consequences” doctrine and will pay benefits related to adverse side effects of medication.

But workers’ compensation insurers often balk at covering infections from cuts and side effects of taking medication from work injuries. Cut, crush and amputation injuries aren’t the only injures that involve compensable consequences. However, proving these consequences is easier in cut and crush cases because of the obvious nature of the injury and how it was caused.

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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Did the Supreme Court undercut ADA protections for employees of religious hospitals?

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Last week the Supreme Court decided that two teachers working at Catholic schools could not sue their employer for discrimination because of the “ministerial exception” to federal workplace discrimination laws.

The Supreme Court clarified (or broadened) what kind of religious school employees are excluded from anti-discrimination laws. The Supreme Court held that the First Amendment’s Religion clause precluded courts from second guessing the reasons for firing ministerial employees. The court held there was no formula for who was a ministerial employee. The court stated that depended on the extent an employee conveyed the message of the church and carried its mission.

Arguably, the Morrissey-Berru decision and the Hosanna-Tabor decision which it relied on only apply to religious school teachers. Before these decisions, lower courts held that most religious school teachers were covered under federal civil rights laws. (See the dissent from Justice Sotomayor starting at page 37 of the opinion.)

Who else will be excluded from civil rights laws?

So, if churches have broader latitude to discriminate against employees, how broad is that latitude. Would this apply to nurses and nurses aides at hospitals affiliated with a church? Nurses and nurse’s aides are often injured at work. Because of this fact, they often need to invoke the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Family Medical Leave Act. (FMLA) Would a religious hospital argue the ministerial exception to argue the ADA and FMLA did not apply to a nurse or nurse’s aide hurt at work?

So far, at least in Nebraska and the Eighth Circuit I haven’t seen any cases where that happened. But Catholic Health Initiatives (CHI), a major health care employer locally, has some expressly religious statements in its mission statement. Would that language be enough to argue ministerial exception? Maybe not, but religious freedom advocates have advised employers about steps they can take to invoke the ministerial exception defense.

Another commonality between Morrisey-Berru and Hosanna-Tabor

I believe that major church-affiliated health care employers will continue to follow the ADA and FMLA. Major employers and their HR departments tend to be risk-averse. But in litigated cases, I believe outside counsel would push ministerial exception arguments.

Both the Hosanna-Tabor and Morrisey-Berru cases involved ADA claims. This fact fails to surprise me and I doubt that it’s entirely coincidental. From a practical perspective, ADA claims tend to be better cases for employees than other civil rights cases. I believe this is so because employers are more likely to botch ADA/FMLA compliance than other forms anti-discrimination laws. Arguing the ministerial exception is one way to defeat an otherwise valid ADA case.

A return to the pre-ADAAA bad old days?

But when I started practicing in 2005, ADA cases were harder to win. What changed was the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 which broadened the definition of disability. That change made ADA cases easier to prove.

Those changes to the ADA also made it easier for workers to heal from work injuries and return to work after injury. Pre-2008, if an injured worker was not ready to return to work after their 12 weeks of FMLA leave they would likely be fired. This threat often forced injured workers to attempt to return to work before they were ready. In tandem with “100 percent healed” policies, injured workers would also work with their doctors to downplay or eliminate work restrictions. An employee who returned to work with “no restrictions” before ready risked injury and also compromised the value of their workers’ compensation case.

But if courts extend Hosanna-Tabor and Morrisey-Berru to health care workers, the past is prologue for those workers. If courts extend these cases to hold the FMLA does not apply to health care workers, the future may be worse than the pre-ADAAA past.

Common law employment law claims?

Left unaddressed by the Supreme Court is whether religious employers can claim exemption from common law employment law claims. For example, Nebraska law makes it unlawful to retaliate against a worker claiming workers compensation. The Nebraska Workers Compensation Act covers churches and church employees. Arguably it would defeat the purpose of that law to allow churches or religious employers to retaliate against those employees.

On the flip side, Supreme Court cases about employment law tend to persuade state court judges. In her dissent in Morrissey-Berru, Justice Sotomayor criticized the ministerial exception as judge-made law. But the law prohibiting employers from retaliating against employees who claim workers’ compensation is also judge-made. That fact may make judges in Nebraska more willing to create a ministerial exception in common law anti-retaliation claims.

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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Does higher unemployment mean higher workers’ compensation benefits?

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Last fall, I wrote about my opinion that good economic conditions often lead workers to be underpaid for work injuries.

But will that conclusion change now that unemployment has increased to historic highs? Maybe, here is how I believe higher unemployment could affect the value of workers’ compensation cases.

Loss of earning power

Nebraska law pays back injuries, head injuries, mental injuries, burns, multiple body part injuries on how they impact your ability to work. Nebraska calls the impact of a work injury on your ability to work “loss of earning power” or “LOEP” for short.  A medical opinion about the harm, restrictions or loss of use caused by an injury is just starting point in deciding loss of earning power.

Courts consider social and economic factors along with physical restrictions in calculating loss of earning power. Those other factors include: education, age, where you live and transferable skills.

The competitive labor market

Where you live is important because it gives the court an idea of the jobs available to you. Oftentimes in workers’ compensation cases there is an argument about which cities or areas to include in a job market. But the mere availability of work in your area doesn’t determine your loss of earning power.

Under Nebraska law, loss of earning power is based on a competitive labor market. When times are good, the players in the workers’ compensation system ignore the idea of a competitive labor market.

But when unemployment rises, lawyers, judges and vocational counselors, (the experts who help decide LOEP) may remember the idea of a competitive labor market. In a competitive labor market, someone who lost a job due to a work injury is going to have difficulty finding a job. The same goes for workers with serious work restrictions.

Retail jobs, along with food service jobs, are considered by many to be an employer of last result. But when unemployment spiked in March, Wal-Mart has 1,000,000 applicants for 150,000 open jobs.  In comparison, Ivy League school Cornell University accepted 14.1 percent of applicants in this year. So I think it’s fair to say that the labor market is competitive. (I’ve noticed a lack of articles about the “skills gap” and “employee ghosting” since March)

No place like Nebraska?

Under Nebraska law, judges decide loss of earning power based on local economic conditions.. The good news/bad news for Nebraska workers is that Nebraska still has the lowest unemployment in the nation. Nebraskans may not see a major increase in permanent disability benefits due to economic conditions.

But workers who live outside of Nebraska can claim Nebraska workers compensation benefits. Generally they can claim benefits if they were hurt in Nebraska, hired in Nebraska or their employer is based in Nebraska. Residents of other states would have their loss of earning power or disability determined based on where they live. These workers may see increased permanent disability benefits.

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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More redeterminations by the NDOL as Nebraska unemployment appeals increase?

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In a first for me, the Nebraska Department of Labor reversed a finding that my client had quit without good cause and awarded my client full unemployment benefit without a hearing.

The procedure where the Nebraska Department of Labor reverses itself on benefit determination without a hearing is called redetermination. As unemployment claims and unemployment decision appeals increase, I believe the Nebraska Department of Labor will use increasingly use this procedure.

What is redetermination and how is different than appeal

Normally reversing a decision by a claims adjudicator requires filing an appeal under Neb. Rev. Stat. §48-634. The appeal usually leads to a hearing where an administrative law judge decides whether someone is eligible for unemployment benefits.

But Neb. Rev. Stat. §48-631 allows an adjudicator to reconsider their decision. They can reconsider based on newly discovered wages, miscalculated wages or determinations made on misrepresentations of fact.

Now misrepresentation sounds like and would apply to fraud by an employer or employee. But, 219 NAC 15 001-D(1)  broadly defines misrepresentation for the purposes of redeterminations. For the purposes of redetermination, ignorant misrepresentation can prompt a redetermination. A lawyer may know how to obtain documents or know what documents to submit to prove a case for unemployment that a newly unemployed worker wouldn’t have thought to submit initially.

Why I think increasing in unemployment claims will lead to more redeterminations?

First, I think the Nebraska Appeal Tribunal, the court that hears unemployment appeals, is looking to manage their case load. As a result of the pandemic, I estimate the case load at the Tribunal has nearly tripled since before the COVID pandemic.

Consequently the increase in case loads since the pandemic has doubled the time between appeals and hearings from about four to eight weeks.  But by law, the Appeal Tribunal wants to schedule hearings as soon as possible. But one advantage to a longer lag between appeal and hearing date is having more time for discovery.

With more time, a lawyer can submit those documents to the Tribunal well in advance of hearing. By submitting those documents to the Department of Labor, the Department can make a redetermination short of hearing.

Redetermination as summary judgment?

In regular civil cases, courts can dispose of cases through summary judgment. Summary judgment is a disposition of a case based on documents without a trial. The purpose of summary judgment is to speed up case resolution and save court time.

However the Nebraska Appeal Tribunal lacks a summary judgment procedure. In normal times something like summary judgment is unnecessary. However as appeals back up, the redetermination procedure may function as a form of summary judgment in the Nebraska Appeal Tribunal.

Redetermination isn’t always the end

But, parties can still appeal from a re-determination — this means employers. But in my experience, employers are less likely to appeal determinations that go against them. Addtionally, the CARES Act makes it less likely that employers will have their rates go up or be charged if an employee quits with good cause or is fired without good cause. This lessens their reason to file an appeal

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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Fast and Federal: How LGBT Nebraskans should sue for discrimination on the job

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In a somewhat surprising 6-3 decision, the United States Supreme Court held firing an employee because of sexual orientation or gender identity is illegal under federal law.

This meaningful decision was even more meaningful in Nebraska. Nebraska lacks state laws that prohibit workplace discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation.

So, how do gay, lesbian and transgender individuals seek justice for workplace discrimination in Nebraska?

180 days to file with EEOC

If you want to sue your employer for sexual orientation or gender identity discrimination in Nebraska, you should file a charge with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The charge must be filed within 180 days of when you were fired or your employer took adverse action against you. This is the safest way to bring a case.

Filing a charge of discrimination against your employer is not the same as suing your employer. But under federal law, you should file a charge of discrimination before you can sue your employer. Federal law also requires you to file in federal court. You have 90 days from getting this written permission, called a right to sue, to file in federal court.

Nebraska law normally allows you 300 days to file a charge of discrimination. Charges filed within the 300 days under state law are normally timely under federal law as well. But since Nebraska doesn’t formally cover gender identity or sexual orientation, it is uncertain whether the Nebraska Equal Opportunity Commission (NEOC) would accept that charge. It is also uncertain or whether the EEOC would accept a charge filed after 180 days.

I believe any charge of discrimination based on gender identity or sexual discrimination filed after 180 days would be challenged. as untimely.

How you win your case

I’ve read a lot of misinformation on social media (no surprise) about how discrimination cases work. First, as Justice Gorsuch makes clear, gender identity or sexual orientation does not need to be the sole reason you were fired. Sexual orientation or gender identity just need to be part of the reason you were fired.

Second, the vast majority of discrimination cases are proved by circumstantial evidence. Just because your employer doesn’t tell you that you were being fired for being gay or transgender doesn’t mean you can’t win your case. In a related note, your employer making up a reason to fire you isn’t a defense either. In fact, this would help your case as making up a reason to fire someone as cover for a real reason is defined legally as pretext. Pretext is circumstantial evidence you were fired for an unlawful reason.

Finally, being fired for poor performance or breaking a rule at work may not be a defense to a discrimination case. If your employer tolerated the same misconduct by a similarly situated heterosexual or cisgendered co-worker, that would also prove discrimination.

After 180 days but before 300 days

Nebraska law does not require that you file a charge of discrimination with the NEOC to sue your employer for illegal discrimination.  But Nebraska has a 300 day statute of limitations on filing a civil suit against an employer for discrimination. In other words, under state law in Nebraska, you can circumvent the NEOC altogether.

But why would you file a state law claim when state law doesn’t expressly include gender identity and sexual orientation?

The answer is that courts in Nebraska tend to follow federal law in interpreting our state’s anti-discrimination laws. So, you could file a case within 300 days and still succeed under Nebraska state law. But there is no guarantee the Nebraska Supreme Court would follow the United States Supreme Court. Even if the Nebraska Supreme Court found in your favor, the employer would be almost certain to appeal. Appeals can be costly and time consuming. They can also delay resolution of a case.

Bad employees can win discrimination cases, but…

Finally any employee suing their employer for gender identity or sexual orientation discrimination under current Nebraska state law would be acting as a test case. In practical terms that means you need to have a very strong case. All three cases in the United States Supreme Court decision fit that description. Nebraska law doesn’t include an “so-so” or “mediocre” employee exception to our workplace discrimination laws. But in practical terms, a court may be tempted to dismiss a test case involving a sub-par employee.

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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