Category Archives: employment law

Will the employment at-will doctrine sink LGBTQ rights under Title VII?

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The Supreme Court will hear arguments Tueday about whether Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 expressly prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. What you probably won’t hear about is the importance of the employment at-will doctrine in how the case is decided

The case for including sexual orientation within Title VII is based on the“sex plus” theory of discrimination which prohibits gender stereotyping. More broadly the equal protection arguments underlying the 2015 decision legalizing same-sex marriage would also support the inclusion of sexual orientation and gender identity within federal civil rights law.

In a brief the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) argued against expanding TItle VII protections to sexual orientation and gender identity based on a narrow reading of Title VII. Though the DOJ brief doesn’t mention the concept or doctrine of employment at-will expressly, its influence is felt strongly.

Employment at-will is judge-created or, according to an authoritative essay written by attorney Ronald B. Standler, a law professor-created doctrine created in the late 19th century. Employment at-will is a doctrine that holds an employer is free to fire an employee without cause at any time, for any reason without notice. On the flip side an employee is free to quit at any time. (Of course, employment at-will doesn’t stop employers from whining about employee ghosting. Employers also seek to enforce non-compete agreements against employees who quit)

One consequence of employment at-will, as pointed out on this blog, is that courts will narrowly interpret any exceptions to employment at-will doctrine.

Civil rights laws are exceptions to employment at-will. But opponents of expanding Title VII expressly to sexual orientation and gender identity are arguing to narrowly construe Title VII. The employment defense bar makes these types of arguments, often successfully, on a routine basis.

In a way the argument over whether to include sexual orientation and gender identity within Title VII is both groundbreaking and routine. I scratch my head when strong advocates of employment at-will  get apoplectic about the DOJ’s brief narrowly interpreting Title VII. All the DOJ is doing is narrowly interpreting an exception to employment at-will doctrine.

I also don’t understand the argument that laws prohibiting LGBTQ discrimination are economic development tools. I read an interesting article that could explain this idea.  The article was a critical exploration of the philosophy of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Thomas, the second African-American Supreme Court justice has been critical of policies such as affirmative action. The article pointed out, somewhat sympathetically, that Thomas sees affirmative action as a matter of aesthetics among elites. In other words, the elite gets to chose what the elite looks like without having their power challenged. Inclusion is a form of marketing.

I think the idea of elite aesthetics explains how the professional-managerial class and their defenders can support LGBT rights in the workplace and employment at-will. Even if sexual orientation and gender identity are included within Title VII, those cases will still be difficult to win. Employers will still have what amounts to private sovereign immunity through exhaustion of remedies requirements. The National Labor Relations Board will still be making it harder for employees to form unions and not be subject to employment at-will.

But not all management-types are so willing to let their socially liberal instincts override their support of employer power in the workplace to create more exceptions to employment at-will. There are also many in the business community who don’t share socially liberal sentiments. I suspect this side may prevail in the argument over whether sexual orientation and gender identity are covered by Title VII.

Would it be logically inconsistent to allow same sex marriage but allow discrimination based on sexual orientation? Yes, but the importance of the employment at-will doctrine would at-least give that seeming inconsistency some logical explanation.

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.

This entry was posted in discrimination, employment law and tagged , .

Does employment at-will deter whistleblowers?

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Photo credit to Axios

A whistleblower, reportedly a CIA officer assigned to the White House, set off a political and constitutional firestorm by reporting allegations that the President conditioned delivering military aid to the Ukraine on that country investigating one of his political opponents.

Did on-the-job protections for federal workers make the whistleblower more likely to come forward?

It’s hard to know why the whistleblower came forward. But assuming the whistleblower had civil service protections, an employee of the federal government has more job security than your typical employee.

Employees of the federal government can only be fired for just cause. A typical employee is an at-will employee which means that they can be fired at any time for any reasons. While whistleblower laws protect all employees, the fact that federal employees have a just cause standard for termination gives them an extra layer of protection from getting fired than at-will employees.

State employees in Nebraska have similar protections to federal employees. I think it is reasonable to argue that those protections government employees somewhat more likely to report misconduct as they have less reasons to fear for their jobs than a typical at-will employee.

That’s not to say that whistleblowers just need to fear for their jobs. President Trump mused about killing whistleblowers. The Obama administation routinely prosecuted whistleblowers. Less prominent whistleblowers are usually subject to all sorts of petty harassment on the job. I’ve written before about how government employers seem to excel at making employees miserable if they want to get rid of an employee.

But a typical government whistleblower has less immediate fear about how they are going to earn wages than a typical private sector whistleblower.

A union contract gives private sector workers similar on the job protections to government employees. Many government employees are also covered by union contracts which helps them to further to protect their rights on the job.

Some argue that it’s too hard to fire public employees, but whistleblowing serves an important function in a free society. How many fewer whistleblowers would there be if government employees were just at-will employees who were easy to fire?

I have written a lot about employment at-will lately because the importance of employment at-will explains so much about employment law. I believe the question of whether Title VII expressly protects workers on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity could turn on the value placed on the employment at-will doctrine regardless of whether that influence is acknowledged.

Employment at-will establishes the legal relationship between employee and employer. The employee-employer relationship can also have an impact beyond the immediate boundaries of the workplace. I think it’s worth exploring the relationship between whistleblowing and the fact that most government employees are not at-will employees.

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.

This entry was posted in employment law, Nebraska and tagged , .

What The Office gets wrong and right about workers compensation

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“What do you want to watch?”

“I don’t know.”

“How about The Office?”

“Okay.”

I had this conversation with my wife a few weeks ago after we put our son to bed. That night we ended up watching Episode 2 of Season Six. In that episode warehouse manager, Daryl, makes a workers’ comp. claim for a knee injury. The claim leads to Dwight to suspect fraud.

Of course, I thought the episode got a quite a bit wrong about workers’ compensation, but the episode got some things right as well.

Workers’ compensation as a substitute for health insurance — Daryl claims in the episode that he wouldn’t have to claim workers’ compensation if the United States had “universal health care.”  This is a misconception for two reasons.

One study showed the expansion of health insurance under the Affordable Care Act  means more claims are pushed onto workers’ compensation because health insurers don’t want to pay benefits for medical treatment that should be paid for by workers’ compensation.

Secondly, Canada has universal single-payer health insurance. Canada still has workers’ compensation laws.  Work injuries also lead to income loss, so workers’ compensation doesn’t just pay medical bills, but it also provides payment for loss of income and permanent disability.

So, to quote Oscar Martinez, actually even if an employee has health insurance, they could be claiming workers’ compensation for both income loss reasons and because their health insurance is pushing them to claim workers’ compensation.

Presumption of fraud — Dwight assumes that Daryl’s claim was fraudulent.  At the end of the episode it is strongly implied that Daryl lied about how he hurt his knee. This plot development lines up with the presumption that workers’ compensation claims are almost per se fraudulent. This ignores the fact that most serious workers’ compensation fraud is committed by employers and medical providers. (For the record misuse of company property isn’t a per se defense to denial of workers’ compensation benefits.)

What “The Office” Gets right about workers’ compensation

The stigma of workers’ compensation

The Office episode accurately portrays the skeptical attitude that many employers have about workers compensation. Dwight and Toby’s spying on Daryl is not out of the ordinary for employers. Daryl’s comment that he wouldn’t be filing a claim if he had better health insurance also indicates an attitude on his part that he is doing something wrong by filing a workers’ compensation claim.

Surveillance

The episode also includes Dwight and Toby spying on Daryl. Surveillance of injured workers is fairly common. I have also seen my share of managers engaging in the type of freelance surveillance of the type engaged in by Toby and Dwight.

Employment law issues and workers’ compensation

The episode also portrays the fundamental truth about Human Resources – they are there to protect the company. Even if HR comes off as being on the employee side, as shown by Toby’s fist bump to Daryl when Daryl turns in his injury claim, Toby is willing to go along with Dwight’s “investigation” of Daryl’s injury. Further the normally mild-mannered Toby even goes so far to yell an insult at Daryl’s sister when he mistakenly thinks she is Daryl committing workers’ compensation fraud.

The story line ends with Dwight filing a grievance against Daryl for misusing company property and Daryl filing a grievance against Dwight and Toby for spying on him. The episode is accurate that work injuries often create employment law issues related to retaliation. While the Daryl claims workers’ comp. plot line ends with the episode, workers’ compensation retaliation can have long-lasting and serious effects.

The scene where Daryl confronts Toby and Dwight about the spying also contains an undercurrent of racial tension between Daryl, who is black, and Toby and Dwight – who are white. Workers’ compensation retaliation can also be mixed in with other forms of discrimination such as racial 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.

This entry was posted in employment law, surveillance, Workers' Compensation and tagged .

Can I use the decision in my unemployment appeal in my wrongful termination case?

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Can I use the decision in my unemployment appeal in my wrongful termination case?

Attorney Nate Ring answered this question for his state on his blog, The Nevada Labor Law Blog.

In Nevada, the answer is a firm no by statute.  Nebraska law is a bit more permissive about the use of unemployment decisions in other cases. But in my experience, judges will rarely admit the decisions into evidence or give the decision much weight for the purpose of summary judgment.

I will explain why Nebraska judges usually don’t rely on unemployment decision in other cases. But even if an unemployment decision can’t be used in a wrongful termination case, an unemployment appeal can be useful in investigating a wrongful termination case.

Nebraska judges tend not to give much weight to unemployment decisions in related cases for reasons of procedure and substance. Like Nate Ring wrote, unemployment appeals have rules of evidence that allow in more evidence but allow for far less investigation than in civil court. The differences in evidentiary and procedural rules can lead to an unemployment judge deciding a case about the same termination on a different set of facts.

Secondly, in an unemployment appeal the employer has the burden of proof to show the employee committed misconduct in connection with their employment. In a wrongful termination case, the employee has the burden to show their termination was motivated by  an unlawful reason. In short, it is easier for an employee to win an unemployment appeal. As a result, judges are very reluctant to let an unemployment decision into the records.

But even though an employee generally can’t use an unemployment appeal decision in a wrongful termination case, an unemployment appeal can be helpful in prosecuting a wrongful termination case.

Unemployment appeals are useful in investigating the facts of a termination, For most employees, non-union and private sector employees, it is difficult to obtain an employment file. In a Nebraska unemployment appeal, an employee can subpoena records relevant to their termination.

The employee, or their attorney, also has the opportunity to question employer witnesses who likely would have been involved in the decision to terminate the employee. In Nebraska this questioning is done under oath.

To sum up, an unemployment hearing can be a way for employee to find out additional facts about their termination and get admissions and impeachment evidence in a wrongful termination case..

Sometimes an unemployment appeal can be a chance for an employer to show they can fully justify their termination. If an employer can provide credible documentation of repeated misconduct or performance problems, an employer is likely to be able to defeat an unemployment claim.

This documentation of misconduct or performance problems is often part of so-called progressive discipline. While progressive discipline isn’t required to fire an employee and failure to use progressive discipline generally isn’t evidence of discrimination, progressive discipline is often necessary in an unemployment hearing. If employers don’t follow progressive discipline, they risk having their unemployment taxes increased.

I’ve written previously about the vast powers that employers have to fire employees in the United States. Employers can fire employees at any time for reason. This is known as ‘at-will employment.” The law around unemployment insurance can serve to modify employment at-will by giving a tax penalty to employers who don’t follow progressive discipline in firing employees. So while unemloyment insurnace is thought of a social safety net program, it effectively functions as a civil rights law as it discourages employers from firing employees without some due process.

 

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.

This entry was posted in employment law, Nebraska, Unemployment and tagged , .

Blockchain: Another tool for management to use against workers?

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Just like staying at a Holiday Inn Express made you smarter in the mid-to-late 2000s, writing a post about “blockchain” will make any blogger sound smarter in the late 2010s.

The latest entry in the blockchain derby, was “Is blockchain the next frontier in preventing sexual harassment?” by Jon Hyman. The post does a good job of explaining blockchain as a technology that creates secure, verified and unchangeable records. Hyman also writes how blockchain could be used for reporting of sexual harassment – and presumably other forms of unlawful discrimination. (The clear explanation of blockchain makes the post worth reading.)

The innovation or “disruption” described by Hyman is that there is an blockchain program that allows employees to bundle reports of harassment made against the same harasser.

So some Silicon Valley genius, or poorly paid coder, developed a program that mimics protected concerted activity. There might be an intellectual property issue here as this concept was actually invented in the 19th century – it’s called a labor union.

Meanwhile outside of the gilded and dreamy world of HR Tech, the rights of employees to from unions and engage in protected concerted activity  are being curtailed.

My problem with the use of blockchain software run by a third-party on behalf of management are numerous. First it would impose hurdles in the discovery process. If similar complaints of harassment or discrimination are stored by a third-party, HR may not know to disclose them in discovery. I suspect this may not be entirely accidental. Harassment and discrimination claims usually require an employer have knowledge of the discrimination and the opportunity to take remedial action. Outsourcing reporting and creating an extra step in reporting discrimination gives employers additional legal protections.

Also, if similar complaints about harassment or discrimination were stored on a blockchain run by a third-party vendor, it might require subpoenaing those records. Besides potential jurisdictional issues over subpoenas, tech companies are famously unwilling to cooperate with legal investigations. Apple refused the request of the FBI to unlock the I-phone of a mass shooter in San Bernadino, California. If tech companies will stonewall the FBI, I am sure they would stonewall a plaintiff’s lawyer in a civil case.

In contrast, a call to a union business agent or Local leader will often yield information about comparators and company practices in a discrimination case. Unions aren’t perfect, but neither is HR or the latest technology. Innovations in information technology can empower employees.  One example is an app created by the United States Department of Labor designed to combat wage theft. But blockchain technology controlled by management is just another tool in maintaining the dominance of capital over labor in the workplace.

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.

This entry was posted in discrimination, employment law and tagged , .

Do exhaustion of remedies requirements amount to private sovereign immunity for employers?

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Experts in employment law sympathetic to management and workers shrugged off the Supreme Court’s decision last week that made exhaustion of remedies a procedural rather than jurisdictional requirement for job discrimination claims brought under federal law.

But what employment law experts consider normal, would likely raise questions for non-experts who understood arcane employment law concepts. Exhaustion of administrative remedies is one of those arcane concepts and it is an idea that illustrates the over-privileged, in my view, position employers hold in the American legal system in relation to their employees.

Here is an example of the benefit employers get from the requirement to exhaust administrative remedies.

Let’s say you lose your job, so you lose affordable health insurance. Let’s say you need some emergency medical treatment and get stuck with a $10,000 bill you can’t pay.

Your local health care monopoly doesn’t need to get permission to sue you to collect their medical bill. They can just sue you.

But let’s say, you want to sue your former employer firing you because of your age, sex, religion, etc. Under federal law and many state laws you need to first file a charge with a civil rights agency and get their permission to sue your employer. (Nebraska actually doesn’t have those requirements. There are some exceptions under federal law as well.) In legal parlance, this is called exhaustion of administrative remedies.

If you sue your employer without exhausting administrative remedies, your employer can have your case dismissed even if you would win your case on the merits.  The recent Supreme Court case just holds that employers must bring that up in the beginning of the lawsuit otherwise they lose that defense.

But if the local hospital sues you for an emergency room bill you can’t pay your bill, you can’t argue that they failed to exhaust administrative remedies because they didn’t get permission from a third party to sue you.

Does anyone else get this sweetheart deal in litigation? Yes, the state, local and federal government. This is called sovereign immunity. Sovereign immunity is a doctrine from English common law that holds the king can do no wrong.

But wait, didn’t Americans fight a war in the 18th century to get rid of monarchs? Isnt the concept of sovereign immunity literally anti-American? One early Supreme Court decision would agree. But soon afterward American officials decided it was good to be king and enshrined this foreign concept into American law.

I think of exhaustion of remedies as a kind of private sovereign immunity for employers. In comparison to the rest of the world, American employers are Louis XIV-style absolute monarchs. The international Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, OECD, has an index comparing the ease of firing employees in developed countries. Per the OECD, the United States has the least amount of legal protections for employees in the world and is the easiest country in the world for employers to fire employees. A requirement to ask for permission to pursue a wrongful termination case is just another way to protect employers.

I concede that civil rights agencies can be useful and serve a greater purpose than just deciding discrimination cases. But civil rights agencies can lose effectiveness if they are underfunded. In general, administrative agencies are also vulnerable to influence by the industries they regulate — so-called regulatory capture. The option for individuals and groups to litigate directly and effectively against their employers is a necessity for workplace rights. Requiring employees to exhaust administrative remedies makes it harder for them to do so.

 

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.

This entry was posted in employment law, Nebraska and tagged , .

The good, bad and so-so of workplace law in this year’s session of the Unicameral

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State law impacts the workplace as much if not more than federal law. Nebraska workers gained some protections in the recently adjourned legislative session. Equally important, Nebraska workers didn’t lose any rights or protections in the recently adjourned session.

However, most legislation that would have benefited employees stalled. Nebraska’s low threshold for filibusters and traditional deference to committees makes it difficult to pass legislation without broad support. Most of the proposed legislation that would have affected the workplace lacked that broad support in the legislature.

Nebraska will likely retain its business-friendly litigation climate and middle of the pack ranking in comparative costs of our workers compensation systems (Overall costs of workers’ compensation are declining)

So here is the good and so-so of enacted legislation effecting workplace laws in Nebraska. I will also touch on what didn’t pass and talk about some interim studies that might affect legislation down the road.

The Good

LB 217 introduced by Lincoln Senator Patty Pansing Brooks, would make it illegal for an employer to retaliate against employees for discussing salaries. A few years ago, I would have thought the bill would be unnecessary because the National Lanor Relations Act (NLRA) broadly protected concerted activity in the workplace. But in 2018 the Supreme Court handed down the Epic decision which narrowed the definition of concerted activity under the NLRA. Workers in Nebraska will get back some of those pre-Epic protections.

LB 418 — This law, introduced by Omaha Senator Machaela Cavanaugh would prohibit debt collection of medical bills related to a work injury during the pendency of a workers compensation claim. Nebraska has drawn national media attention for how our laws favor aggressive debt collection. This law protects injured workers.

The law requires injured workers and or their attorneys put in a fair amount of work to comply with the new rule. Employees are required to file a petition to invoke protection of the law, so I would be interested to see if the number of petitions filed in the workers compensation court increases.

The collections bill was also paired with a bill that made it easier for non-resident aliens to receive agreed upon settlement proceeds.

On a side note, Cavanaugh has asked for an interim study by the Business and Labor Committee to study the effectiveness of Nebraska’s anti-discrimination laws

The Bad

The bad news of this legislative session for workers’ in Nebraska is that most legislation that could have helped workers did not get enacted into law. Here are some highlights (or lowlights):

LGBT rights — Legislation to include sexual orientation and gender identity within the Nebraska Fair Employment Practices Act fell well short of the necessary votes to overcome a filibuster.

Omaha’s municipal human rights ordinance prohibits discrimination on gender identity and sexual orientation grounds. Lincoln city council member Jane Raybould hinted at a recent town hall type meeting that Lincoln’s “fairness ordinance” that would include sexual orientation and gender identity within Lincoln’s human rights ordinance might be a ballot question in 2020.

The LGBT community may have some protections from discrimination on the job under a “sex plus”  theory of discrimination which outlaws sex stereotyping.

Employee classification — LB 577 ntroduced by Omaha Senator Tony Vargas would have expanded the power of the Nebraska Department of Labor to shut down worksite suspected of misclasfiying employees as independent contractors. The state loses out on tax revenue through misclassification, while workers miss out on workplace protections like workers compensation and unemployment through being misclassified.

Senator Vargas has also proposed an interim study about workers classification that will bear close scrutiny as it will certainly discuss how to classify gig economy workers and discuss so-called portable benefit laws in Nebraska 

Workers compensation — The legislature shelved legislation that would have clarified when temporary disability ends and permanent disability begins. I’ve blogged extensively about the gap or squeeze that can arise when an injured worker isn’t receiving any types of benefits but can’t work or aren’t allowed to return to work.

The legislature also shelved legislation that would have provided death benefits in workers compensation cases, to workers without dependents.  increased funeral benefits and would have limited expenses charged for medical reports. Likewise the legislature also didn’t pass legislation that would have made it easier for firefighters and other first responders to collect workers’ compensation benefits.

Wage and hour and unemployment — Legislation that would have provided paid leave and prohibited retaliation under Nebraska’s Wage Payment and Collection Act didn’t pass. Legislation limiting mandatory overtime for overburdened corrections workers also did mot pass. Legislation that would have expressly included quitting to take care of a family member as a good cause for a quit. was rejected  Lawmakers also rejected a propsal to increase the minimum wage for tipped employees and to index the state minimum wage for inflation.

The so-so

LB 428 exempted highway constriuction employees on seasonal layoff from job search requirements as a condition of receiving unemployment compensation. I pointed out that while business as a whole likes tough work search requirements as a condition of receiving unemployment, construction employers who have seasonal layoffs don’t like them as it gives employees incnetive to switch jobs.

I believe this was somewhat of a missed opportunity. Like other states with weak rural internet connections, Nebraska’s internet-based system to log job search information with the state is difficult to navigate for rural employees. The legislature needs to fix the mechanism that eligibile workers use to receive their unemployment 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.

This entry was posted in employment law, Nebraska, Unemployment, Wage and Hour, Workers' Compensation and tagged , , , .

Upon further review: 2nd thoughts on the AMA 2nd

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Back in October, I wrote a critical post about the American Medical Association Guide to Causation of Injuries, 2nd edition. (AMA 2nd for short) But as I revised that post to submit as a more formal article, I realized some of my criticisms of the AMA 2nd were misplaced.

I still believe the AMA 2nd will be used by the defense bar to informally heighten causation standards. Other bloggers have made similar observations about the use of the AMA 2nd.

I still believe the AMA 2nd will be used in lobbying efforts by the insurance industry.

But after reviewing the AMA 2nd in more detail, I think the danger of the AMA 2nd is in the misuse rather than the use of the AMA Guides.

I came to my conclusion after reviewing materials written about the AMA 2nd by J. Mark Melhorn, MD who is one of the primary authors of the AMA 2nd.

The AMA 2nd gives doctors guidance on how to determine causation for a work injury. How the AMA 2nd differs from a traditional differential diagnosis is that the Guides ask doctors to consider statistical studies concerning causation – or epidemiology – as to whether a condition is work-related. I think it is important to note that the AMA 2nd still requires a doctor to consider work duties and other factors specific to the injured worker in determining whether an injury is work-related or not. The authors of the AMA 2nd is clear about the limits of epidemiology. The authors of the AMA Causation Guides are also clear that medical causation and legal causation are different concepts.

Because of how the AMA Guides to Permanent Impairment, 6th edition (AMA 6th) for short, have hurt injured workers, I like most plaintiff’s lawyers have a visceral reaction to anything document that includes “AMA Guide” in the title. But if I am faced with a medical report or doctor stating that my client’s work duties could not have caused his or her injuries citing to the AMA 2nd, the AMA 2nd is likely being misinterpreted.

The term “evidence-based medicine” is another trigger for plaintiff’s attorneys. Evidence-based medicine is synonymous with the use of statistical research. While the defense bar seems to have marshalled the mystique of math to their advantage, a lot of time the numbers can work for employees. Plaintiffs can cite to favorable studies linking repetitive or overuse to musulo-skeletal conditions.

Epidemiology can also be helpful to workers in other ways. In cases litigated under the ADA employers will justify discrimination based on disability under the theory that a disability or medical condition can pose a direct threat to the safety or health of others. Epidemiology can help an employee prove their medical condition poses little or no risk to their safety or the safety of others. In my experience, this is particularly true if this research is shared with specialists who have treated the individual in the past.

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.

This entry was posted in employment law, Nebraska, Workers Compensation and tagged , , .