Category Archives: Workers’ Compensation

Five reasons why office workers don’t file workers’ comp. for hand and wrist injuries

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Office work isn’t thought of as physically difficult, but office workers can be vulnerable to hand and wrist  injuries from overuse at work. While these injuries usually aren’t permanently and substantially disabling, these injuries can lead employees to lose wages and rack up thousands of dollars in medical bills.

Yet many clerical workers are reluctant to bring workers’ compensation claims. I think there are at least five reasons why office workers don’t claim workers’ compensation for hand injuries and wrist injuries.

Hand injuries aren’t thought of as serious injuries – According to some Wasington DC think tank, carpal tunnel syndrome doesn’t count as a serious work injury. This conclusion reflects common attitudes that carpal tunnel isn’t a serious injury. If you don’t think an injury is serious, then you won’t seek treatment for the injury or seek to put it under workers’ compensation.

Workers don’t understand causation standards – In Nebraska, occupational factors merely need to contribute to the development of an injury or medical condition for it to be considered by workers’ compensation. Work duties can also aggravate an old injury. There is a misconception that an injury or condition has to be new or mostly caused by work to covered by workers’ compensation.

Workers don’t understand that repetitive use injuries are work injuries – When many people think of an injury they think of a fall or collision that happens at a distinct point in time. But in Nebraska injuries that develop over a period of time can be covered by workers’ compensation.

The stigma of filing for workers’ compensation claims – I’ve written about a lot over concerns about retaliation for bringing claims and the perception that workers’ compensation claims are fraudulent. Colorado attorney Mack Babcock wrote a thoughtful post about how the stigma of filing a workers’ compensation claim discourages employees from claiming workers’ compensation. Employees feel guilty about making claims and are often criticized by co-workers for making claims as well. Employees may customarily pay the costs of a work injury through a short-term disability policy and private health insurance, so an employee who claims workers’ compensation may be rocking the boat.

The first four factors aren’t exclusive to office workers. But I think this next factor explains why many clerical employees don’t bring claims for hand injuries due to overuse.

Cost of work injuries shifted onto private disability and health insurance – I drive past major claims processing centers for Allstate and State Farm when I drive up 84th Street on the way to Omaha. My experience is that the clerical workers who develop hand injuries doing data entry jobs in large companies will often claim short-term disability for time lost after surgery and put medical costs on private health insurance instead of claiming workers’ compensation. I think the four other factors I discussed above lead employees to use short-term disability and health insurance instead of workers’ compensation.

In my next post, I will  discuss the why and how of employees losing money by not claiming injuries as workers’ compensation injuries and what they can do if they have paid the costs of their work injury through health insurance and disability insurance.

The offices of Rehm, Bennett & Moore, 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 Nebraska, Workers' Compensation and tagged , , , .

How to Apply for Unemployment while Workers’ Comp Is Denied

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As we have blogged before, it is possible to receive unemployment benefits, even though you are off of work because of a workplace injury. . You do not have to be fired to qualify for unemployment benefits. You can get unemployment benefits if you quit for good cause.

One good cause is if you quit because you are not physcially able to do your job. For example, if your work comp claim has been denied, but you have work restrictions that your employer is not accommodating, you can qualify for unemployment benefits.

When I explain this to my client, the question I often receive is how to actually apply for those unemployment benefits. Below is a list of steps:

1.You must be able and willing to work. Often, you will have work restrictions from your doctor when you are injured. Your employer may not allow you to work within those restrictions. If your work comp claim is denied, and your employer won’t accommodate your restrictions, you may apply for unemployment benefits. You must represent that you are able to work (within your restrictions). You cannot qualify for unemployment if your doctor takes you off of work completely. 

2.To apply online, follow the link at NEworks.nebraska.gov to file an application. You will be required to upload a resume and job-search information. If you do not have access to the internet, you may visit a local Job Center at the following locations listed here: https://www.dol.nebraska.gov/Home/AboutUs. Somehow, you must find a way to get internet access because you will need to post your resume online. If you cannot get to a Job Center, check with your local library. Slow internet speed hindering unemployment claims is a problem in rural areas in Nebraska and across the nation.

3. Have the following information ready to complete an application:

  1. Social Security Number
  2. Complete home mailing address, including ZIP code
  3. Telephone number
  4. Email address
  5. County you live in
  6. Driver’s license number or State ID card number
  7. If you select direct deposit, your bank routing number and account number
  8. The company names for all your employers from the past 18 months as they appear on your paycheck stubs or W-2 forms
  9. Complete mailing addresses of employers, including ZIP code and the city in which the business is physically located
  10. Your start and end dates with each employer, including month, day, and year
  11. Your reason for leaving each employer (lack of work, voluntary quit, discharge, leave of absence)
  12. Employment authorization number and expiration date (if a non-citizen)
  13. If you served in the military the past 18 months, DD 214 Member #4 Form

 

4.Communicate with the Nebraska Department of Labor. Often times someone from the Nebraska Department of Labor will call you to ask questions. These questions are often prompted by infornation submitted by your employer Make sure you answer take that call. We wrote a blog back in 2012 where a Nebraska Department of Labor employee said that many unemployed workers would get benefits if they would just answer their phone whwen  the NDOL calls. After you file a new claim for unemployment benefits, you must file a weekly claim for benefits.

5. If your claim is denied, or you are told that you are disqualified from benefits for a certain period of time, you may file an appeal, but the appeal must be filed within 20 calendar days from the date the determination was mailed. You can file an appeal online at neworks.nebraska.gov, in writing by mail, by fax at 402-471-1734), or by email (NDOL.Appeals@nebraska.gov). If filing an appeal by mail, send to: Nebraska Appeal Tribunal, Nebraska Department of Labor, PO Box 98941, Lincoln, NE 68509. If your appeal is in writing, you must state the reason you wish to appeal, and include your signature, Social Security Number and employer’s name. Include the Determination ID from your determination letter.

If you are unsure how to file an appeal, contact a lawyer or someone at our firm.  The Nebraska Department of Labor tries to schedule hearings within a few weeks of an appeal date. While that might seem like a lifetime when you aren’t receiving benefits, it isn’t a lot of time for a lawyer to get prepared for a hearing.

The offices of Rehm, Bennett & Moore, 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 Nebraska, Unemployment, Workers' Compensation and tagged .

Pro/con: Workers’ compensation retaliation as a jury question

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Oklahoma rejected a 7th Amendment challenge to their workers’ compensation retaliation law

The Oklahoma Supreme Court rejected a constitutional challenge to Oklahoma’s workers compensation retaliation statute based in part on the fact the statute doesn’t provide for trial by jury.

Workers compensation retaliation is a common law tort in Nebraska that provides for a trial by jury in a court of general jurisdiction. I believe there are upsides and downsides of making workers compensation retaliation cases tried to juries in a court of general jurisdiction rather than tried in a workers compensation court of limited jurisdiction.

I see some procedural advantages to trying workers’ compensation retaliation cases within the workers’ compensation court, but in substance I think it is better to try these cases in courts of general jurisdiction.

Here are the upsides of trying workers compensation retaliation cases to juries in courts of general jurisdiction.

1. Unlimited damages — Jury verdicts generally aren’t capped. There have been recent seven figure verdicts in workers compensation retaliation cases in Alabama and California. Workers compensation limits damages but those damages are capped with the understanding that fault isn’t relevant to getting benefits. Retaliation is clearly a matter of fault, so it should follow that damages should be unlimited in retaliation cases.

2.  Bringing other causes of action — Workers compensation laws limit the jurisdiction of workers compensation courts. So even if a workers’ compensation court can adjudicate a workers’ compensation retaliation case, it doesn’t have jurisdiction to hear an FMLA, ADA or whistleblower claims that often arise along with a workers’ compensation retaliation case.  Oklahoma’s workers’ compensation retaliation statute was passed in 1976. The ADA and FMLA were passed in the early 1990s before those laws went into effect. I would imagine states with workers’ compensation retaliation by statute have run into similar conflicts.

Another related drawback for a plaintiff is res judicata. An employee forced to try a workers’ compensation retaliation case in a workers’ compensation court, could be unable to bring a related ADA or FMLA claim in a court of general jurisdiction if they lost their workers compensation retaliation claim.

Advantage of trying workers compensation retaliation cases in workers compensation courts.

1. Less motion practice — Time consuming summary judgment motions are the bane of the existence of lawyers who represent employees. Statistically most employment law cases end on summary judgment.

Summary judgment is used a lot less in workers compensation. In Nebraska the judges discourage summary judgment because of the short time it takes to bring a case to trial and because of the extra work required in hearing what amounts to a trial on paper. My impression from listening to judges in other states is that they would agree with their colleagues in Nebraska.

2. Less risk of arbitration — More employers, encouraged by recent Supreme Court decisions, have forced employees to have private arbitrators rather than courts decide employment law disputes. But cases brought in an administrative agency are exempted from arbitration clauses. Workers compensation cases can be decided within the judicial and executive branch. They are also usually not jury trials. In short, it would be harder to force a workers’ compensation retaliation case into arbitration if it is heard within a workers’ compensation court.

 3. Simpler and more certain procedure — Workers’ compensation courts generally have simplified rules of evidence and procedure that is supposed to reduce the cost of litigation. Since workers’ compensation courts are generally tried to single judges instead of jurors, it would be easier to predict how they would decide a case.

Though workers’ compensation judges in Nebraska can’t adjudicate retaliation cases, reported and unreported cases would indicate that the judges are aware of the issue and reasonably sympathetic to employees who may have been retaliated against for bringing workers’ compensation claims.

Counter-point: Hearing retaliation cases could delay and complicate resolution of workers’ compensation cases.

Justice delayed is justice denied. In Nebraska, an injured worker can get a hearing date within 6-9 months of fling a petition and get a written decision in a matter of weeks after trial. I had a trial last month that lasted one hour inclusive of pre-trial matters, opening statements, witness testimony and closing arguments. I suspect Nebraska’s efficiency in adjudicating work injury claims would be impaired if our workers’ compensation court judges had to adjudicate workers’ compensation retaliation cases. I suspect it would take longer to to get a trial, trials would take longer and decisions would be slower.

The offices of Rehm, Bennett & Moore, 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 Nebraska, retaliation, Workers' Compensation 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, 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 , , , .

Safety Incentive Programs: Lawful? Effective?

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The ”  _____ days without an accident sign” is a common feature in many workplaces. These signs are often parts of employer safety incentive programs. These programs intend to reduce work injuries which should reduce workers’ compensation expenses for business.

Often these programs include money or other financial incentives for employees. The use of programs that financially rewards employees presents three questions to me. Are these programs lawful, are they effective and are their other ways to improve workplace safety?

Are employer incentive programs lawful?

In 2018 the Department of Labor reversed Obama era regulatory guidance that safety incentive programs would violate OSHA anti-retaliation rules. The concern of the previous administration was that safety incentive programs discouraged reporting of injuries. But even the Trump DOL believes that a lawful safety incentive program must include anti-retaliation training and also address “near misses” or incidents that were nearly accidents so as not to discourage the reporting of workers’ compensation claims.

OSHA regulations largely address how that federal agency enforces workplace safety law. Employees can’t sue their employers for violations of OSHA. But in certain industries, OSHA allows whistleblower cases for employees reporting unsafet work condtions. Similarly, state laws can allow employees to being retaliation cases for reporting safety problems and or reporting a work injury. Safety incentive programs that penalize workers for injuries could violate anti-retaliation laws depending on how they are designed.

Are safety incentive programs effective?

Safety experts have questioned the effectiveness of directly rewarding employees for not being hurt. These experts believe that these programs lead employees to cover up injuries which could  cover up bigger safety issues. Philadelphia attorney Richard Jaffe criticized safety incentive programs because they are premised on the fact that employees create unsafe conditions. Put another way, the programs are premised on the assumption that employees are to blame for getting hurt.

There is powerful anecdote about the failure of some safety incentive programs. The Massey Energy Upper Big Branch Mine explosion killed 29 West Virginia minors in 2010. Massey’s CEO Don Blankenship had a safety incentive program that included sporting equipment and luxury goods for minors who didn’t miss work for accidents. Blankenship was convicted of violating safety standards in connection with the Upper Big Branch explosion.

The Upper Big Branch explosion coupled with the callousness of Don Blankenship is an extreme example of what could go wrong with employee safety incentive programs.

So what works?

Safety programs that involve employees working with management are the most effective. Employee input is critical because employees often have the most knowledge about a job. They also have a strong incentive to avoid injury.

Unions give employees a say in their workplace. Not surprisingly, studies in the United States and Canada show unionized workplaces are safer than non-unionized workplaces. Scholars have coined the term “union safety dividend” to describe the workplace safety benefits associated with unions.

I think unions are a better safety tool than programs that target worker behavior because they don’t assume that workers are at fault for their injuries. There are times where an employee may be at fault or share fault for an injury. But that’s why workers compensation pays limited benefits regardless of fault. Workplace safety programs that incorporate employee and employer viewpoints realize that risks in the workplace can come from employer, employee and third parties like equipment manufacturers.

 

The offices of Rehm, Bennett & Moore, 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 Nebraska, retaliation, Whistleblower, Workers' Compensation and tagged .

I don’t care what you heard on NPR. Walmart isn’t getting rid of greeters.

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A minor uproar ensued a few months ago when outlets like NPR reported Walmart was eliminating the familiar greeter job in 1000 stores.

So it seemed odd when I saw a local competitor of Walmart placing a greeter in a store that I frequent. The person told me they were working a “light duty” job.

Here is why I think more big retailers will be putting in greeters.

I wrote back in 2017 that retailing jobs were becoming heavier and more hazardous because more employees would be involved in delivery work created by online ordering.

But doesn’t the fact that retail jobs are becoming physically more demanding mean that light jobs like greeter will be eliminated?

I don’t believe so. Heavier jobs mean more injuries on the job. More injuries on the job mean employers will be looking to place employees on so-called “light” or alternate duty jobs. More light or alternate duty assignments means injured workers getting placed into light jobs like greeter or other attendant jobs on a temporary basis.

In my experience Walmart accommodates injured employees through something called a Temporary Alternate Duty (TAD) matrix. The TAD matrix is a mix of job light job functions that can be done. The Greeter job is part of that matrix. I doubt that Walmart is going to take Greeter out of their matrix when the alternative would be paying their injured workers temporary total disability.

I learned the term TAD back in 2012 when I deposed a Walmart store manager in central Nebraska. In 2012, there were also press reports that Walmart had eliminated the greeter job. When I asked the Walmart manager about those reports, he was flippant with me In retrospect, he had some grounds to think I asked a stupid question. Walmart didn’t get rid of greeters in 2012 and I doubt they will in 2019. (Walmart has nearly 4,500 stores in the United States. Recent press accounts report Walmart is only eliminating greeters in 1000 stores)

I don’t want to sound dismissive of disabled employees who work as greeters who might have lost their job. But I believe that Walmart shoppers and shoppers of similar stores will continue to see store greeters because that’s how retail employers will accommodate injured employees by placing them into ligther jobs like greeter or attendant jobs.

The offices of Rehm, Bennett & Moore, 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 Nebraska, Workers' Compensation and tagged , , , .

When active shooter drills lead to workplace injuries

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The United States has one of the highest rates of gun violence in the developed world. Unfortunately the workplace is no sanctuary from this violence.

Many workplaces, schools in particular, participate in active shooter drills. But an active shooter drill at a school in Indiana lead to more workplace violence.

As reported in Splinter, teachers in Monticello, Indiana were shot “execution style” with pellet guns by sheriff’s deputies participating in a mass shooter drill. Indiana teachers have helped introduce legislation outlawing that practice.

The practice of shooting people with pellet guns during active shooter drills raises a few legal issues. True to the title of this blog, any physical injury caused by being shot with a pellet gun during a workplace active shooter drill would be covered under workers’ compensation. At least in Nebraska any mental injury stemming from the phyiscal injury should be covered under workers’ compensation as well.

Workers’ compensation pays limited benefits regardless of fault of the employee or employer. Workers’ compensation does not pay for pain and suffering or generally punish employers for bad conduct. But an employee can bring a so-called third-party case if the conduct of someone other than the employer caused the injury. In the Indiana case, it was a county sheriff who shot the teachers with pellet guns.

So, the injured teachers and school workers could bring a case for intentional assault or possibly even a civil rights case against the sheriff’s department. Of course any state actor responsible for an injury has some protections under sovereign immunity for their misconduct. (Sovereign immunity usually is not an issue in workers’ compensation)

Besides being compensated for physical and mental injuries, an employee who is intentionally injured in an active shooter drill may have employment law concerns as well. In my experience, an employer dumb enough to let their employees be assaulted would be bird-brained enough to retaliate against an employee who made a workers’ compensation claim for the injury. That same employer would probably also retaliate against an employee who reported safety concerns to an outside agency like OSHA.

In a public school setting, the school would have some defenses in an employment law case via sovereign immunity. But public schools are generally unionized and unions can be a great resource for employees who are intentionally assaulted on the job.  As mentioned above, the teachers union in Indiana supported legislation to ban the practice of shooting people with pellet guns during active shooter drills. Solid union representation can also help protect employees who speak out against unsafe practices in the workplace.

The offices of Rehm, Bennett & Moore, 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 civil rights, Nebraska, third party, Workers' Compensation and tagged .