Tag Archives: Nebraska

Why Lincoln and Omaha probably won’t be following NYC in a minimum wage for Uber and Lyft drivers

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Lyft and Uber drivers in Lincoln don’t have the same legal protections as drivers in New York City

New York City recently implemented a $17 per hour minimum wage for drivers for riding hailing apps like Uber and Lyft. I wouldn’t expect similar measures exapnding wage and hour and/or workers’ compensation to gig economy workers in Omaha or Lincoln for two main reasons.

Local governments in Nebraska have their powers limited by the state

The first hurdle to a city minimum wage or city workers’ comepnsation laws in Lincoln or Omaha is the state constitution. Nebraska courts have held that only the state can regulate the employee-employer relationship unless the legislature authorizes a city or county to do so. The state has authorized cities and counties to draft civil rights ordinances.  Omaha and Lincoln have human rights commissions similar to the Nebraska Equal Opportunity Commission.

But the Legislature has not authorized local governments to implement their own minimum wage or workers’ compensation laws. No such legislation was introduced to that effect this year in Nebraska. In neighboring Missouri, the Missouri legislature reversed an attempt by the City of St. Louis to increase the minimum wage in that city above the state minimum wage. In short, I believe it would be unlikely that Nebraska would authorize local governments to implement their own workers’ compensation and wage laws in the near future.

Even if cities in Nebraska could enact wage and hour and workers’ compensation ordinances, it seems unlikely that cities would do so to cover gig economy workers.

There doesn’t appear to much political will among cities in Nebraska – even in Democratic-controlled Lincoln – to expand employee protections to ride hailing drivers. In fact, the Lincoln City council voted in 2017 to exempt Uber and Lyft drivers from the same licensing requirements as taxi drivers.

In fairness, Lincoln had a long history of being poorly served by a taxi cab monopoly. Complaints about regulatory fairness from former monopolists fell on deaf ears. But Lincoln’s taxi monopoly was broken in 2012 before the rise of ride hailing apps. Lincoln and Omaha lack an organized voice for drivers like they have in New York City. Without such a voice, worker classification issues among urban professional drivers will likely continue to be unheard at a state and local level in Nebraska.

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, Wage and Hour, Workers' Compensation and tagged , , , , , .

Workers compensation basics: Nebraska workers can pick their own doctor to treat a work injury

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Injured Nebraska workers have an absolute right to choose their surgeon if surgery is needed. Nebraska workers compensation law provides injured workers to choose their own treating doctors unless Nebraska employers get a written waiver of that right. Many employers try to control doctor choice without following the rules and getting a written waiver. The requires use of an approved Form 50  with this language.

Under the Nebraska workers’ compensation law, you may have the right to choose a doctor to treat you for your work-related injury. You may choose a doctor who has treated you or an immediate family before this injury happened. Immediate family members are your spouse, children, parents, stepchildren and stepparents. The doctor you choose must have records to show that past treatment was provided. Your employer may ask the person who was treated to give permission so that doctor can verify past treatment.

If you want to choose your doctor, you must tell you employer the name of the doctor you choose. Do this as soon as possible after your employer gives you this notice and before getting any treatment unless it is emergency medical treatment. Once you tell your employer the name of the doctor, you may not change unless your employer agrees or the Nebraska Workers’ Compensation Court orders a change. 

If you do not choose your doctor, your employer has the right to choose the doctor to treat you. The employer may also choose the doctor to treat you if you or your family member does not give permission so your employer can verify past treatment by the doctor you chose.

Even if a worker under Nebraska law waives choice of treating doctor they can still choose their surgeon, if one is needed. This right can bot be waived. It is absolute. An insurance company or employer is telling you that you need to see “their doctor” or that you can’t see your doctor to treat for a work injury, you should contact a lawyer.

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 , , , .

Mold on the job: not just workers’ compensation

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Mold doesn’t have to be this obvious to be harmful in the workplace.

Teaching is not thought of as a hazardous job, but 120 teachers in Stamford, Connecticut have filed workers compensation claims due to mold exposure that effects half of the buildings in their district.

Mold is a relatively common hazard for white collar employees. When mold infests a building, it is common to have many employees affected. Mold is sometimes visible other times it can be hidden in insulation. Mold exposure is typically thought of leading to hayfever like allergic symptoms, but it can also lead to symptoms like chronic fatigue, irritable bowel syndrome and weight gain. About 25 percent of people are especially sensitive to mold and that sensitivity can be tested for by doctors.

In Nebraska, an employee just needs to show that an occupational factor or factors were a contributing factor to the injury. An employee exposed to mold in Nebraska should be able to collect workers’ compensation benefits for mold exposure even if they had pre-existing allergies or mold sensitivity. But other states have more stringent causation standards, so it could be harder to receive workers’ compensation benefits for mold exposure in those states.

The mass mold exposure by teachers in Stamford, Connecticut raises many interesting legal issues outside of workers’ compensation.

Challenges of collective action in the workplace

The first issue is the question of collective action when 120 employees are injured by a common hazard. The teachers are fortunate to be represented by a union. A union can be helpful in accommodating work injuries and helping employees gather information that can prove their workers compensation case. In a case of mold exposure, it is important to gather information about mold levels so doctors have sufficient foundation to relate symptoms to mold exposure. A union is helpful in getting such information.

But public sector unions are under attack by recent and upcoming Supreme Court litigation.  The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) gives nonunion employees some right to act in a group or collective manner about the terms and conditions of their employment. But that right may have been limited by the Epic case decided by the Supreme Court at the end of the 2018 case.

Fortunately claiming workers compensation is a protected activity in most states. That means employees facing a common cause of injury would be protected from retaliation for pursuing workers compensation claims. Some states, like Nebraska, also have whistleblower statutes that would protect employees from reporting hazardous work conditions.

In cases where many people have suffered a common harm, they can file a collective or class action case. I don’t know if Connecticut allows for such claims in workers compensation. But a collective or class case in workers’ compensation could be a simpler and less epxenseive to handle workers’ compensation cases involving mass mold exposure.

Third party claims

Collective or class litigation is generally allowed in cases of mass negligence. Fault usually doesn’t matter in workers compensation, but if a third party is at fault for a work injury the employee (and in Nebraska the employer as well) can sue that third party. A third-party case usually gives an employer some right of subrogation that allows them to be repaid some of what they paid the employee in workers’ compensation benefits.

In a case of mass mold exposure employees and employers could be looking to sue a landlord or builder for negligent construction or maintenance. But if s third party didn’t cause the injury, employees are stuck with defined workers compensation benefits and employers have no hope of being repaid for workers compensation benefits they paid to employees.

The downside to s third party claim is that they usually require more expense to prove negligence. In my experience handling individual mold exposure workers compensation cases, the value of the claims usually would not justify the expense of third-party litigation. But if enough employees are joined in a case, it would make sense economically to pursue a negligence case.

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, third party claims, Workers' Compensation and tagged , , , , , , , .

Nebraska comp. court rule changes could help physician-owned hospitals

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Lincoln Surgical Hospital (above) could benefit from recent changes to NWCC rules on doctor referral

While Judges debated and rejected changes to rules about expert testimony in the Nebraska Workers’ Compensation Court, there was little discussion about a change to court rules allowing for a controversial practice among doctors.

At last month’s public meeting of the Nebraska Workers’ Compensation court, the court unanimously passed a change to NWCC Rule 50 that allowed doctors to refer to facilities where the doctors have an ownership interest.

 Supporters of so-called “physician-owned” hospitals many of which are surgical hospitals, argue that that these facilities provide services at a much lower costs than hospitals. A recent article in The Wall Street Journal detailed how hospital systems can inflate the costs of medical care by limiting referrals of primary care doctors employed by them.  Medical costs comprise roughly 60 percent of total workers’ compensation costs. Not surprisingly insurers like doctor-owned hospitals because of the lower costs.

But physician-owned hospitals can’t take Medicare or Medicaid due to changes brought about by the ACA. Hospitals argue that physician owned hospitals shift the cost of poorer and unhealthier patients on to them which is why the ACA disfavored physician-owned hospitals.

Essentially the change to NWCC Rule 50 was a victory for insurers and doctors over hospitals. Since the early 1980s medical expenses have taken up an increasing share of workers’ compensation expenses — now comprising 60 percent of the total expense. If the change to Rule 50 does lead to lower medical costs for the same level of service, then it should be helpful to injured workers because there will be less pressure to reduce benefit levels through legislation.

These legislatively mandated reductions in benefits usually mean worker receiving less compensation for permanent and temporary disability. Reductions in disability for compensation for injured workers has recently been cloaked in legislation adopting the American Medical Association Guide to Permanent Impairment, 6th Edition which has been the subject of many state-level constiutional challenges  from plaintiff’s lawyers.

 

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 , , , , , .

Millennials suffer most work injuries in Nebraska

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Nearly 2/3 of reported work injuries in Nebraska are workers under 40

Workers under the age of 40 comprise 65.7 percent of reported work injuries in the state of Nebraska according to recently released statistics by the Nebraska Workers’ Compensation Court.

Put another way, Millennials are the generation that suffer the most work injuries in this state. Viewed one way, the fact that so many young people get hurt on the job belies the assumption that young people are lazy or soft. Much like the misconception that all blue collar workers are white, there is an assumption that young people don’t do blue collar work.

But viewed another way, negative stereotypes about millennials  jibe with perception held by many that injured workers are just trying to get out of work or “milk the system”. In that mindset, millennial employees would be more likely to claim workers compensation because workers’ compensation claims are almost per se fraudulent.

In Nebraska and most states injured employees have some protection against discrimination if they file a workers’ compensation claim. (Although it is a close issue as to whether an injured worker is a member of a protected class or engaging in a protected activity or both) But workers under the age of 40 in Nebraska and in most other states have no protection against discrimination based on age.

The fact that stereotyping young people is legally permissible means that respectable business types have no problem with sharing humor like the “Millennial Job Interview” video that made the rounds on the internet. I doubt that any video that  sterotyped a protected class like this video stereotyped millenials would have openly shared without rebuke.

I suspect allowing discrimination against young people negatively impacts terms and conditions of employment for young people. Lawmakers in Canada, where age discrimination laws generally kick in at age 18, seem to think it does. I also wonder whether negative stereotypes about millennials would lead employers to discount safety complaints from younger workers or lead them to believe that younger workers exaggerate the extent of their injuries.

Stereotypes about lazy young people aren’t new to millennials. Future generations including, Generation Z , will likely be subject to negative stereotyping. Human nature may not change, but laws controlling discrimination may force employees to change their behavior. Laws outlawing age discrimination against young people may also promote workplace safety as young people suffer the bulk of work injuries.

At least one millennial in Nebraska will have an opportunity to shape workplace law in Nebraska. Lincoln Senator Matt Hansen was elected to chair the Business and Labor Committee in the Nebraska legislature. Hansen has a good record on workers issues and I believe he will work hard to preserve and maybe even expand employee rights in Nebraska in this important position.

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 , , , .

Nebraska Chamber of Commerce bemoans decrease in workers compensation costs

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Anti-worker changes to Nebraska workers compensation could be on the legislative agenda

True to my prediction in October, in an email the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce is bemoaning a 22 decrease in workers’ compensation costs in Nebraka over the last five years 

These lamentations may turn into legislation to shift the costs of work injuries onto workers, Medicaid, Medicare. Social Security and private health insurance as the Nebraska legislature convenes this week.

I am referring to the results of the 2018 Oregon Workers’ Compensation Premium ranking  which show that Nebraska and Iowa essentially changed spots from the 2016 study. According to the study, Iowa’s workers’ compensation premiums are slightly lower than Nebraska’s. Iowa enacted anti-worker changes to their workers’ compensation laws in 2017. Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds, who signed the anti-worker reforms, was criticized for accepting a plane ride to an Iowa State Cyclones bowl game from workers’ compensation claims administrator Sedgwick.

Overall, Nebraska remains a friendlier legal climate for business than Iowa, according to the pro-business Institute for Legal Reform. Nebraska ranks 7th while Iowa ranks 13th according to the last study.

Business interests like to gripe that workers’ compensation costs cause business to leave state’s with high costs. But the same Nebraska Chamber of Commerce griping about workers’ compensation costs in Nebraska is also complaining that there are more jobs than workers in Nebraska. Lack of jobs isn’t a problem in Nebraska like it might be in other states.

Workers’ compensation protects injured workers. In Nebraska the cost of this protection has declined for business and has not led the state to lose jobs. There are no good reasons to reduce workers’ compensation benefits in Nebraska.

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 Iowa, Nebraska, Sedgwick, Workers' Compensation and tagged , , , .

A quarter-step forward but two steps back on fee scheduling air ambulance charges in workers compensation

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Congress may have implemented a partial legislative fix in response to a growing number of state and federal court decisions, the most recent out of the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, holding federal law regulating aviation preempts workers’ compensation fee scheduling of air ambulance bills.

The FAA Reauthorization Act authorized the Secretary of Transportation to appoint an advisory committee to suggest rules about charges for air ambulance services. But this “fix” may actually give air ambulance companies more power to avoid having their charges “fee scheduled” under state workers’ compensation laws.

The main controversy about air ambulance charges is that users, including injured workers, can be stuck with paying the difference between what insurance paid and what is billed. In workers’ compensation, when a provider accepts the “fee schedule” then an employee can not be billed further by the medical provider.

But since many courts hold that a state cannot regulation air ambulance charges, state fee schedules do not apply to air ambulances in that situation. This is because when a state law conflicts with a federal law, the federal law preempts the state law.  Charges for air ambulances are often in the tens of thousands of dollars because of the cost of helicopter flight.

On a negative note for workers, the fact that the Department of Transportation is issuing rules regarding air ambulance charges could strengthen the case that the regulation of air ambulance expenses preempt state workers’ compensation fee schedules.

In another downside for workers, the air ambulance industry will get three members of the advisory board that will be helping to draft the rules, while there will be one “consumer representative” as well as two other representatives generally representing the health insurance industry. There is a chance that consumer interests could get short-shifted by the Department of Transportation.

One upside for workers is that the legislation indicates that it should breakdown air ambulances expenses between transportation and non-transportation expenses. Non-transportation expenses could be more likely to be subjected to fee schedules which would reduce the cost of air ambulance services.

Recent case law would indicate there was an emerging majority view that the fee scheduling of air ambulance charges under state workers’ compensation laws would be preempted by federal law. The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a federal court in West Virginia that held that state regulation air ambulance charges would be preempted by federal law. The 4th Circuit joined the 10th Circuit, 11th Circuit and courts in Florida, Kansas, Kentucky, North Dakota, Texas  and West Virginia in holding that workers compensation fee scheduling of air ambulance services are preempted by federal law.

Three things disturbed me when I read over the recent 4th Circuit decision and the West Virginia federal decision it upheld. The first thing that bothered me was any lack of discussion by the court about how fee schedules fit into the beneficent purpose of workers’ compensation laws. Legal analysis oftentimes requires balancing of different interests, but there was no more than cursory balancing of interests in the latest air ambulance case.

Fee schedules were generically described as a “regulation” in the most recent air ambulance case. The deregulation of air service was described by the District Court as an unvarnished good. Recent press coverage has demonstrated how business interests have worked to influence the federal judiciary. The recent air ambulance cases show a strong anti-regulatory bent and how that influence may manifest in court decisions.

Finally, the District court upheld a contracts clause challenge to state workers’ compensation fee schedules. I don’t know if the contracts clause argument would have succeeded without the pre-emption argument, but the contracts clause has historically been used to strike down workplace safety and workplace rights laws. As a plaintiff’s attorney, I don’t like seeing the contracts clause being used to weaken workers’ compensation laws. Again, this could show how business interests are influencing the federal judiciary.

But if Congress has legislated on air ambulance fees and the DOT will be regulating the area, there is some possibility that Congress or the DOT could change those rules and regulations in a way that would help workers, by say, ruling that air ambulances have to accept workers’ compensation fee schedules if one is in place. Ideally air ambulances would be excluded by Congress from the definition of common carrier as argued by proponents of the West Virginia fee schedule for air ambulances.

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 Constitutional law, preemption, Workers Compensation and tagged , , , , , .