Tag Archives: Workers Compensation

Compstitutional Law 101: Part 2: Will Sveen signal a move to judicially dismantle the “grand bargain”?

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Watch out for what these three could say in Sveen v. Melin

WILG is hosting a summit on the constitutional challenges in workers’ compensation on April 18th, I won’t be able to attend, but this post and my last post are my contribution to this ongoing discussion.

Stating that “a seemingly obscure case could have far-reaching implications” is one of the most overused clichés in legal blogging and journalism.  But a case involving a dispute over the proceeds of a life insurance policy might impact the constitutional basis for workers’ compensation and other state laws protecting employees.

In March, the Supreme Court heard oral argument in Sveen v. Melin (paywall). In Sveen, a former spouse was challenging a Minnesota law automatically removing a spouse as beneficiary of an insurance policy upon divorce. The grounds for the challenge is the so-called contracts clause of the United States Constitution which prohibits states from passing laws that impair the obligation of a contract.

Pro-corporate legal commentators have long lamented the demise of the contracts clause at the expense of laws enacted by states under 10th Amendment police powers. When these pundits and academics write about a “contracts clause revival”, they are really writing about diminishing the rights of states to enact laws under their police powers.

One of the most important set of state laws enacted under police powers are workers’ compensation laws. In New York Central Railroad v. White  state workers’ compensation laws were found to be constitutionally enacted under a state’s 10th Amendment police powers.  State laws regulating workplace safety and the ability to injured employees to seek legal redress were one of the primary drivers for the broad recognition of police powers in the late 19th century. A good discussion of the background behind the expansion of state police powers is found in the 1898 Supreme Court case of Holden v. Hardy.  In short, the Supreme Court found that state workplace safety laws were a response to the new industrial economy of the late 19th century and valid exercises of state police powers.

University of Chicago Law Professor Richard Epstein argued that minimum wage laws violated the contracts clause.  It’s not much of an intellectual stretch to argue that mandatory workers’ compensation laws would violate the contracts clause using Epstein’s interpretation of the contracts clause. A gig economy employer like Uber subjected to a state workers’ compensation law might argue that they should not be subjected to such a law under the contracts clause.

On April 2nd the Supreme Court reversed 70 years of precdent in narrowly construing exceptions to the Fair Labor Standards Act in the Navarro case. Navarro will likely have the effect of pushing plaintiffs to file more wage and hour cases under state laws. A revived contracts clause could cut off or curtail opportunities for justice for victims of wage theft in state court.

A potential contracts clause revival should concern advocates for injured workers for other reasons. In recent years, attorneys for injured workers have had a fair amount of success in overturning anti-worker changes to workers’ compensation laws based on state constitutions. That avenue would likely be blocked with a full-blown contracts clause revival.

In the late 19th and early 20th century, state laws regulating workplace conditions were struck down under 14th Amendment substantive due process. But substantive due process also allows claims for a broad variety of civil rights that are disliked by judicial conservatives, so the substantive due process clause is disfavored by courts.  The contracts clause allows courts to strike down worker-friendly state laws without creating a mechanism for expanding rights for suspect classes of individuals like prisoners or victims of police brutality. In New York Central v. White, the Supreme Court considered and rejected arguments overturning workers’ compensation laws on substantive due process grounds and contracts clause grounds.

Finally, a broad interpretation of the contracts clause would allow the Supreme Court to overturn state workers’ compensation laws while still maintaining the narrowed interpretation of interstate commerce the Roberts court appear to be endorsing in NFIB v. Sebelius. As I wrote in a post last week, a narrow construction of the commerce clause could be a high hurdle in enacting worker-friendly chagnes to workers’ compensation laws on a federal level.

Sveen v. Melin will likely be decided this spring. If the Supreme Court strikes down the Minnesota law based on the contracts clause, I will be interested to read the language of the opinion. I will also be interested in reading any concurring opinions from hard core conservatives like Gorsuch, Thomas and Alito as those opinions could be a clue as to where the court could be going on contracts clause jurisprudence. It is unlikely that Sveen v. Melin will be grounds to invalidate state workers’ compensation laws. Supreme Court decisions are limited to actual cases and controversies that are presentd to them. But Sveen could be another step in undercutting New Deal and Progressive Era refroms.  The Supreme Court has been chipping away at New Deal era laws in cases like Navarro and the Tackett decision in 2015. A bad decision in Sveen might accelerate the rollback of pro-worker laws.

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 Workers Compensation and tagged , , , , , .

Wage Theft Another Assault on Workers’ Compensation

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Today’s post was shared by Gelman on Workplace Injuries and comes from www.nytimes.com

This blog has recently included an extensive focus on fraud in workers’ compensation.

Wage theft is another form of fraud, and an expensive one, at that. This editorial from The New York Times talks about wage theft against all workers, regardless of the work they do and the amounts they get paid.

“In 2012, the Department of Labor helped 308,000 workers recover $280 million in back pay for wage-theft violations — nearly double the amount stolen that year in robberies on the street, at banks, gas stations and convenience stores,” according to the article.

It doesn’t take very long, and wage theft from one, two or three employees becomes real money that affect workers, their loved ones, and society in the form of money not in those workers’ pockets.

I find it helpful that the newspaper calls out the New York attorney general for advocating for workers through recovering almost “$1 million in stolen wages for 1,450 fast-food employees,” according to the article. In case you wondered why local and statewide elections are important, here’s one reason from the article.

“The Labor Department has only about 1,100 wage-and-hour investigators to monitor seven million employers and several states have ended or curtailed wage enforcement efforts.”

So who’s going to advocate for workers and go after employers who are fleecing both their workers and society?

That’s one of the many reasons that laws are in place and the judicial system is set up to interpret those laws. But one of the first steps in holding fraudsters accountable is having someone willing and in a position to enforce those laws and stand up to business, regardless of how much those businesses pay their workers.

As corporate America devises new methods to reduce wages it also assaults the injured workers’ benefit safety net, including workers’ compensation insurance. That results in rate benefits going down and premium bases becoming inadequate to pay ongoing claims. Today’s post is shared from nytimes.com and is authored by its Editorial Board.

When labor advocates and law enforcement officials talk about wage theft, they are usually referring to situations in which low-wage service-sector employees are forced to work off the clock, paid subminimum wages, cheated out of overtime pay or denied their tips. It is a huge and underpoliced problem. It is also, it turns out, not confined to low-wage workers.

In the days ahead, a settlement is expected in the antitrust lawsuit pitting 64,613 software engineers against Google, Apple, Intel and Adobe. The engineers say they lost up to $3 billion in wages from 2005-9, when the companies colluded in a scheme not to solicit one another’s employees. The collusion, according to the engineers, kept their pay lower than it would have been had the companies actually competed for talent.

The suit, brought after the Justice Department investigated the anti-recruiting scheme in 2010, has many riveting aspects, including emails and other documents that tarnish the reputation of Silicon Valley as competitive and of technology executives as a new breed of “don’t-be-evil” bosses, to cite Google’s informal motto.

The…

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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 Wage and Rates and tagged , , , .

The Right to a Safe Workplace

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Workplace SafetyUnder federal law, every employee has the right to a safe workplace. If you believe your workplace is dangerous and changes in safety policy are ignored, you can request an inspection from OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration).

Workers’ compensation, which is regulated on a state-by-state level, covers medical bills, lost wages, disability and vocational rehabilitation services for employees injured on the job. If you have any questions regarding these benefits, please contact an experienced lawyer in your area.

If you believe you work in an unsafe work area, here are some tips to be aware of to make sure your workplace is as safe as possible, and you protect yourself from significant injury:

  1.  Know the hazards in your workplace.
  2. While in a seated position, keep your shoulders in line with your hips. Use good form when lifting.
  3. Injuries occur when workers get tired. Take breaks when you’re tired.
  4. Do not skip safety procedures just because it makes the job easier or quicker. Using dangerous machinery is the one of the leading causes of work injuries.
  5. Be aware of where emergency shutoff switches are located.
  6. Report unsafe work areas.
  7. Wear proper safety equipment.

If you are injured due to an unsafe workplace, and you are unsure of the benefits that you are entitled to, contact an experienced attorney in your area.

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 Safety, Safety Rules, Safety violations, Uncategorized, Worker safety, workplace accidents, Workplace Injury, Workplace Safety and tagged , , .

Oklahoma Work Comp Opt-Out System Under Legal Attack

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Today’s article was shared by Jon L Gelman, who practices law in New Jersey, and the blog post comes from workers-compensation.blogspot.com. This article is a good example of how states can dramatically vary in how they treat injured workers and even businesses when it comes to workers’ compensation systems. The trend seems to be towards businesses (or their insurance companies) gaining cost savings through decreasing protections of workers, or at least adding hoops for workers to jump through and also doing blanket denials of needed care for a hurt worker. like in this article “Opting Out” of Worker’s Compensation Hurts Workers and Employers (Part 2).

However, in Oklahoma, where workers’ compensation is no longer mandatory for businesses, there is some pushback coming from a couple of state senators and a firefighters’ group. It will be interesting to see what happens next in that state. And the example of Oklahoma is a good reason why, if workers suspect they have a case that might include more than one state, it’s important to speak with an attorney to figure out those details so the workers’ compensation case can move forward in the jurisdiction that makes the most sense for the situation.

The recently enacted, and high innovated cost-savings opt-out program in Oklahoma workers’ compensation has come under direct legal attack as being unconstitutional.

On Tuesday, Sen. Harry Coates (R-Seminole) joined Rep. Emily Virgin (D-Norman) and the Professional Firefighters of Oklahoma in filing a challenge against the constitutionality of Senate Bill 1062, the workers’ compensation reform bill passed by the legislature and signed by Gov. Fallin during the 2013 legislative session.

“As a longtime businessman, I recognize that it’s necessary to have workers’ compensation rates as low as possible. In fact, I believe we need a workers’ compensation administrative system, just not the unconstitutional and unworkable system created by Senate Bill 1062.

It’s wrong that a fire fighter or any other injured worker should have to pay back benefits after returning to work. This is just one of many problems with this new law.

Instead, I’d support a bill that would give Oklahoma an administrative system like that in Missouri, which is working very well only a few years after being approved by that legislature. Back in 2005 when Missouri went to an administrative system, The Oklahoman advised the Oklahoma legislature to adopt the Missouri workers’ compensation system. That was good advice!

In 2012, the often-quoted Oregon Study showed that while Oklahoma had the sixth highest workers’ compensation rates in the…

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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 Oklahoma, Professional Firefighters of Oklahoma, Rep. Emily Virgin, Sen. Harry Coates, Senate Bill 1062 and tagged , .

What Does That Stand For? Commonly Used Acronyms in Workers’ Compensation Cases

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Every profession has certain turns of phrase or acronyms they use on a daily basis that, to the layperson, mean very little and may only serve to add confusion to an already difficult issue. The legal profession and the representation of injured workers is no different. Injured workers often find themselves traveling down a confusing road armed only with directions written in an unfamiliar or foreign-sounding language. The experienced attorneys at our firm navigate clients down this road on a daily basis.

Below is a list of commonly used acronyms to assist in understanding what is happening with your workers’ compensation case when everyone around you is suddenly speaking another language. Please keep in mind that the accompanying definitions are very general, and you should seek the advice of an experienced workers’ compensation attorney for more information or assistance with your case. Please also see the links for other blog posts for more information on some of these issues.

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 acronyms, DME, FCE, IME, LOEC, MMI, PPD, PTD, TPD, TTD and tagged , .

Beware Workers’ Compensation Red Flags

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Here are a couple workers’ compensation red flags I see from time to time.

Employers, insurers and sometimes even medical providers work together to undermine the ability of injured workers to pursue workers’ compensation benefits. Here are examples of phrases that should raise the alarm for an injured worker:

“If you go on workers’ comp, you only get two-thirds of your pay.”

I’ve heard this line from representatives of two major employers in Nebraska. I’ve seen the effect of this line to be

  1. to discourage an employee from getting surgery where they will be have to spend time off of work
  2. to encourage people to continue jobs that they have physical difficulties doing
  3. encourage an unwary worker to get a release without restrictions from an injury where the worker is not fully healed.

The reason why this statement isn’t honest is that workers compensation benefits are not taxed, so the benefits you would receive from workers compensation should be close to what you actually take home, assuming you do not work a lot of overtime. If an employer can use this line to persuade you not to seek medical treatment and/or to get a full release back to work before you are ready, then you are giving up workers’ compensation benefits and also likely hurting any fair employment claim you have against your employer.

“So-and-so had this surgery and they went back to work the next day.”

This type of statement is sometimes made by surgeons and/or their support staff. In my experience such a statement is a red flag because

  1. just the trauma of most surgeries in and of itself should require at least a few days before recovery, keeping in mind that the kind of surgery experienced contributes to this variation
  2. the person who went back to work right away may do a much different job than you do
  3. in my experience a doctor who states they can get someone back to work the next day will say so because it eases approval from the workers’ compensation insurer
  4. doctors who think so highly of their surgical ability oftentimes will not give permanent restrictions and impairment ratings if the worker still has a loss of function from a work injury.

Fortunately workers in Nebraska can choose their own surgeon regardless of whether they gave up their right to choose their own doctor at the beginning of a claim. Most surgeons in Nebraska understand the need cooperate in their patient’s workers compensation claims and are willing to support honest patients with legitimate injuries. However there are a few, for lack of a better word, jerks, who should be avoided by injured workers.

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 Workers' Compensation and tagged , , , , .

Private Investigators in Workers’ Compensation

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Corporations sometimes hire private investigators to verify that your claim is not fraud

Corporations sometimes hire private investigators to verify that your claim is not fraud

Today’s post comes from respected colleague Leonard Jernigan from The Jernigan Law Firm in North Carolina. Unfortunately, being followed by a private investigator is also very common in Nebraska and Iowa. Attorneys at our firm give clients specific instructions about dealing with private investigators, as should most attorneys that work with personal injury and workers’ compensation cases. I recently saw this blog post from www.workerscompensation.com that gives employers that hire private investigators tips on being more effective at catching someone “violating their medical restrictions by shoveling out their driveways or partaking in a winter recreational sport.” And although there probably isn’t much skiing going on in our part of the Great Plains, it bears in mind that a private investigator may see someone being active but won’t know the ramifications of that activity upon that person for the next few days, like cutting back on doctor-approved activity because of soreness. So be sure to follow the restrictions laid out by your doctor to make the private investigator’s job that much harder!

As a workers’ compensation attorney I find it interesting that many people in the public question the disability status of injured workers. Let’s assume for the moment that you have sustained an injury on the job and you’ve been out of work for 5 months after back surgery. When you are unable to return to work quickly, the insurance industry has a lot of tools at its disposal to verify your disability status. They can pour over your medical records, pre- and post-injury, looking for any piece of evidence to deny your claim. They can send your file to lawyers who review medical records and recorded statements to potentially attack your credibility and honesty. They can hire a nurse to attend your appointments and speak with the physician and the staff, as well as obtain information directly from you. They can do background searches on you to see if you have a criminal or civil record. Obviously they will check to see if you ever filed a workers’ compensation claim before. They will also do social media and Internet searches on you and your family members (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.). They also can hire private investigators to follow you and your family around and take video recordings of your activities. With all these resources at the disposal of the insurance company, it’s hard to believe that many cases of employee fraud slip through the system.

A private investigator pretended to be a potential buyer and spent an hour or more going through the house.

We have one client recently who was followed by several private detectives for more than a year. They not only followed him around, but also followed his wife and son, who have no workers’ compensation claim. Another client had to sell his house because of his disability. A private investigator pretended to be a potential buyer and spent an hour or more going through the house. Does the concept of “Big Brother” come to mind? Are you concerned about invasion of privacy, particularly for family members, friends, and others who may be seen in such videos? We always tell our clients such activity may occur so don’t be alarmed by it, but that isn’t too comforting to people who are struggling through health issues, who have depression and anxiety problems, and who are sensitive to privacy concerns.

It would be interesting if the roles were reversed and employers who underpay premiums by misclassifying the status of their employees, who fail to purchase insurance required to protect their workers, and who don’t follow proper safety regulations that cause injury, were followed this closely by employees or regulators who administer the workers’ compensation program. I have no doubt that these employers and insurance representatives would be outraged.

 

 

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 insurance regulation, private investigator and tagged , .