Tag Archives: Workers Compensation

Thanks for reading Nebraska Workers’ Compensation Watch

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My article in Trial Magazine started out as a post on this blog

If you are a member of The American Association of Justice (AAJ) you can read my article “Portable Benefits and The Gig Economy” in this month’s edition of Trial Magazine. If you are a plaintiff’s lawyer and not an AAJ member, you can click here to join AAJ.

If you are a non-plaintiff’s lawyer reader of this blog you can click here or here for what amount to rough drafts of the Trial article. (Sorry the article is copyrighted to AAJ and only available to members)

Briefly, the main takeaway from my article is that while the fight over worker misclassification as it relates to the gig economy is an old fight, the move to develop a separate employee benefits scheme is a new issue. Of course, some more senior practitioners, namely Tom Domer, have pointed out privately that remedies like today’s “portable” benefits” proposals were proposed in the late 19t/early 20th century when workers’ compensation laws were being proposed, debated and drafted.

I assume that I will be writing more about portable benefits in the future as events and time warrant. But for now, my next big blog project is going to be exploring how employment risk fits in within the so-called “grand bargain” of workers’ compensation. My thesis is that workers’ compensation developed in response to new risks from the newly industrializing economy of the late 19th century. Farm and domestic workers were excluded from those laws as judges in the late 19th century thought risks of those occupations where inherent. Putting aside legitimate concerns about how this excluded women and African-Americans from workers’ compensation, I think this exclusion is why employment risk is such a hotly contested issue as industrial jobs decline and service jobs increase.

This exclusion of workers from workers’ compensation, which is inherent in workers’ compensation, is one reason why I don’t like the term “grand bargain” in describing the origins of workers’ compensation. My dislike of the term grand bargain will probably be fleshed out over the next few months as well.

So thanks for continuing to read Nebraska Workers’ Compensation Watch. Thanks to all the attorneys, whether on the worker or management side, who take the time to write original content based on their experience in practice. I gain insight from what you write and I will continue to try to provide insight to lawyers and non-lawyers alike about workers’ compensation and employment law.

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, portable benefits, The Grand Bargain, Workers Compensation and tagged , , , .

Two worker deaths lead to criminal charges for Omaha corporation

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A memorial for two workers killed in Omaha in 2015. The employer is facing criminal charges.

An Omaha business is facing federal criminal charges in connection with the death of two employees in 2015.

Adrian LaPour and Dallas Foulk were killed on April 14, 2015 due to a fire in started by chemicals in a rail tanker car that they were cleaning. They were working for Nebraska Railcar Cleaning Services which had a long history of OSHA violations.

The criminal charges in this case stem from obstructing the investigation of the accident and violating federal safety rules rather than the death of the employee. In the rare cases where employers are prosecuted for workplace deaths, those types of charges are typical. Former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship was convicted in 2016 for violating federal mine safety rules in connection with the death of 29 miners in West Virginia in 2010.

The charges provided some sense of psychic justice for the longtime girlfriend of one the victims. That sense of psychic justice is often missing in work injury cases where an employer is at fault. Workers compensation benefits are limited, OSHA fines are often almost laughable and negligence cases may be difficult to prove. Even if a family can get a sizeable amount of money for a workplace death of a loved one, money is not a perfect substitute for the loss of a loved one. A criminal prosecution can help address emotional needs in a way a civil or administrative sanction can’t.

Criminal prosecutions also deter wrongful conduct by corporations and their owners.  Rod Rehm practiced criminal law in the 1970s and 1980s before focusing on workers compensation and personal injury cases. He has spoken out in favor prosecuting employers for manslaughter in connection with workplace deaths and criminal prosecution for employers who don’t carry workers compensation insurance. I commend Nebraska’s  U.S  Attorney,  Joe Kelly, for exercising his prosecutorial discretion and charging the owners of Nebraska Railcar Cleaining Services.

h/t to www.fairwarning.com for their reporting.

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 criminal law, Nebraska, OSHA, Workers Compensation and tagged , , , , .

NPR story questions use of pain scale

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NPR ran a story recently about the problems with using the “0 to 10” pain scale that has been shared widely among plaintiff’s lawyers on social media. My law partner, Roger Moore blogged about the pain scale in January and his post made many of the same points as the NPR article.

To sum up, the pain scale isn’t all that helpful to doctors. It may be more helpful for patients to describe the quality of pain like “dull” or “shooting”. It may also be helfpful to talk about how pain can limit activity rather than quantify pain with a number. Some experts believe the use of the pain scale has lead to the over-prescription of opioids.

The pain scale can also be used to discredit injured employees involved in litigation by getting them to overestimate pain to make them look like they are exaggerating symptoms. I always object to pain scale questions when my clients are being examined by opposing counsel. The growing awareness of the problems with the pain scale may lead doctors to move away from using the pain scale and may lead lawyers not to ask questions about the pain scale.

(Sorry, “I read it on Nebraska Workers’ Compensation Watch” merchandise is not available)

 

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 , , .

A tale of two counties in the Nebraska Workers’ Compensation Court

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An ambundance of call center jobs, like the one I did for Ameritrade in Bellevue in the Y2k era, is one reason why Sarpy County has relatively few workers’ compensation claims.

Sarpy County is Nebraska’s third largest county and is nearly three times larger than Nebraska’s fourth largest county, Hall County. But when it comes to cases litigated in the Nebraska Workers’ Compensation Court, Hall County outpaced Sarpy County 66 to 49 in fiscal year 2017 according to the latest report from the Nebraska Workers’ Compensation court.

2017 was not an aberration. Hall County consistently has more workers compensation cases litigated than Sarpy County. A comparison of data from the Nebraska Department of Labor about the two counties provides some indication of why more workers’ compensation cases are litigated in Hall County than Sarpy County.

In Sarpy County, customer service/call centers are one of the jobs with the most openings. In Hall County, material handler and welder are among the jobs with the most openings. A welder or material handler is more likely to get hurt on the job than a customer service representative or call center worker.

In Sarpy County, white collar defense contractors, McCallie Associates and Booz-Allen Hamilton are among the top five employers with job openings. In Hall County, Essential Personnel is the employer  with the most job openings. Essential Personnel is hiring for mostly for blue collar jobs that are more likely to cause injury.

Sarpy County has a more white-collar workforce than Hall County which could explain why fewer injury cases are litigated.  But there are also some other reasons why relatively few work injury cases are litigated in Sarpy County in comparison with other counties. Sarpy County is home to Offutt Air Force Base and many work injuries on the base would be handled under federal workers’ compensation statutes. Werner Enterprises is also headquartered in Sarpy County. However most of their work injuries occur with drivers injured outside of Nebraska. In a case where a Werner driver is injured outside of Nebraska, those cases are litigated in Lancaster County.

In both counties nursing and retail are among the five sectors with the most job openings. Public school districts are the second largest employers in both counties. The similarities between Sarpy County and Hall County speak to increasingly employment in the service sector throughout 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, Workers Compensation and tagged , , , , , , , , .

The case against “Ghosting” for employees

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Employers are increasingly complaining of employees “ghosting” or leaving suddenly without notice. Temple Law Professor and author Brishen Rogers correctly pointed out on Twitter that employee ghosting is protected the by the 13th Amendment prohibition of slavery. Other commentators have pointed out that employers have been “ghosting” employees for many years and that some turnabout is to be expected as unemployment declines.

Employee “ghosting” is also the flip side of employment at-will. Employers are free to fire you at any time, but you are free to quit your job at any time without notice.

The concept of giving notice before quitting isn’t rooted in any legal requirement. But giving notice before leaving a job can give employees some legal benefits. Providing written notice can provide more protections to employees if done correctly.

Unemployment

In Nebraska, if you quit your job you have to prove you had good cause for the quit to get full unemployment benefits, whereas if you are fired your employer has to prove you committed misconduct in connection with your employment to deny you full benefits. Often when an employee gives two weeks’ notice, an employer will have them stop working before the two week notice period ends. In this situation an employee, for the purposes of unemployment benefits, has been fired. So unless the employer can prove the employee committed some misconduct, then they will receive full unemployment benefits.

Putting notice in writing can be helpful because it explains why you are leaving. Under Nebraska law, there are several reasons deemed by good cause for leaving. Having one of those reasons in a letter could help you receive unemployment benefits sooner.

I recently had an employee who was asked to submit a resignation letter due to alleged concerns about her job performance. My client was smart enough to write down that she would retract her resignation if performance improved. My client ended up winning her unemployment appeal due in part to that letter as it wasn’t clear that she really intended to resign.

Other employment laws

Written notice can also help in other cases. If an employee resigns due to workplace harassment, written notice of a quit would put an employer on notice of the harassment if it wasn’t done so already. Adding in that the resignation would be retracted if the harassment was addressed would also help.

A written notice that an employee is quitting because of a medical condition could prompt an attempt to accommodate that condition under the Americans with Disabilities Act.  I have seen written notice of quits because of medical conditions be helpful in winning benefits in workers’ compensation cases as well.

Giving notice is also helpful to an employee quits a new job for a new job that falls through. Courtesy can help an employee maintain a relationship with an employer and make it easier for an employee to go back to a job.

 

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 ADA, Harassment, Nebraska, Unemployment, Workers Compensation and tagged , , , , , , .

Possible Medicaid expansion could impact workers’ compensation, labor markets

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State Sen. Adam Morfeld of Lincoln has helped lead the charge for Medicaid expansion in Nebraska.

Nebraska voters will likely vote on Medicaid expansion in November after Insure the Good Life turned in 135,000 signatures earlier this month. Insure the Good Life estimates 98,000 Nebraskans who aren’t eligible for Medicaid but can’t afford coverage on the ACA exchanges will would get insured if the measure passes in Novmeber.

If Medicaid expands in Nebraska, it could impact the  employee-employer relationship and workers compensation in the state.

Workers Compensation

Expanded health insurance means that more people will have access to medical care and have a relationship with a general practitioner. Oftentimes injures employees don’t have family doctors, so they let their employers pick their doctor by default. Letting an employer pick a doctor in a workers’ compensation claim can be harmful to an injured employee’s workers compensation case.

Access to primary care can also help an injured worker manage chronic conditions such high blood pressure and diabetes that can hinder recovery from a work injury.

An employee who has their workers compensation claim denied and isn’t working is usually unable to afford COBRA coverage — assuming their employer offers health insurance in the foirst place. An injured worker in that situation who is covered by Medicaid can continue to get the medical care they need to recover and develop their workers compensation case.

Employee-Employer relations

Employees often put up with abusive employers solely for the sake of health insurance. The option of enrolling in Medicaid would give more employees to take their job and shove it. This concern is part of the allure of portable benefits for employee that I have written about before. Less reliance on employers for health insurance could improve labor mobility and push up wages.

My opinions about the impact of Medicaid expansion in Nebraska come with some caveats. I have long believed the expansion of health insurance leads to more doctor choice for injured workers. But some studies of the ACA show it has lead to consolidation in the medical industry. This consolidation could gut any formal right employees have to chose their own doctors under workers compensation laws because there is less overall choice of doctors. This issue may have to be addressed by more vigorous anti-trust law enforcement

Also, just because a state expands Medicaid by referendum doesn’t mean the elected branches of government will implement the expansion. That is what is happening in Maine. The whole structure of the Affordable Care Act could be altered through another court challenge to the ACA. Finally the Nebraska Medicaid petition has been challenged by opponents of the expansion

But even with those caveats, I believe Medicaid expansion would be a good thing for injured workers and employees 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 Medicaid, Nebraska, portable benefits, Workers Compensation and tagged , , , , .

Ohio axes PBM for “hosing” state on prescription drugs

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Hey hoser, got any deals on prescription drugs?

The Ohio Bureau of Workers Compensation recently decided to drop the manager of their drug formulary, Optum Rx , who in the words of a court administrator were “hosing” the State of Ohio.

“Told you so,” said me and many other critics of drug formularies.

Drug formularies are touted as a way to reduce opioid abuse and limit drug costs. But formularies are run by pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) who have been widely criticized for pushing up drug costs. In 2017 The City of Omaha opposed a drug formulary bill in the Nebraska Legislature over similar fears of being hosed by PBMs.

The news out of Ohio came at about the same time as a viral (for the world of workers’ compensation) blog post penned by Judge and Professor David Torrey. Judge Torrey politely bench-slapped an “industry representative” who stated that injured workers needed to “get off their asses” during a panel discussion at a workers’ compensation conference about alternatives to opioids for pain managment.

I understand and share concerns about prescription drug abuse by injured workers. I’ve also encountered clients with serious bowel issues from opioid-induced constipation.  Addiction seems to get more attention than digestive issues when it comes to opioids and workers compensation. I believe part of that stems from the fact that calling some an “addict” is away to dog whistle that an injured worker is a malingerer. Turning injured workers into “addicts” is a way of putting some medically-termed lipstick on a moral and ideological pig created by the insurance industry.

Perhaps true to the Trump age, the panelist in Pennsylvania dropped the conern trolling about addcition and voiced the id buried in the dark heart of the workers compensation medico-legal-industrial complex. Telling injured workers that they just need to get back to work is great for cutting expenses for workers compensation insurers. Drug formularies are good way to increase revenue for the insurance-side middleman in the workers’ compensation system. Drug formularies pre-date the opioid crisis, but they were adapted to “solve” the opioid crisis.

In response to the opioid crisis, the insurance industry has medicalized its age old criticisms of injured workers and the drug companies and PBMs have jacked up drug prices. Meanwhile injured employees aren’t getting any real help in how to deal with chronic pain. Doctors have long known that opioid dependence is a serious issue and that there are no easy solutions to chronic pain.  Opioid prescriptions have been declining since 2012. If insurers and self-insureds were serious about chronic pain, they would approve alternative pain control methods and give doctors discretion to prescribe medication as needed.

The problem with that solution for insurers and self-insureds is that solution would cost them money. It’s easier to lecture injured workers’ about resilience, churn some money off of drug formularies and shift the cost of pain management back onto injured employees.

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 opioids, Workers Compensation and tagged , , , , , .