Category Archives: Uncategorized

The Cold Winds of Workers’ Comp Reform Are Blowing in Wisconsin

Today’s post comes from Bob Wilson at workerscompenstion.com.

I have it on excellent authority that major changes to the Wisconsin workers’ compensation system will be proposed with the release of the state’s budget bill on February 3, 2015. The rumored changes are said to be significant, with some viewing it as a complete dismantling of the current workers’ comp system there. In the absence of the release of the actual budget and proposals, it still sounds like the most dramatic reforms to hit a state since Tennessee and Oklahoma conducted complete overhauls of their WC systems.

Currently in Wisconsin, the Workers’ Compensation Division is part of the larger Department of Workforce Development (DWD). On January 12, 2015, WC Division managers apparently learned of this proposal from the DWD Secretary’s office. It is believed that the person behind this effort is DWD Secretary, Reggie Newsom. Under Newsom’s proposal, the Worker’s Compensation Division would be entirely removed from the auspices of DWD. Other agencies would absorb some of the functions, while some current practices and procedures would cease to exist.
One group that appears to be subject to the greatest changes would be Wisconsin’s current Administrative Law Judges. Under the proposed changes, they would only be responsible for trying cases.  They would not manage claims functions or act in any advisory role for industry stakeholders. They would also be barred from reviewing compromises in cases where attorneys represented the parties.

Other elements of the proposal include moving the insurance bureau staff to the Office of the Commissioner of Insurance (OCI).  Administrative Law Judges would report to the Hearings and Appeals section at Department of Administration (DOA).  Many of the proposed changes will require alterations to the Wisconsin Workers’ Compensation Act, and it is unclear what level of legislative support exists for those statutory changes.

From this point forward, this story will likely take similar trajectories to other reform efforts we have seen around the nation. Opponents will cite the relative stability and success of the Wisconsin workers’ compensation system, and object to the disruption of a system they view as working well. Proponents will claim that the changes are necessary to streamline operations and improve efficiency within an evolving work environment. The changes, which appear will lessen staff in the WC Division, along with a potential reduction in Administrative Law Judges by shifting responsibilities to other existing divisions, will be seen by some as a reduction in bureaucratic overhead.

I will say that this news will be, for many, unexpected as Wisconsin hasn’t exactly been the bastion of controversy in the workers’ compensation arena of late. There are many other jurisdictions where needed reforms are more apparent – like California where reforming comp is seemingly a full time and permanent position…

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Jury awards $7M in New Fairfield Boy Scout trial

Today’s post was shared by The Workers’ Injury Law & Advocacy Group and comes from www.ctpost.com

Siegfried Hepp, right, arrives in Court accompanied by an unidentified man. Photo: Carol Kaliff / The News-Times

WATERBURY — A state Superior Court jury awarded $7 million Friday to a man who claimed he was sexually abused by the leader of a New Fairfield Boy Scout troop when he was a boy in the 1970s.

The $7 million is the largest compensatory damages verdict ever against the Boy Scouts of America and the first such verdict in the northeastern United States, the plaintiff’s attorney said.

In addition to the verdict for compensatory damages, the jury, after seven hours of deliberation, found the Boy Scouts of America should be held liable for punitive damages, in an amount to be determined by the trial judge in a separate hearing to take place in the near future.

"It’s very important to our client both that the jury has publicly said the Boy Scouts should be held accountable for keeping this important information secret and also that the jury recognized how much his abuse has impacted his life," the plaintiff’s attorney, Paul Slager, said Monday.

During the two-week trial, the plaintiff, who was 11 and 12 at the time of the alleged abuse, testified that he was sexually molested three times by Siegfried Hepp, a long-serving Boy Scout troop leader from New Fairfield. Evidence in the case showed another boy in the troop also claimed to have been molested by Hepp around the same time.

In 1993, Slager said, a parent sent a letter to the local Boy Scout council expressing concern that Hepp was a pedophile. He remained a troop leader until his conviction.

In 1999, Hepp pleaded guilty…

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As Robots Grow Smarter, American Workers Struggle to Keep Up

Today’s post was shared by Steven Greenhouse and comes from www.nytimes.com

A machine that administers sedatives recently began treating patients at a Seattle hospital. At a Silicon Valley hotel, a bellhop robot delivers items to people’s rooms. Last spring, a software algorithm wrote a breaking news article about an earthquake that The Los Angeles Times published.

Although fears that technology will displace jobs are at least as old as the Luddites, there are signs that this time may really be different. The technological breakthroughs of recent years — allowing machines to mimic the human mind — are enabling machines to do knowledge jobs and service jobs, in addition to factory and clerical work.

And over the same 15-year period that digital technology has inserted itself into nearly every aspect of life, the job market has fallen into a long malaise. Even with the economy’s recent improvement, the share of working-age adults who are working is substantially lower than a decade ago — and lower than any point in the 1990s.

Economists long argued that, just as buggy-makers gave way to car factories, technology would create as many jobs as it destroyed. Now many are not so sure.

Lawrence H. Summers, the former Treasury secretary, recently said that he no longer believed that automation would always create new jobs. “This isn’t some hypothetical future possibility,” he said. “This is something that’s emerging before us right now.”

Erik Brynjolfsson, an economist at M.I.T., said,…

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The High Road: Investing in Your Workers

Today’s post was shared by US Labor Department and comes from blog.dol.gov

Congress still hasn’t answered President Obama’s call to raise the national minimum wage. But states and localities are acting on their own, through legislative action and ballot measure. And across the country, forward-thinking businesses are leading by example. In community after community, I’ve visited with employers who know that paying workers a fair wage isn’t just the right thing to do; it’s also good for business.

boston beer collage
boston beer collage

Nobody would argue that Boston Beer Company founder and chairman Jim Koch doesn’t know what he’s doing. He produces America’s most successful craft beer, Sam Adams, served in bars, restaurants, stores and entertainment venues nationwide. His brewery has won more awards in international beer-tasting competitions that any other. I had the pleasure of meeting with Jim earlier this week, touring the Boston brewery, and learning about how he treats his 1,200 employees. “You can’t have engaged employees if you don’t invest in them,” he says. That’s why Jim offers his employees paid sick leave and starts everyone, including part-time workers, well above the minimum wage.

letter logic
letter logic

Later in Nashville, I met with a handful of small business owners who similarly value their employees, recognizing that the high road is the smart road. Among
them is Sherry Stewart Deutschmann who founded and runs LetterLogic, a company that processes statements, letters and checks for…

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Workers Need Adequate Protection from Ebola, Infectious Diseases

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

By Alberto Grant, Jr., Airway Terminal Cleaner, John F. Kennedy International Airport, New York

Dozens of New York area airport workers took part in an awareness training provided by SEIU trainers and healthcare professionals. The training came as workers have revealed their lack of training to deal with infectious diseases in light of the Centers for Disease Control’s updated advice on preventing the spread of Ebola in our airports.

I was really glad to know that we would be getting this training, because I don’t think we are getting what we need to keep ourselves safe at the airport.

A lot of us are worried about this because we know there’s a risk of passengers coming through who have Ebola. The equipment we have is just not good enough to deal with that. Also, this training is more than we’ve gotten so far from my company. They told us yesterday we should wash our hands and use gloves, and we could get gloves if we asked. I’ve been working here for a while and just like some contractors, they don’t like to buy good equipment.

When we clean the bathrooms, we are exposed to everything, so I am really glad to know that I’m getting this training. In the past, contractors have told us just to wash our hands and use gloves. Cleaning kits are not readily available to protect against the various bodily fluids we encounter every day. Sometimes all we have are paper towels to wipe down the bathrooms.

That can be a real problem because we have to deal with some tough things — vomit,…

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It’s Not That Hard

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

A lot of employers try to lower their workers’ compensation costs by fudging the numbers on their payroll reports, or paying workers "under the table," or misclassifying their jobs.

Some employees take advantage of the no-fault design of the system to make claims that didn’t occur, or inflate the severity of the claim.

And there are some people on the claims side that try to "meet the numbers" by denying, delaying and otherwise obfuscating claim realities and legal obligations.

But the penalties meted are different depending upon your place in the system and don’t necessarily reflect the crime.

For instance, WorkCompCentral did an analysis of California Department of Insurance fraud statistics.

Between Jan. 1, 2013, and July 10, 150 individuals were convicted of defrauding workers’ compensation carriers out of $8 million; $6.7 million, or 83.75%, came from 30 of the 77 convictions for premium fraud, such as misreporting payroll, classifying workers as independent contractors or operating without mandatory workers’ compensation insurance.

The CDI data does not have an estimated loss for the remaining 47 of those convictions, but if extrapolated against the "known" losses, then the total for that time period is $17.5 million of losses attributable to employers.

$1.3 million out of that "known" $8 million is attributed to false claims filed by 67 of 73 individuals. Losses for the remaining six of those false claim cases were not included in…

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2014 Oregon Workers’ Compensation Premium Rate Ranking: Reflection of the Past or Prediction for the Future?

Today’s post was shared by WC CompNewsNetwork and comes from www.workerscompensation.com

The biennial study on workers’ compensation premium rates issued by the Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services (DCBS) was released last week, and, as always, it is worthy of a review by those of us entrenched within the industry. The study ranks all 50 states and Washington, D.C., based on rates that were in effect Jan. 1, 2014. This year’s results are indicative that major reforms don’t always gain the results that were intended or marketed to the industry; and while it may not accurately reflect legislative action of the past, it may be a better predictor of major reforms to come.

The study shows that despite its extensive reforms designed to lower costs, California now has the most expensive rates in the nation, followed by Connecticut. North Dakota had the least expensive rates. Oregon researchers also compared each state’s rates to the national median (midpoint) rate of $1.85 per $100 of payroll.

According to Mike Manley, one of the co-authors of the survey, “We continue to see a trend in the distribution of state index rates in our study clustering in the middle of the distribution. A record 21 states are within plus or minus 10 percent of the 2014 study median. This makes the rank values more volatile from one study to the next. I would recommend that states look also to their ‘Percent of study median’ figure for comparisons over time.”

Because states have various mixes of industries, the study calculates…

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Rutgers report: devastating impact of long term joblessness

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

By HUGH R. MORLEY

STAFF WRITER

The Record

Print

* Research finds that many who have been unemployed describe "devastated" lives

A Rutgers University study released today provides a grim, detailed picture of the severe impact that long-term unemployment continues to have on the lives of millions of Americans more than five years after the end of the Great Recession.

About one-third of the long-term unemployed workers — six months or more — in the study, based on surveys of unemployed and employed Americans across the nation, said they had been "devastated" and suffered a permanent change in their lifestyle by their jobless experience. The study, titled "Left behind: The long-term unemployed struggle in an improving economy," found that one in five workers laid off in the last five years are still unemployed. And it showed how far long-term jobless workers slip compared with employed workers.

Fifty-one percent of long-term jobless workers said they had a lot less income and savings than they did five years ago, while only 23 percent of employed workers said they had suffered similar economic damage, the study found.

Sixty-one percent of the long-term unemployed said they did not expect their finances to improve in the next five years, the study found. That was about 11 percentage points higher than the assessment by employed workers of their finances over the next five years.

"While the worst effects of the Great Recession are over for…

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