September 2010 Archives

September 30, 2010

 

Check out the latest Health Wonk Review posted by Peggy Salvatore at Healthcare Talent Transformation - it's chock full of good posts and entertaining to boot: Health Wonk Review: Take Me To Your Leader - Egads!

And in a few other news items ...
Can you offer unpaid internships? - Is your organization eligible to offer unpaid internships? If you are a profit-making entity, the answer is probably not. As part of its enhanced focus on employee misclassification, internships are one of the areas that the Department of Labor is examining. If your organization offers internships, you need to ensure you are in compliance with the Fair Labor Standards Act. DOL's Wage and Hour Division has issued guidance: Fact Sheet # 71: Internship Programs Under The Fair Labor Standards Act. If your organization's internship qualifies as a "training program" you may be an exception to the rule. The linked Fact Sheet lists 6 criteria which organizations can use to determine eligibility for training programs that would be allowed as unpaid internships.

While on the topic of compliance with wage & hour laws, here's a list of other Fact Sheets, which looks like a good page to bookmark for reference.

Work comp trends - Work Comp Complex Care Blog recently featured series on "Big 3 Trends in Workers Compensation" as noted by the Total Medical Solutions vice president of clinical services, Kevin Glennon. There's some good information, if you haven't seen them: Part One: Obesity; Part Two Aging Workforce; and Part Three: Antibiotic-Resistant Infections

Lost tax revenue - The IRS estimates that across the country, $345 billion of tax revenue is lost each year to the underground economy. Check out Roberto Ceniceros' post at Comp Time fro more on the topic: Notes on the underground economy

Safety is top labor issue - A new study by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago found that more than eight in 10 workers ranked workplace safety as their most important labor issue. Family and maternity leave was ranked as the second most important issue, followed by minimum wage, paid-sick days and time-and-a-half overtime pay. David Shadovitz offers more on the study at Human Resources Executive: Putting Workplace Safety First.

Healthcare costs - A recent survey of 466 large and midsize employers conducted by Towers Watson projects that employers' health care costs will rise by 8.2% in 2011. According to the Employee Benefit News coverage of the survey, "Among survey respondents, 59% plan to implement significant or moderate health care plan design changes in 2011, and 67% plan to do so in 2012."

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September 29, 2010

 

In November the voters in the Evergreen state have the opportunity to end one of the few remaining monopolistic systems for workers compensation (the three others are North Dakota, Ohio and Wyoming). As you might expect, there is much fulminating and little rational discourse evident in the pre-election build up on Initiative 1082.

Opponents of privitization project visions of greedy insurers denying claims (Hank Greenberg with an ax?), while proponents lampoon the arrogance and incompetence of a bloated state bureaucracy. (If you want to see what passes for humor in the great northwest, check out this rather lame rap video in support of the initiative.)

It's hardly surprising that opponents of the measure view insurers as a greedy, heartless enemy. On the other hand, it's pretty clear that most monopolies tend to evolve (or is it devolve?) into behemoths slow to respond and slow to innovate. Both visions suffer from inaccuracy and distortion.

Who Pays?
In most states, employers bear the full cost of workers comp: employees pay nothing for the premiums and nothing for the treatments. In Washington, there are three funds supported by comp premiums: an indemnity fund; a medical fund; and a supplemental pension fund. Employees contribute through payroll deduction to the latter two funds. The current deduction is 0.1543 percent of earnings, with no caps. If I've done the math right - a big if, unfortunately! - that's about $76 per year for the average worker. Not a lot of money, but the principle is interesting - employees have a little "skin" in the game. Total employee contribution of premiums does reach the substantial level of about 22 percent.

While you would expect small businesses to embrace competition, some oppose 1082 for the simple fact that it will eliminate the employee contribution to premiums and shift the entire burden onto employers. Costs might go up. On the other hand, competition might bring costs down.

Decision Makers
Currently, costs for workers comp in Washington are modest: they rank 38th for cost in the 2008 Oregon survey, with an average rate of $1.98 per $100 of payroll. If the costs were higher, the pressure for change would probably be much more intense. As it is, voters will go the polls as they often do, with a lot of inflammatory rhetoric (and perhaps an annoying rap song) ringing in their ears. Then they will fill out their ballots. The fate of Washington's comp system is in their hands.


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September 28, 2010

 

Most people are aware that, since 1970, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) has been responsible for issuing and enforcing standards for workplace health and safety. But if I were a betting person, I would wager that far fewer are aware of OSHA's responsibilities in relation to the Sarbanes Oxley Act. OSHA is charged with protecting workers " ...from retaliation for reporting alleged violations of mail, wire, bank, or securities fraud; violations of rules or regulations of the SEC; or federal laws relating to fraud against shareholders."

This responsibility is part of the Office of Whistleblower Protection Program (OWPP),for which OSHA has oversight. OWPP was originally intended to protect workers from being retaliated against for such things as reporting safety violations to OSHA, requesting or participating in an OSHA inspection, or testifying in any proceeding related to an OSHA inspection.

Over the years, this responsibility has expanded to encompass oversight of the whistle-blowing provisions for eighteen other statutes, including violations of various airline, commercial motor carrier, consumer product, environmental, financial reform, health care reform, nuclear energy, pipeline, public transportation agency, railroad and securities laws.

And according to a recent report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), OSHA gets failing grades for discharging its whistleblower protection responsibilities. The GAO cited lack of training, chronic inattention from OSHA leaders, and long delays in resolving cases, among other problems.

Some say the problems are no surprise: too few staff spread too thin, resulting in long case delays and staff demoralization. You can see charts depicting the growth of responsibilities while staff remained flat on pages 16-17 of the GAO Whistleblower Report. (PDF)

Some relief is in the offing - 25 new investigators are scheduled for appointment to OWPP. In addition, the Department of Labor (DOL) is conducting a "top to bottom" review and there is some discussion about whether the program should be moved to another part of DOL.

Whistleblowers are fundamental to workplace safety, but even with protections built into the laws, the reality is that protection for whistle-blowing employees can be a long time in coming, when and if it does. Read about truck driver John Simon's whistle-blowing ordeal as a case in point. There are unfortunately many other similar stories. OSHA offers employees a a bill of rights to ensure safety, but fundamental to those rights are protections when and if they speak up in the cause of safety.

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September 27, 2010

 

Most of us associate a determination of disability with the inability to perform some or all aspects of a job. But most us do not work in Bell, California.

When former Bell police chief Randy Adams agreed to leave his job as chief in Glendale and run the department in Bell, he entered into an unusual agreement with city administrator Robert Rizzo. The agreement stipulated that Adams was disabled, suffering from the lingering effects of back, knee and neck injuries sustained in his prior public safety jobs. His attorney, Mark Pachowicz, said the agreement was designed to ensure that his client would not have to fight Bell for a medical pension.

Lest you think that Bell simply had an aggressive "hire the handicapped" program, it appears that Adams was able to perform all the duties of his job, with no accommodation required. In other words, this "disabled" hire was indistinguishable from able-bodied applicants for the job. There was a single stipulation of "no heavy lifting" - for a job which required no heavy lifting.

An Offer He Could Not Refuse
Rizzo considered Adams so capable, he hired him into two positions: police chief and special police counsel. Bell was so anxious to secure Adams's services, they offered him $457,000 a year, double his prior salary. The hiring agreement qualified Adams for a tax-free disability benefit of $205,000 per year. Oh, did I mention that the hiring agreement also provided lifetime health insurance for Adams and his dependents, with no vesting period? Sure, that sounds like a pretty generous package, but Rizzo himself was pulling down $787,000 for taking on the burdens of managing the relatively small (pop. 40,000) working class town.

During his prior employment, Adams settled a workers comp claim for $45,000, following back surgery. He returned to work after a two week absence - which makes the amount of settlement appear rather generous. The comp settlement, however, is chump change compared to the irrestible benefits of working for Bell.

Fortunately for the beleagured Bell (and California) tax payers, this entire corrupt edifice came crashing down with the arrest of Rizzo and his numerous co-conspirators. (Adams has not been charged.) The status of Adams's questionable hiring agreement with the city remains unresolved. As spokesperson for the California Public Employee's Retirement System Ed Fong put it: "You're only supposed to receive a disability retirement if you are disabled and unable to perform the normal duties of your job. If that is not the case, it would be fraud."

In Bell they called it "standard operating procedure." It was lucrative while it lasted. But the bell has tolled, bringing to an abrupt end a corruption scheme of All-American proportions.

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September 24, 2010

 

The folks at American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM) know something about doctors. They also know quite a bit about workplace injuries in that most of the members are physicians actively practicing in the field, in one capacity or another. That's why we sat up and took notice when we saw their recent publication, A Guide to High-Value Physician Services in Workers' Compensation - How to find the best available care for your injured workers. ACOEM joined forces with the International Association of Industrial Accident Boards and Commissions (IAIABC) to produce the 11-page "best practice" summary, which includes the best thinking and contributions from a diverse group of workers' compensation system stakeholders in a meeting convened by ACOEM and the IAIABC last April. You can see the list of participants on page 11 - a group of heavy hitters that includes a geographical and industrial sampling. It's great to see a think tank of employers and insurers sitting down at table with policymakers and physicians to come to some agreement about best practices. The only thing we might suggest for improvement would be to add a representative from labor at any future convocations.

The stated purpose of the document is to provide specific guidance and resources to all stakeholders in the workers comp system - from injured workers and employers to insurers and TPAs - to help identify the best physicians for care of both everyday, uncomplicated injuries, as well as for specialized medical services addressing catastrophic injury or administrative tasks required by the workers' compensation process.

It identifies ways to find physicians who:

  • Are willing to accept patients covered by workers' compensation insurance
  • Employ best practices in providing high quality and compassionate medical care
  • Respect and fulfill the extra responsibilities that the workers compensation system creates
  • Produce better overall outcomes at comparatively better total cost over the course of an injury or illness. (High-quality care produces better outcomes for workers and better value for payers.)

The Guide offers both a "High value" checklist and a step-by-step process for identifying physicians, verifying credentials, working with, and measuring performance. We put this one on our "required reading" list. And for adjunct reading, we also recommend ACOEM's Preventing Needless Work Disability by Helping People Stay Employed.

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September 22, 2010

 

In the past, we've featured assorted news items about how employers and insurers are turning to social networks to monitor employees for potential fraud. In fact, just last week, we learned about how the New York State Insurance Department's Fraud Bureau recently cracked a case as a result of a Facebook posting. But social media and how it intersects with workers compensation is all still pretty uncharted territory.

Given this, we were delighted to learn of a recent paper specifically dealing with this area of law: Social Networking and Workers' Compensation Law at the Crossroads, authored by Gregory M. Duhl of William Mitchell College of Law and Jaclyn S. Millner of Fitch, Johnson, Larson & Held, P.A. It's a substantial document - 75 pages, to be precise, that looks at the use of social networking evidence in workers' compensation litigation. It's scheduled to be published in the Pace Law Review, but you can download a free copy of the report at the above link. We'd encourage you to run, not walk, to get your copy - it's interesting, well written, and thoroughly annotated, and you don't need to be an attorney to find it valuable.

We think that the remarks which the authors make at the conclusion of their paper do an excellent job of explaining the importance of both the issues at hand and the value of this work in particular, so we are taking the liberty of reproducing them:

"The lawyers, judges, insurance companies, and parties within workers' compensation systems will increasingly confront the discovery, privacy, professional responsibility, and evidentiary issues that arise at the crossroads of workers' compensation law and social networking. In the absence of case law and ethics opinions that discuss these exact issues, this article starts with the rules that govern workers' compensation cases, and discusses how they might apply to lawyers gathering, producing, and introducing evidence from social networking sites. But this article is only a starting point. As workers' compensation systems are built on efficiency, flexibility, and discretion, workers' compensation is an ideal area of law for lawyers and judges to experiment with how to address some of the unique challenges and opportunities that social networking poses in litigation.

While there is a lack of legal authority on these issues, that should not cloud the reality that many employees are using social networking in their daily lives. One thing of which we are certain is that lawyers who practice in the workers' compensation field need to be able to navigate around social networking sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and MySpace, and know how they work. Social networking is no longer a new technology, and ignorance should not be an excuse to the applicability of evidence from social networking sites in litigation."

In the spirit of those remarks, we'd like to leave you with this video clip which gives a good overview of how social media is changing the landscape. Startling as it is, it's already almost a year out of date.

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September 22, 2010

 

Russell Chatwood hosts this week's edition of Cavalcade of Risk. Our host from "down under" brings the latest and greatest from the world of risk, with a heavy skewing to healthcare. Think that's on everyone's mind, at least here in the pre-election U.S.? Go check it out!

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September 21, 2010

 

Matt Mitchell was an Illinois state trooper. On November 23, 2007, he was bombing along Interstate 64 at 126 miles per hour, on his way to an accident scene. He was chatting with his girlfriend and sending text messages. The road was somewhat clogged with holiday travelers. His speeding was not necessary, as help had already arrived at the accident scene. The distracted trooper crossed over the median and hit a car head on. Two sisters, Kelli and Jessica Uhl, were killed instantly. Two other occupants of the car were injured. Trooper Mitchell suffered severe leg injuries.

Speeding for no reason. Texting and talking unrelated to his job. Reckless. Negligent. And, it appears, compensable.

Mitchell pleaded guilty to reckless homicide and reckless driving and was sentenced to 30 months probation. He resigned his position with the state police. He has filed a claim for workers comp benefits, which is likely to be awarded because Mitchell was in the course and scope of employment. In the stipulation during a civil suit filed by the parents of the Uhl sisters, the Illinois attorney general agreed that, despite the criminal negligence, Mitchell was acting in his capacity as a state trooper when the accident occurred. Yes, the speeding was gratuitous, the texting irresponsible, the girl friend chats unrelated to work. But Mitchell was heading to the scene of an accident. He was a jerk and a menace, but he was working.

On the Hook
Illinois taxpayers face an interesting double jeopardy. They are on the hook for the deaths of the Uhl sisters. And they will soon be on the hook for Mitchell's loss of function payments and possibly for permanent total benefits.

It's worth noting that just three days after pleading guilty to the criminal charges, Mitchell testified in a claims hearing that he was not responsible for the crash.

If Mitchell had not been heading for an accident scene, if he was speeding simply because he wore a uniform that allowed him to get away with it, perhaps his claim would be denied under the concept of "wilful intent." We are reminded once again of comp's cornerstone principle of "no fault." There's plenty of fault in this sorry saga, but it does not - alas, it cannot - matter one bit.

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September 20, 2010

 

Last year the Insider blogged the unfortunate fate of Arthur Pierce, who died in a work-related accident, but whose claim was denied due to a glitch in the Virginia comp statute. Fearing a rash of bogus claims by workers faking severe brain injuries, the lawmakers allow insurers to deny any unwitnessed incident where the injured worker cannot testify to what happened. If Pierce had died instantly, his claim would have been accepted. By surviving for months without being able to talk, he never collected a dime.

Dan Casey, a columnist for the Roanoke Times, brings us the saga of Mike Gentry, who fell off a roof while installing a satellite dish. He survived, but suffered brain damage and severe physical trauma. While paying the claim at first (Gentry was in a coma and rehab for weeks), the insurer finally got to talk to him. Here is Mike and his wife Andrea's summary of the exchange with the claims adjuster:

"She asked me,'Ever jumped off a roof before? Ever thought of killing yourself?'"

"I said, 'No, and no.'"

And then she said, "Do you remember what happened?"

"And he said no," Andrea interjected. "Because he didn't. And she said, 'OK, that's all I need.'"

Thus, in accordance with the peculiar and patently unfair Virginia law, the claim was denied. Ironically, just 12 days before Gentry fell off the roof, an attempt to change the Virginia statute, instigated by Arthur Pierce's widow, was defeated in committee. The revision would have allowed brain injured workers the same presumption of compensability as workers killed on the job. In the words of insurance lobbyist and attorney Charles Midkiff, any changes in the current law would be "an invitation to fraud."

It was only through the kindness of strangers that Gentry and his family were able to survive the months without any insurance benefits. Then a minor miracle occurred: Gentry's memory of the incident came back. Not all at once, but gradually. First, he remembered that the battery on his power drill died. A few more memories filtered in. Finally, about a month after the initial recall, he remembered everything. He was climbing down to get a replacement battery from his truck, when the ladder slid and he fell.

(Over)Due Process
Armed with this new information, Gentry filed for benefits. The carrier, defended by - who woulda guessed? - attorney Midkiff, managed to delay the hearing for months (from December 2009 until April 2010). Finally, three hours before the rescheduled hearing, the carrier caved and accepted the claim.

Mike Gentry will never work again. He has double vision, his speech is slurred and he is frequently exhausted. He has severe seizures and difficulty thinking. He takes 10 medications daily. But he and his family are finally protected by the workers comp safety net - no thanks to a carrier following the letter of the law, and no thanks to the legislators who think workers are going to fake brain injuries in order to qualify for benefits.

In the words of the immortal Frank Zappa: "The United States is a nation of laws: badly written and randomly enforced." Not true of most laws, but certainly applicable to this bizarre and completely unnecessary provision of Virginia's comp statute.

NOTE: The Insider is quoted in course of Casey's fine article.

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September 16, 2010

 

Louise Norris of Colorado Health Insurance Insider hosts the Politics, Money and Health edition of Health Wonk Review. There's a particularly good crop of posts and Louise does a great job offering summaries, so be sure to check it out!

Follow up to tower safety - In posting yesterday's dramatic tower-climbing video, we appealed to any safety to experts to add comments. We were fortunate to have commentary from Wally Reardon who points us to the Facebook Tower Climber Protection project. Of the video, he notes: "If free-climbing is allowed by OSHA; why is the other climbers face blurred? He would not want to be identified or have his company ID'd either (that's why). OSHA does not allow free-climbing EVER on towers. Special PPE has been designed to eliminate the need to free-climb. We have double lanyards with fall arrest to "crab walk" up the tower for example. Free-climbing has been banned since 1994."

Facebook as a fraud detector - New York's State Insurance Department brought workers comp fraud charges against a woman based a Facebook posting. The woman was boasting about her salary at a job while collecting benefits from an injury that occurred at a previous employer. Attorney Jon Gelman's blog has a good post on how how Facebook is turning up in workers compensation courts.

Industry innovators - Congratulations to all those named as winners in Risk & Insurance's 2010 Innovator Awards, with special kudos to our friend Gary Anderberg, Practice Leaders for Analytics and Outcomes at
Broadspire Services. (Read a few of his guest posts here at Workers Comp Insider). For a dose of inspiration and to find out where the industry leaders are headed, check out all the innovator profiles.

Employer WC costs decrease - a report by the National Academy of Social Insurance (NASI) points to good news/bad news for employers. The good news: "Employer costs--defined as benefits paid and administrative costs for self-insured employers, and premiums and deductibles paid for those who buy insurance--fell 6.7 percent in 2008 to $78.9 billion." But don't get too excited because the bad news is that medical payments and cash benefits to injured workers saw the largest percentage increase since 2001: "workers' compensation benefits paid increased 4.4 percent to $57.6 billion in 2008--the most recent year for which data was available. NASI said an 8.8 percent increase in payments for medical care drove medical spending to $29.1 billion in 2008, while wage replacement benefits paid directly to injured workers rose by 0.3 percent to $28.6 billion."

Retaliation is a no-no - It's never a good idea to harass a worker who has been injured on the job. Amtrak learned that the hard way after being ordered to pay a Seattle cleaning worker more than $160,000 after it was determined that supervisors had retaliated against her after she reported an on-the-job injury. She was discouraged from filing a report, and then fired, and then her firing was rescinded and reduced to a suspension.

When animals attack - It seems like there has been an increase in workers being attacked by wild animals lately, but it is probably just that these stories are more widely available due to the web. Here's a scary clip of a lion attacking his trainer at MGM Las Vegas. Apparently, the worker needed stitches, but wildlife experts say if the lion had been serious, things could have been dire. Meanwhile, in an attack that ended less benignly, an exclusive remedy challenge is looming for SeaWorld Orlando related to the trainer who was killed by a whale. (Hat to tip Comp Time, where we found the lion clip.)

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September 15, 2010

 

Last week, we rocked and rolled you with a dramatic video of a cruise ship tossed in a storm, but for sheer fear factor, we think this video may top that one. Normally, we wouldn't post another video so soon after that one, but we think this one may not stay up for long!

Note: the video we had posted was removed but a copy has been posted here: Climbing Up The Tallest Antenna Tower 1,768 feet

Once we caught our breath after the gut-churning visceral reaction to the clip, we had two thoughts: Massive respect for the jobs that infrastructure workers do to keep our lights on, our computers running, and our phones working, and absolute horror at the "free climbing" concept. The narrator says that OSHA rules really allow for this, but that doesn't sound right. We'd be interested in comments from safety professionals.

Here's what we found from OSHA: "Tower climbing remains the most dangerous job in America. The majority of fatalities are the result of climbers not being tied off to a safe anchorage point at all times or relying upon faulty personal protection equipment. Many fatalities have occurred during the erection, retrofitting or dismantling of a tower. "Tie or Die!" has become synonymous with the requirement for 100 percent fall protection."

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September 13, 2010

 

Five years ago we blogged the problem FedEx would inevitably run into in Massachusetts, where the definition of "employee" is so inclusive, it's almost impossible to find a truly "independent contractor." Well, the proverbial chickens have come home to roost.

Attorney General Martha Coakley has announced a settlement with FedEx, wherein the delivery giant has agreed to pay a little more than $3 million relating to the status of 13 "misclassified" delivery drivers. Without admitting liability or wrongdoing, FedEx has agreed to refrain from using the "independent contractor" strategy in response to claims for benefit coverage, including payroll taxes, unemployment insurance, and workers comp. In exchange, Massachusetts will refrain from any further legal action for one year. In other words, for the modest sum of $3 million, FedEx has bought itself a year to clarify its business strategy. Therein lies a tale of attorneys, well worth the telling.

FedEx maintains a steadfast commitment to a business model for its ground delivery system where the work is performed by independent contractors. With a healthy scepticism in our hearts, we have frequently blogged the barriers to independence: the drivers wear FedEx uniforms, drive FedEx trucks, adhere to FedEx dress codes and schedules, etc. FedEx ground does not exist without these drivers and that makes them, in effect, employees. The response to the fundamental query "who controls the work?" has been unambiguously, FedEx.

ISP to the Rescue?
As part of its agreement with the Commonwealth, FedEx has outlined its rationale for the independent contractor model. They propose entering into an Independent Service Agreement (ISP) with driver/managers in each service area. Appended to the MA settlement in draft form, the ISP agreement tries diligently to carve out a middle ground where the work is performed independently, but to FedEx standards.

Here are a few of the details:

  • The local driver/manager must operate under a corporate entity recognized by the state(s) in which he or she operates.

  • The driver/manager can hire and fire employees and must provide all mandated benefits to employees, including workers comp

  • Theoretically at least, the driver/manager can be a sole proprietor without employees; in this case, the issue of workers comp coverage is governed by the state statute on sole proprietors (who usually can opt out)

  • The agreement states that FedEx Ground has no authority to "direct as to methods, manner or means" the provision of services.

  • The ISP manager has "exclusive rights" in a specific geographic area

  • While the ISP has the right to decline service, in such cases this triggers the right of FedEx to ensure services

  • Drivers are not compelled to wear FedEx uniforms or drive FedEx vehicles, but they are paid a weekly incentive to do so.
  • As you can see, FedEx is trying to establish independence while still maintaining its identity and its standards. The Attorney General has not made any judgment about the validity of this strategy; she has simply cashed a nice check, in exchange for which she has given FedEx a year to work out the kinks. After the year is up, the FedEx model will likely be challenged once again.

    Not Quite Independent?
    You have to credit the presumably well-paid FedEx team: they have tackled head on the thorny issue of "free from control and direction." On the surface at least, the ISP approach offers a credible if not totally convincing appearance of independence.

    Unfortunately for FedEx, the MA standards have two additional components, neither of which appear to be addressed in the draft ISP agreement: independent contractors must provide a service outside of the general contractor's usual course of business (no way FedEx can do this) and their independence is reflected in their marketing of services beyond a single customer (what would this look like?).

    It will be interesting to see how FedEx responds when local driver/managers stretch the rules and standards in an attempt to assert some real independence. That's where the rubber will meet the road in this seemingly endless saga: a company with a ferocious need to control, giving up control in order to preserve their idiosyncratic business model.

    And some folks say employment law is boring....Stay tuned.


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    September 9, 2010

     

    Yesterday's scary cruise ship video provoked quite a bit of interest, both in terms of our posting and also on the web at large. A few interesting follow-on links and stories have surfaced in the last day, which give added dimension to the story, particularly from a risk management perspective.

    The 58-page Pacific Sun investigation report (PDF) adds more details about the event itself and the aftermath. It states that 69 passengers and 8 crew were injured, with 7 injuries considered major. Most injuries were the result of falls and contact with unsecured furnishings. Part of yesterday's video footage was filmed in the Outback Bar and Grill, where the highest number of injuries occurred - involving at least 13 passengers and crew.

    Some of the report highlights include:

    • Photos - pages 9, 12, 13, 15, 19, 21, 23-4 and 25
    • Safety issues directly contributing to the accidents - page 47
    • Actions taken - page 49
    • Recommendations - page 50
    The report states:
    "As a consequence of this accident, Princess Cruises has taken action to: supply its bridge teams with night vision glasses; improve deck officers' training in the risks associated with heavy weather; and review the securing arrangements for its vessels' satellite communications equipment.

    Princess Cruises has been recommended to: review the role of active stabilisers in ensuring passenger safety; review the risk of injury from moving furnishings and objects, and develop suitable means of securing such items for heavy weather; develop a standard for securing furnishings and equipment in public spaces; and develop its heavy weather guidance and instructions to include actions to reduce the risk of injury to personnel.

    MAIB has recommended that the Cruise Lines International Association and the Passenger Shipping Association develop a guide on industry best practice based on Princess Cruises' standard for securing furnishings. The trade associations have also been recommended to promulgate the lessons learned from this accident to their members."

    For more reports on safety issues related to the cruise industry, Cruise Junkie makes for some fascinating reading. The site bills itself as "your resource for the other information about the cruise industry, including reports on accidents, health issues, illness outbreaks, sinkings, groundings, disabling events, and persons overboard reports. It includes events broken down by cruise line and by ship. The site presents information from passenger reports and events that have made it into the public domain.

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    September 8, 2010

     

    Our friend David Williams is hosting Cavalcade of Risk #113 over at Health Business Blog. Also of note on his blog, his post on a recent Kaiser study on healthcare, which includes some interesting statistics about practices related to healthcare quality monitoring.

    Here at Workers Comp Insider, we are in "back to school" mode - catching up after a long Labor Day weekend, having tucked in a few final summer vacation days. So we have only one item today that fits in with the theme of risk ... a remarkable video clip of security camera footage from a harrowing 2008 cruise that just recently made its way to the web. How would you like to have been one of the employees or a guest on this particular cruise? Or the risk manager?

    I don't know which segment is scarier - the passengers and crew sliding around in the cafeteria in the first half or the forklifts and heavy equipment careening around in the second half. Yikes.

    The Sydney Morning Herald offers more information about what happened on the cruise. The article doesn't report on any injuries among the 671 crew, but says that, "Forty-two passengers were injured in the storm. The worst injuries were a fractured pelvis and fractured wrist, with most of the injured suffering cuts and bruises." After the event, the company offered passengers a 25% discount on future cruises. Also, "...recommendations made after an investigation into the event, including the securing of furnishings and providing bridge staff with night-vision binoculars, had been implemented by the company."

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    September 2, 2010

     

    Grab a coffee and head on over to Hank Stern's InsureBlog, where he's posted Health Wonk Review: In the Here and Now. He describes it as a "minimalist" style, which means more meat, less potatoes!

    And in other noteworthy news this week:
    Twittering insurers - Terry Golesworthy features an interesting post about how insurers are using Twitter, along with lists of insurance leaders by number of followers, by growth and by activity. He observes, "Twitter continues to be used by most insurers to provide soft marketing messages about promotions, sponsorships and customer endorsements. Other activities include financial quizzes, insurance related education materials, warnings regarding impended natural disasters and Facebook announcements. Some insurers do respond publically to customer questions but, largely, this is not the significant activity." In the comments on his list, insurance agent Ryan Hanley (@AlbanyInsurance) notes that agencies are actually driving the social media movement, and that is based on their using the channel for relationships rather than as a broadcast tool.

    Safety is #1 - At The Pump Handle, Celeste Monforton posts that "just in time for the Labor Day holiday," a new study has been released by the University of Chicago's National Opinion Research Center, indicating 85 percent of workers rank safety on the job as their top labor standard.

    Misclassification - State efforts focusing on employer misclassification continue to be strong and there appears to be a deep vein to mine.

    • In California, Country Builders Inc is paying a whopping $3.9 million in back pay, fines, and payment to the work comp fund as a settlement with a suit filed by the Attorney General for various labor law infractions, including misclassification to avoid workers comp payments. In addition, the company is barred from working on government-funded public works for three years.
    • The New York construction industry should go on notice. Governor Patterson has just signed the Construction Industry Fair Play Act, "...which creates a clear litmus test to distinguish the difference between a worker and an independent contractor. It also provides a method to clearly define which business on a construction project is responsible for which workers. Finally, for the first time in State history, it imposes monetary and criminal penalties specifically for the act of employee misclassification on construction projects."
    • A new Wisconsin law strengthens enforcement tools for targeting construction misclassification. The law will take effect on January 1.
    • While the construction industry has been a major area of focus, other industries such as the trucking industry have also been targets of probes. And then there is the continuing FedEx driver saga, which my colleague has posted on frequently.
    Other employment law litigation - Wal-Mart has appealed for a review by the Supreme Court in a discrimination suit the largest employment discrimination suit in U,S. history. The decade-old case involves more than a million current and former female workers. Steven Greenhouse of The new York Times discusses the issues in the case and the potential $1 billion or more in damages that Wal-Mart could face if the Supreme Court allows a class action suit to proceed.




    September is National Preparedness Month - FEMA has designated September as and offers emergency preparation resources for employers. At the Risk Management Monitor blog, commercial risk management expert Brian Smith replies to Emily Holbrook's questions about disaster preparation and business insurance.

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