Lynch Ryan's weblog about workers' compensation, risk management, business insurance, workplace health & safety, occupational medicine, injured workers, insurance webtools & technology and related topics

February 22, 2010

Independent Contractors and the (Deadly) Spirit of 1706

Joseph Stack set his house on fire and then piloted a small plane into a building housing the IRS in Austin, Texas. His daughter calls him a hero. Most of us would call him a terrorist. But whatever you call him, he was motivated in part by section 1706 of the 1986 Tax Reforms. Stack was a software engineer, and...
Posted by Jon Coppelman at 11:06 AM Link to, Comment (1), or E-mail this post
February 11, 2010

Toyota: Success is Dangerous

It will be years before we know the full implications of Toyota's recall problem, but a few things are already evident. In its relentless push to become the world's number one car manufacturer, Toyota lost its corporate soul (to the extent, of course, that any corporation has a soul). As with any business, performance measurement is a month to month,...
Posted by Jon Coppelman at 12:14 PM Link to, Comment (2), or E-mail this post
January 4, 2010

Donning and Doffing Quashed

Way back in November 2005 we blogged the interesting issue of donning and doffing: whether the time meatpackers spend at the beginning of work putting on protective gear and taking it off at the end of the shift is time on task and compensable. The 2005 ruling of the U.S. Supreme Court went in favor of the workers, but...
Posted by Jon Coppelman at 10:40 AM Link to, Comment (2), or E-mail this post
December 18, 2009

(Cannon) Fodder for a Friday: The Fate of Foreign Interpreters in Iraq

How would you like a job that pays $12,000 a year, where 1 percent of the workforce is killed annually and hundreds of others are seriously maimed? I didn't think so. You would probably take a pass on working for Titan Corporation (now part of L-3) as an interpreter for the U.S. armed forces in Iraq. The L-3 website promises...
Posted by Jon Coppelman at 12:14 PM Link to, Comment (0), or E-mail this post
November 23, 2009

Massachusetts Premium Rates Redux

My blog post of last Thursday (19 November 2009) addressing why workers’ compensation costs in Massachusetts are the lowest in the nation, while benefits are among the highest drew a mild pushback from Mark Walls, who manages the excellent LinkedIn Workers’ Compensation Forum. Mark wrote: "Working for an excess carrier, I would never have expected Massachusetts to be considered a...
Posted by Tom Lynch at 11:51 AM Link to, Comment (0), or E-mail this post
November 20, 2009

Housekeepers, Revisited

Back in September we blogged the mass layoffs of housekeepers at the Hyatt Hotels in Boston. After unknowingly training their replacements, long-term employees were laid off, their jobs taken over by employees of a temp firm called Hospitality Staffing Solutions (HSS). Given the the low wages and marginal benefits offered the replacement workers, this solution was lacking in hospitality, to...
Posted by Jon Coppelman at 11:57 AM Link to, Comment (1), or E-mail this post
November 17, 2009

Workers Comp Insider Wins Top National Blog Award

Well, bust our balloons and call us surprised! We learned yesterday that the Lexis Nexis Workers’ Compensation Law Center has honored the Workers Comp Insider with the award of Top National Workers’ Compensation blog of 2009. With so many excellent blogs being written now, we’re proud and humbled at the same time. When we created the Insider in September 2003,...
Posted by Tom Lynch at 1:00 PM Link to, Comment (11), or E-mail this post
October 27, 2009

FedEx Sued: Mooning in Moon Township?

Labor officials of three states have written to FedEx, announcing their intention to file suit for "widespread, long-term, and unlawful employment practices." We have blogged this employment law conundrum many times (search "independent contractors" in the box to the right). There are at least two mysteries in this action: why only three states are participating (FedEx has lost court cases...
Posted by Jon Coppelman at 10:13 AM Link to, Comment (1), or E-mail this post
October 8, 2009

Annals of Fraud: Corrections Officer in Need of Correcting?

Stephen Zaczynski, 49, is a lieutenant with the Connecticut Department of Correction. He claimed an on-the-job injury in September of 2008 and collected over $12,000 in benefits. While on disability, he continued to run a company he co-owned, New England Pellet. People in need of pellets pre-paid for the product, which, unfortunately for them, was never delivered. The company closed...
Posted by Jon Coppelman at 11:51 AM Link to, Comment (0), or E-mail this post
September 29, 2009

The AIG Saga, Revisited: Gang Wars in Three Piece Suits

AIG may have lost a bit of its swagger - that's what happens when your stock tanks and the government has to bail you out to the tune of $150 billion, give or take a few billion. But tough guys don't dance, they fight back. AIG is suing NCCI and a host of major workers comp carriers (Travelers, The Hartford,...
Posted by Jon Coppelman at 2:11 PM Link to, Comment (0), or E-mail this post
September 22, 2009

Not-So-Good Housekeeping

Lucine Williams, 41, worked as a housekeeper for the Hyatt hotel chain in Boston for over 20 years. She earned $15.32 an hour, plus a fairly robust benefit package that included health, dental and a 401(k). That's where Katie Johnson Chases's story begins in the Boston Globe, but it hardly ends there. Last month Ms. Williams and her co-workers were...
Posted by Jon Coppelman at 11:14 AM Link to, Comment (3), or E-mail this post
September 15, 2009

Annals of Dress Codes: With That Ring, I thee Fire!

Hawwah Santiago was a "sandwich artist" at a Subway restaurant in New Smyrna Beach, Florida. She was fired after refusing to remove her nose ring while at work. Visible body piercings (other than earrings) violated the company dress code. Ms. Santiago sued, claiming that the nose ring was a practice of her Nuwaibian religion. The Nuwaibians, based in Eatonton GA,...
Posted by Jon Coppelman at 9:45 AM Link to, Comment (0), or E-mail this post
August 19, 2009

California Fraud Bill: The Solution is a Problem

California has a California-sized fraud problem, with much of action in the medical arena. Unscrupulous providers are billing for services that are never provided, often under the names of people who have never been injured. It's identity theft targeted at businesses, not individuals. In California's $7 billion comp system (down from $21 billion just a few years ago), fraud is...
Posted by Jon Coppelman at 10:25 AM Link to, Comment (0), or E-mail this post
August 12, 2009

Independent Contractors: The Bare Essentials

The King Arthur Lounge in Chelsea, MA does not exactly bring to mind the Knights of the Round Table. It's a tough place in a tough town - a strip joint with a motel attached (don't ask, don't tell). The strippers had to work under some pretty difficult conditions. They were hired as independent contractors. They paid a $35 fee...
Posted by Jon Coppelman at 10:59 AM Link to, Comment (1), or E-mail this post
August 10, 2009

The End of Civil Discourse?

We live, alas, in interesting times. As the health care debate spirals downward, the fault lines in our culture become more and more evident. On one side, anti-reformers stack town meetings to prevent any meaningful dialogue from taking place. These folks are even trying to intimidate unions. What am I missing here? Who is supposed to intimidate whom? On both...
Posted by Jon Coppelman at 10:51 AM Link to, Comment (6), or E-mail this post
July 29, 2009

Homicidal Employers

Back in May, we blogged the appalling story of Albania Deleon, a legal immigrant who founded Environmental Compliance Training (ECT), the largest asbestos removal training school in New England. Despite the fact that the training only requires 32 hours, she frequently sold certificates of completion to "students" who never attended classes. In other words, she sent these marginal workers -...
Posted by Jon Coppelman at 11:08 AM Link to, Comment (2), or E-mail this post
June 22, 2009

Risk Transfer without Risk

The Defense Base Act (DBA) was enacted in 1941, to cover the injuries to civilian employees - primarily a few hundred engineers - during the second world war. The act might have worked then, but it certainly is not working now, nearly 70 years later. As we have blogged in the past, the DBA is a boondoggle, generating huge profits...
Posted by Jon Coppelman at 11:22 AM Link to, Comment (3), or E-mail this post
June 9, 2009

Will Health Care Reform Crush Workers Comp?

If health care reform is the proverbial 800 pound gorilla, then the medical portion of workers comp is a 15 pound Maine Coon cat: it might big for a cat, but compared to a giant gorilla, it is barely noticeable. Nonetheless, this cat is blessed with a very strong notion of what it needs. As the nation moves closer to...
Posted by Jon Coppelman at 12:35 PM Link to, Comment (0), or E-mail this post
May 29, 2009

Annals of Fraud: Trifecta for Bay Area GC

In the world of workers comp, there is no lack of opportunity for fraud. We've seen doctors rip off the system by billing for services that were either never provided or not needed. We've seen employees fake injuries (relatively rare) or malinger on comp long after injuries have healed. We've seen insurance agents pocket money intended for insurance premiums. We've...
Posted by Jon Coppelman at 11:32 AM Link to, Comment (1), or E-mail this post
May 18, 2009

Albania Deleon: Death in the Classroom

Albania Deleon is a entrepreneur. A legal immigrant and naturalized citizen from the Dominican Republic, she founded and operated Environmental Compliance Training (ECT) in Methuen, Massachusetts, the largest asbestos removal training school in New England. Between 2001 and 2007, she trained over 2,500 people in the intricacies of asbestos removal. Except that she didn't. Instead, she would fill out tests...
Posted by Jon Coppelman at 10:56 AM Link to, Comment (1), or E-mail this post
April 28, 2009

Indoor Football: Piling On the Sanctions

The Sioux Fall Storm are members of the Indoor Football league (not to be confused with the Arena Football League, although, truth be told, I am confused). They have won the league championship four years in a row (bet you did not know that) and were well on their way to a 5th title, having won their first six games...
Posted by Jon Coppelman at 2:30 PM Link to, Comment (2), or E-mail this post
April 21, 2009

AIG in Iraq: A Cruel Way to Make a Buck

AIG has been in the news mostly for its ingenious method of losing money: insuring the riskiest possible financial transactions and tanking after these risks go bad. But give the biggest insurance company in the world some credit. They still know how to make money the old fashioned way: collecting premiums and denying claims. To be sure, this strategy is...
Posted by Jon Coppelman at 10:56 AM Link to, Comment (7), or E-mail this post
March 31, 2009

Judge Body-Slams Grapplers

Back in September we blogged a lawsuit filed by three former wrestlers of World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), the colorful circus of flying bodies managed by Vince McMahon. The wrestlers claimed that they were not independent contractors, but employees of WWE and entitled to all the benefits of employment. We guessed that Vince would be crushed in court. Well, we guessed...
Posted by Jon Coppelman at 11:19 AM Link to, Comment (0), or E-mail this post
March 16, 2009

AIG: Failure's Fat Rewards

We continue to be amazed at the ongoing saga of AIG. We learn in Sunday's New York Times that 400 employees of the financial products unit (yes, the geniuses who destroyed the company) are receiving bonuses ranging from $1,000 (the hard-working and relatively innocent) to $6.5 million (the brains behind the fiasco). Commitments to pay these bonuses were made in...
Posted by Jon Coppelman at 10:34 AM Link to, Comment (7), or E-mail this post
March 11, 2009

Collapsing Empires at the Hedge Fund Hotel

I have a few shares of AIG stock, which is currently trading at 35 cents a share. I do not like to dwell on the pathetic disappearance of this particular asset, so it's an opportune time to seek comfort in history. This is not the first collapse of a financial empire, nor will it be the last. The financial products...
Posted by Jon Coppelman at 1:00 PM Link to, Comment (0), or E-mail this post
March 3, 2009

Title Dis-Insurance?

In most states, owner/officers of a company can opt out of workers comp coverage. So would it surprise you to learn that the scammers have parlayed this exemption into a scheme to avoid comp premiums? I didn't think so. (On the scale running from naive to cynical, Insider readers inevitably tend toward the latter.) Contractors Asset Protection Association (ConAPA), a...
Posted by Jon Coppelman at 11:08 AM Link to, Comment (1), or E-mail this post
December 19, 2008

The Big Squeeze on FedEx

We have frequently blogged the labor issues at FedEx, the ubiquitous delivery giant. FedEx relies on "independent contractor" drivers for business and neighborhood deliveries. An interesting article by Corey Dade in the Wall Street Journal (subscription required) discusses the potential impact of a Democratic Congress on FedEx's business model. An 800 pound gorilla has just taken a seat in the...
Posted by Jon Coppelman at 9:30 AM Link to, Comment (1), or E-mail this post
December 9, 2008

Dollar Tree's Investment

On December 1 we blogged the story of Taneka Talley, an employee of the Dollar Tree stores who was stabbed to death at work by a deranged racist. We believed that Talley's death was compensable under workers comp, as she died at work, performing her job (she was stocking shelves at the time of the assault). Dollar Tree's TPA denied...
Posted by Jon Coppelman at 1:13 PM Link to, Comment (19), or E-mail this post
December 4, 2008

Walmart's Killer Bargains

Jdimytai "Jimbo" Damour took a temp job for the Christmas rush at the Walmart in Green Acres Mall on Long Island. Some rush. When a crowd of bargain hunters pushed into the store at 5 am on "Black Friday," Damour, a 34 year old who weighed 270 pounds, fell to the floor and was trampled. He died within an hour...
Posted by Jon Coppelman at 10:37 AM Link to, Comment (0), or E-mail this post
December 2, 2008

Icon Cleaners: Amityville Horror Revisited

For many of us, Amityville NY brings to mind a book (and movie) called the Amityville Horror, which tell the story of an innocent couple moving into a house whose prior inhabitants had been murdered. The house is haunted by the ghosts of the deceased. If the story were to happen again, the house would surely be cleaned by Icon...
Posted by Jon Coppelman at 11:17 AM Link to, Comment (0), or E-mail this post
October 23, 2008

Down the Rabbit Hole: The Economic Crisis and Workers Comp

We are all struggling to keep our bearings in a world where the conventional compass is spinning madly. The economic crisis has sent the stock market plummeting and has impacted every aspect of our lives. We wake up with the same thoughts that Alice had, following her fall down the rabbit hole: I wonder if I've been changed in the...
Posted by Jon Coppelman at 2:14 PM Link to, Comment (2), or E-mail this post
October 8, 2008

The AIG Saga: Joe Cassano's Performance-Based Compensation

One of the many fascinating sidebars in the decline and fall of the AIG empire is the saga of Joe Cassano. He was the genius behind AIG's Financial Products Unit, which insured high risk sub-prime mortgage deals. In other words, he is the man most responsible for AIG's abrupt demise. Perhaps you are wondering how much money Cassano made in...
Posted by Jon Coppelman at 11:24 AM Link to, Comment (4), or E-mail this post
September 16, 2008

AIG: Farewell, My (Not-So) Lovely?

The collapse of AIG over the course of just a few days may be astonishing, but in some respects, it is not surprising. A few years ago, AIG stock sold for $100. Today, it's listed at $1.54. AIG is all about risk: much of it reasonable, but a significant portion of it fatally flawed. Remember David Halberstam's "The Best and...
Posted by Jon Coppelman at 11:17 AM Link to, Comment (1), or E-mail this post
September 3, 2008

Grappling with the Independent Contractor Problem

I'm feeling Vince McMahon's pain. It's as if someone picked me up, body slammed me and then whacked me with a folding chair. Talk about ingratitude! Three wrestlers affiliated with McMahon's colorful World Wrestling Enterprises (WWE) are suing the muscled entrepreneur. Scott Levy (AKA Raven), Christopher Klucsarits (Chris Kanyon) and Michael Sanders say they are WWE employees. McMahon says they...
Posted by Jon Coppelman at 11:16 AM Link to, Comment (0), or E-mail this post
July 28, 2008

Real Injuries, Phony Claims

When it comes to fraud in workers comp, we usually look to employers, doctors and lawyers. They go after the big bucks. While there are opportunities for ordinary workers to exploit the system, most decline to do it. Today we examine two claims, both involving real injuries and both involving fraud. Coincidentally, it's a bi-coastal story. Let's begin in the...
Posted by Jon Coppelman at 9:38 AM Link to, Comment (5), or E-mail this post
June 19, 2008

Looking for Fraud...In the Mirror

Imagine you are an attorney in Massachusetts looking for a little work. The Office of Labor and Workforce Development (OLWD), a state agency, hires you and 10 other attorneys to examine applications for unemployment insurance. Normally, this work would be performed by state employees, but the combination of cost-efficiency lay offs and a bad economy has caused a surge in...
Posted by Jon Coppelman at 2:16 PM Link to, Comment (2), or E-mail this post
June 12, 2008

Footnote on a Fatality

Yesterday we blogged the death of Lauro Ortega, who was crushed while excavating a building site in New York. We assumed that he was protected by workers comp, even as his lawyer pursued more lucrative remedies from the (recently indicted) employer, William Lattarulo. It appears that we were just a bit naive. Ortega was an illegal immigrant, working construction jobs...
Posted by Jon Coppelman at 11:13 AM Link to, Comment (5), or E-mail this post
June 11, 2008

Employers as Criminals

William Lattarulo owns several buildings and vacant lots in Brooklyn NY. Back in March, his workers were digging a foundation for a commercial laundry at 791 Glenmore Ave, when a more experienced contractor warned Lattarulo of an immediate hazard: the excavation had reached a level below the foundation of the adjacent building. He advised Latturo to install underpins to make...
Posted by Jon Coppelman at 12:49 PM Link to, Comment (0), or E-mail this post
May 19, 2008

Meatpacking in Iowa: Not Exactly Kosher?

Postville Iowa is a one traffic light town with a population of 2,300 people. Last Monday, as we read in the Washington Post, 17 percent of the town's residents were arrested in a raid coordinated by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). All were employees of AgriProcessors, the nation's largest producer of kosher meats. The unusual story goes back to...
Posted by Jon Coppelman at 11:35 AM Link to, Comment (2), or E-mail this post
May 13, 2008

FedEx Sued by Shareholders

As if Fed Ex did not have enough problems, the company with the unusual staffing model is now being sued by some shareholders. Given that the suit has been filed by Local 51 of the Plumbers and Pipefitters Pension Fund, it's no surprise to find that the suit attacks the business model of hiring "independent contractors" to carry out the...
Posted by Jon Coppelman at 2:52 PM Link to, Comment (3), or E-mail this post
May 2, 2008

Waterboarding for Sales

Joshua Christopherson is a supervisor of sales for Prosper, Inc., a Utah company that peddles on-line training and motivation courses. The courses range in price from $3,000 to $15,000. By most accounts Christopherson is a decent enough guy, albeit a bit obsessed with the performance of his sales team. He apparently read about an incident involving the ancient Greek philosopher...
Posted by Jon Coppelman at 9:51 AM Link to, Comment (3), or E-mail this post
April 11, 2008

Kneading the Dough

The Arthur Avenue Bakery in the Bronx NY is famous for its cannoli and crusty bread. The bread is not the only crusty item at the bakery. We read in the NY Times that the 50 year old institution is suddenly famous for unfair labor practices: some employees worked 12 hour days for $50 a day - an hourly rate...
Posted by Jon Coppelman at 11:15 AM Link to, Comment (2), or E-mail this post
April 4, 2008

An Apology from Walmart

Back in November, just before Thanksgiving, we blogged the story of Deborah Shank, a 52 year old woman who stocked shelves in Wal-Mart's Cape Girardieu, Missouri store. Here's how we described the situation: Seven years ago, [Deborah] was perusing yard sales with a friend when a tractor trailer plowed into her van. She was left with permanent brain damage. Walmart...
Posted by Jon Coppelman at 10:41 AM Link to, Comment (0), or E-mail this post
March 6, 2008

Wonk, Wonk: Health Wonk Review is Here

Health Wonkery runs a wide gamut this week: we have big Pharma front and center with cowardly marketing, poison in the pills and a controversial study that finds a racial factor in whether meds are taken properly; we have extremely divergent views on health care reform, from single payer and a big role for government to status quo and no...
Posted by Jon Coppelman at 11:53 AM Link to, Comment (1), or E-mail this post
March 4, 2008

Farewell to a Management Guru

Joe Juran died this week, at the ripe age of 103. You may or may not know him by name, but his remarkable contributions to management are visible in worksites around the globe. In 1937, he coined the Pareto Principle, also known as the 80-20 rule, which states that 80% of effects come from 20% of causes. As a theory...
Posted by Jon Coppelman at 11:16 AM Link to, Comment (2), or E-mail this post
February 25, 2008

S. 2044: Obama weighs in on independent contractors

The fact that a U. S. Senator has filed a bill on independent contractors is not a major news item. But the senator is Barack Obama, and the bill, S. 2044, is entitled "Independent Contractor Proper Classification Act." Obama has zeroed in on an issue of abiding interest to the Insider - and to all who deal with employment issues...
Posted by Jon Coppelman at 10:06 AM Link to, Comment (1), or E-mail this post
February 19, 2008

PPOs: Size Matters but Quality Rules

Our colleague Peter Rousmaniere has a fascinating article on PPOs in the current issue of Risk & Insurance magazine, entitled "Has Competition Vanished?" Coventry has become the 900 pound gorilla of workers comp medical services, with 4,700 hospitals and 580,000 doctors. Through the aggressive use of acquisitions and partnerships, Coventry is approaching monopolistic status. The question, of course, is what...
Posted by Jon Coppelman at 11:44 AM Link to, Comment (1), or E-mail this post
February 14, 2008

Pro Football and Workers Comp: A Violent Collision?

Chad Hennings spent nine years as a lineman for the Dallas Cowboys. He accounted for 28 sacks, 6 fumble recoveries, 4 return yards and 1 touchdown in 107 games before retiring after the 2000 season. He also suffered permanent damage to his back. The question is whether or not his work-related back injury is compensable under the Texas workers comp...
Posted by Jon Coppelman at 11:13 AM Link to, Comment (1), or E-mail this post
February 1, 2008

Tom Brady and the Art of Hiring

As the Super Bowl looms over the weekend, our thoughts turn toward the challenge of personnel management. Most of us are periodically involved in hiring decisions: for some, it's a major responsibility, for others, an occasional task. Some applicants come across as a perfect match (and turn into a bust) while others are nervous and unimpressive, yet turn into the...
Posted by Jon Coppelman at 11:21 AM Link to, Comment (1), or E-mail this post
January 25, 2008

Poncho Rules: Spanking is not Discriminatory

Back in April of 2006 we blogged the strange story of Alarm One, a security company with an odd way of motivating employees: to stimulate sales, they routinely punished low performers by throwing pies at them, feeding them baby food, making them wear diapers and even spanking them in front of their colleagues. Hey, it worked for the Three Stooges,...
Posted by Jon Coppelman at 10:21 AM Link to, Comment (1), or E-mail this post
January 23, 2008

Shooting Lawyers the Bird: The Tribune's Employee Handbook

If it isn't clear by now, the Insider believes in a sense of humor. A few laughs help us get through the working day. So it is with some ambivalence that we tackle the issue of the Tribune Newspaper's new Employee Handbook. Written by a non-lawyer, the handbook attempts to present the myriad issues contained in a handbook in a...
Posted by Jon Coppelman at 1:21 PM Link to, Comment (7), or E-mail this post
January 8, 2008

New Hampshire Backpedals on Contractors

Back in December we blogged a legislative remedy that backfired in New Hampshire: House Bill 471 eliminated the exemption for corporate officers and directors from workers comp coverage. Given the state's extremely high costs for comp, this created an immediate outcry. We compared it to the weather on top of Mount Washington, which at the time was minus 13 degrees...
Posted by Jon Coppelman at 4:54 PM Link to, Comment (1), or E-mail this post
December 10, 2007

Contract Workers as Employees in Texas

There are many permutations in the employer/independent contractor matrix. The Texas Supreme Court has ruled in Entergy v. Summers that the employees of a subcontractor - in this case, International Maintenance Corp (IMC) - can be considered employees of the general contractor. The United Steel Workers cry foul: without the remedy of tort liability, they argue, employers can get away...
Posted by Jon Coppelman at 11:41 AM Link to, Comment (3), or E-mail this post
December 7, 2007

Mitt Romney: Illegal Immigrants Hit Close to Home

It's Friday - a good time to kick the hornet's nest of illegal immigration and see what happens. Mitt Romney wants to be the baddest Republican dude on illegals - toss 'em out, every last one of the 12 or so million. His position on undocumented workers is similar to former MA Governor Bill Weld's position on crime: "somewhere to...
Posted by Jon Coppelman at 11:46 AM Link to, Comment (7), or E-mail this post
October 24, 2007

So. Cal fires: business as unusual

According to NBC, the southern California fires represent the single largest movement of Americans since the civil war. Nearly one million people were evacuated, including hospitals, nursing homes, and prisons. A state of emergency was declared in 7 counties. As of this morning, 640 square miles had burned. According to preliminary estimates by the Insurance Information Institute, insured losses are...
Posted by Julie Ferguson at 1:29 PM Link to, Comment (2), or E-mail this post
October 23, 2007

Partners as Employees

The law firm Sidley Austin has agreed to pay $27.5 million to end an age discrimination suit involving 32 former partners. All were demoted from partner to counsel status back in 1999. Most were in their 50s and 60s. The EEOC says that the former partners, having no control over this management decision, were employees. Sidley begs to differ, but...
Posted by Jon Coppelman at 11:26 AM Link to, Comment (2), or E-mail this post
October 17, 2007

FedEx: California Quacking?

Three FedEx Ground employees brought a class action suit in California, contending that they are employees, not independent contractors, of the ubiquitous delivery company. They won at the initial trial, they won on two appeals and now they have won (for the most part) on the third appeal. The ruling lays out in compelling detail the employment law issues in...
Posted by Jon Coppelman at 11:09 AM Link to, Comment (0), or E-mail this post
October 15, 2007

Wisconsin Volunteers: Look That Gift Horse in the Mouth

Back in February of 2005 we blogged the case of Margaret Morse, a member of the Legion of Mary, a volunteer group affiliated with Christ King church in Wisconsin. In the course of delivering a statue of the Virgin Mary to a parishioner, she ran a red light and crashed into a vehicle driven by Hjalmar Heikkinen, an 82 year...
Posted by Jon Coppelman at 11:16 AM Link to, Comment (2), or E-mail this post
October 10, 2007

Delphi Goes Fishing - and is Harpooned by the EEOC

Delphi, the auto parts maker working its way through bankruptcy, has a new problem. The U. S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has sued the company under the ADA for making illegal inquiries about employee medical conditions and retaliating against those who refused. In 2004 Delphi implemented a policy requiring any and all workers returning from sick leave to sign...
Posted by Jon Coppelman at 1:31 PM Link to, Comment (3), or E-mail this post
September 14, 2007

Justice for an Undocumented Worker?

Here's an update on a case we recently blogged. Edgar Velasquez worked for Billy G's Tree Service in Rhode Island. He sliced open his face with a chain saw (ouch!). When he tried to file for workers comp benefits, his employer fired him. Edgar was an undocumented worker. The employer did not carry workers comp insurance. On August 2, 2006,...
Posted by Jon Coppelman at 1:26 PM Link to, Comment (4), or E-mail this post
September 12, 2007

Why We Blog

As we approach the fourth anniversary of the Workers Comp Insider (September 17, 2003), it's a good time to step back and ask a fundamental question: Why are we doing this? Four years ago Tom, Julie and I observed that there were a lot of bloggers tackling a lot of issues, but they mostly involved isolated individuals pursuing a particular...
Posted by Jon Coppelman at 1:37 PM Link to, Comment (5), or E-mail this post
September 4, 2007

Sole Proprietors: A Comp Welcome Mat in Massachusetts

What better way to herald the end of summer by returning to the issue that just won't go away: workers comp coverage for sole proprietors and independent contractors. Massachusetts has just taken an extraordinary step that provides a strong incentive for sole proprietors to "opt in" to the comp system. Under the old rules, any sole proprietor seeking comp coverage...
Posted by Jon Coppelman at 12:17 PM Link to, Comment (0), or E-mail this post
August 27, 2007

An Ill Wind Blows: Insuring for Hurricane Risk

Jay Fishman, CEO of The Travelers, offers an interesting perspective on the current state of hurricane risk. (As the piece appears in the Wall Street Journal, availability is limited to subscribers.) The article is entitled, "Before the Next "Big One" Hits." That's ironic, of course, because nothing meaningful will be done until well after the next big one hits. Nonetheless,...
Posted by Jon Coppelman at 12:12 PM Link to, Comment (2), or E-mail this post
August 8, 2007

Undocumented Workers: Big Trouble for Big Business

With Congress failing to pass immigration reform, Homeland Security is about to turn up the heat on big businesses. We read in the New York Times that new rules are about to be issued, requiring employers to fire workers who use false social security numbers. Homeland Security is also planning to step up the raids on workplaces across the country....
Posted by Jon Coppelman at 11:54 AM Link to, Comment (4), or E-mail this post
July 23, 2007

Department of Amplification: Clarification on the Improper Use of Modified Duty

Back in June we blogged the interesting case of Tony Boyle, who was awarded over $600,000 for wrongful termination after his employer, Weyerhauser, put him in a modified duty job that aggravated his work-related condition. I half expected to hear from the employer, defending their modified duty program. Instead, I am on notice from Mr. Boyle's attorney that we have...
Posted by Jon Coppelman at 9:49 AM Link to, Comment (1), or E-mail this post
June 21, 2007

The Big Pizza Bust

Thirty two Westchester county businesses were busted today for workers comp fraud. All submitted written documentation to the state that they had no employees. The nature of the businesses indicates otherwise: the list of violators is limited to pizza parlors, delis and restaurants. While it is commendable that the state is going after companies for avoiding comp, we cannot give...
Posted by Jon Coppelman at 2:15 PM Link to, Comment (0), or E-mail this post
June 12, 2007

Pre-employment Testing: Between a Rock and a Very Hard Place

Frank Lima works for the Los Angeles Fire Department, where he oversees the screening of recruits. Back in 2004 he was supervising a training drill that involved hoisting heavy ladders against a building. A woman trainee later complained that she was singled out and harassed during the drill. Soon after, Assistant Fire Chief Andy Fox told Lima that women have...
Posted by Jon Coppelman at 12:05 PM Link to, Comment (0), or E-mail this post
June 5, 2007

Jeffry Armbruster: A Player in Ohio's Tammany Hall

Jeffry Armbruster runs 22 convenience stores and gas stations in Ohio. Like many business owners, he thinks he pays too much for workers compensation coverage. But unlike most business owners, as a state senator in his scandal-ridden state, he was in a position to do something about it. He initiated some informal talks with the folks at the Bureau of...
Posted by Jon Coppelman at 10:51 AM Link to, Comment (2), or E-mail this post
June 4, 2007

De-legaled Emigrants: Contractors in Iraq

In March of 2004 four contract employees of Blackwater Security Consulting were sent out into the streets of Iraq to provide an escort to a food convoy. They lacked heavy armour, they were never briefed on the nature and parameters of the job, and there was no pre-mission reconaissance. Oh, they also lacked a street map. You will remember these...
Posted by Jon Coppelman at 9:39 AM Link to, Comment (1), or E-mail this post
May 29, 2007

Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Compensability?

Felicia Dunn-Jones was a civil rights lawyer who worked one block away from the World Trade Center. She fled the office on 9/11, inhaling dust from the falling towers. She was covered with ash laced with asbestos and other hazardous material as she ran for safety. Now, nearly six years later, over five years after her death, New York City...
Posted by Jon Coppelman at 2:05 PM Link to, Comment (7), or E-mail this post
May 18, 2007

Immigration Reform and Family Values

The recent passing of Jerry Falwell reminds us that family values are definitely in the eye of the beholder. One's man's family values are quickly transformed into fear and loathing for others with different values. For too many people, it's not enough to develop and embrace your own values: you have to convince others to join you - or persecute/diminish/destroy...
Posted by Jon Coppelman at 11:43 AM Link to, Comment (1), or E-mail this post
May 15, 2007

OxyContin: On the Fault Lines of American Healthcare

Three executives of Purdue Pharma have agreed to pay fines totalling $635 million to resolve charges relating to the marketing of Oxycontin. The company admits to understating the risks involved with this potent drug and to deliberately misleading doctors and the public about its addictive qualities. From 1996 to 2001 the company claimed that Oxycontin was a "miracle" drug, safer...
Posted by Jon Coppelman at 9:43 AM Link to, Comment (2), or E-mail this post
May 9, 2007

Fleece on Earth, Ill Will to Independent Contractors?

Fleece on Earth (FOE) makes clothing for babies and children. Pretty cute stuff, if you're into knit caps with lobsters on them. This is a small, Vermont-based business, relying in part on knitters working from their homes. FOE provides the patterns and the yarn. The knitters work at their own pace, with their own tools, and are even free (to...
Posted by Jon Coppelman at 12:06 PM Link to, Comment (0), or E-mail this post
April 17, 2007

The Scarlet O: OSHA's List of Unsafe Employers

We recently blogged the publication of OSHA's list of 14,000 employers with "high" workplace injury and illness rates. One of the links posts the list as an Excel spread sheet, so you can search, state by state, to find the names of frequent flyers. But what exactly does the list tell us? Is it automatically an indicator of a safety-deficient...
Posted by Jon Coppelman at 11:52 AM Link to, Comment (1), or E-mail this post
April 12, 2007

Breaking the Covenant at Covenant

Covenant Transport describes itself as a "faith based" company operating out of Chattanooga, Tennessee. Their website states: "At Covenant Transport, our values drive our performance, as proven by industry statistics ranking us one of the ten largest truckload carriers in the United States measured by revenue." That's an interesting sentence. The fact that they rank in the top 10 largest...
Posted by Jon Coppelman at 11:04 AM Link to, Comment (0), or E-mail this post
April 6, 2007

New York Labor Law: No Such Thing as a Free Fall

When you talk to insurers doing business in New York, they are quick to point to New York Labor Law as a very big problem. The law, going back to 1885, holds employers absolutely and completely liable for any injuries resulting from a fall. This liability is over and above workers compensation. Injured workers can (and often do) sue for...
Posted by Jon Coppelman at 11:25 AM Link to, Comment (3), or E-mail this post
March 21, 2007

Employees as Racketeers

When a plant closes, the bond between employer and employee is broken. We often find that long-term employees, stung by the loss of jobs, file workers comp claims. Given the cumulative trauma of industrial work, the claims are often supported by objective medical evidence. With no opportunity to accommodate injuries through modified duty, the employer is stuck with the bills,...
Posted by Jon Coppelman at 12:37 PM Link to, Comment (1), or E-mail this post
March 13, 2007

Hank in the Tank

Let's sidestep for a moment the momentous reforms in New York's workers comp system, and focus instead on some big names in the Big Apple. When Elliott Spitzer began running for governor, he had a long list of people who would never vote for him. AGs make a lot of enemies. At the top of the list, perhaps, was Maurice...
Posted by Jon Coppelman at 2:50 PM Link to, Comment (0), or E-mail this post
March 7, 2007

Thar She Blows: Humanitarian Concerns in New Bedford Raids

When the Department of Defense completed its elaborate procurement process for military vests and backpacks, they selected Michael Bianco, Inc. of New Bedford MA. It's pretty safe to assume that Bianco was the low bidder. They certainly should have been. After all, most of their workforce was comprised of illegal immigrants. Fearing exposure, the workers tolerated sweatshop conditions. Bianco's low...
Posted by Jon Coppelman at 1:39 PM Link to, Comment (6), or E-mail this post
February 26, 2007

FedEx Wins One in CT

With 15,000 "independent contractor" drivers across America, FedEx is in the midst of a huge experiment in human resources. The fundamental question, of course, is whether their decision to contract out a significant portion of their basic operations is legal. A number of states (Including California, New Jersey, Montana and Massachusetts) have ruled that the drivers are actually employees, entitled...
Posted by Jon Coppelman at 11:29 AM Link to, Comment (0), or E-mail this post
January 24, 2007

State Farm is (finally) There

We read in the New York Times that State Farm has suddenly agreed to accept liability for many of the claims it had previously denied in Katrina-ravaged Mississippi. The giant insurer has set aside a minimum of $80 million to settle 640 lawsuits. They have also agreed to re-open 35,000 denied claims. In most cases, home owners will collect half...
Posted by Jon Coppelman at 10:46 AM Link to, Comment (1), or E-mail this post
January 19, 2007

NFL Preview: Bigs Hits, Big Trouble

As we head toward the climax of the football season, with just four teams left on the path to the Superbowl, we read in the New York Times (registration required) that the big hits we cheer for may be causing permanent damage. In November, Andre Waters, a 44 year old former safety for the Philadelphia Eagles, killed himself. He may...
Posted by Jon Coppelman at 2:20 PM Link to, Comment (1), or E-mail this post
January 3, 2007

Labor Optimization at Walmart: The Big Squeeze, Revisited

Back in July 2005 we blogged the way Walmart squeezes its vendors to achieve the lowest possible prices. Today we read in the Wall Street Journal (paid subscription required) that the behemoth retailer is instituting a computerized scheduling system that enables it to use the same squeeze tactics on its own employees. Now that's a shocker! The plan involves moving...
Posted by Jon Coppelman at 10:21 AM Link to, Comment (3), or E-mail this post
December 1, 2006

Where There's Smoke, You're Fired, Revisited

In March of 2005 we blogged the issue of firing people who smoke. At that time, we wrote about the strict non-smoking policies of Weyco, a company in the health care field. When you're in health care, prohibiting smoking is a logical extension of your fundamental business. But what if you're in the lawn care business? Can you still fire...
Posted by Jon Coppelman at 11:36 AM Link to, Comment (2), or E-mail this post
November 29, 2006

Judge Opens Floodgates for Katrina Victims

Judge Stanwood R. Duval Jr of the Federal District Court in New Orleans has opened the door to payments for homeowners whose homes were destroyed by Katrina. Or has he? We read in the New York Times that some insurers must pay for damage because the flooding in New Orleans was due to human error - specifically, the failure of...
Posted by Jon Coppelman at 11:23 AM Link to, Comment (1), or E-mail this post
November 20, 2006

Not-so-Independent Contractors in the News

A couple of recent stories in the news highlight the problem that never seems to go away, the status of independent contractors. One story deals with union in-roads at FedEx, the giant delivery company. In the other story, the pervasive use of "independent contractors" (often undocumented workers) in construction keeps the cost of building down and keeps the profits high....
Posted by Jon Coppelman at 1:10 PM Link to, Comment (2), or E-mail this post
November 14, 2006

A Reader's Guide to Acronyms

As part of our effort to keep readers informed of the latest management trends in the workplace, the Insider focuses today on contemporary acronyms: an update of the latest compressed nuggets that are finding their way into common speech. Well, not so common, perhaps. We begin with the admirable work of Megan Aemmer at MSN, who offers the latest in...
Posted by Jon Coppelman at 2:00 PM Link to, Comment (0), or E-mail this post
November 3, 2006

Gun Boats on the Kennebec? Comp Medical Costs Sinking Bath Iron Works

Bath Iron Works (BIW) builds ships. The first was The Cottage City, a passenger steamer completed in 1890. Over the past two decades, their work has been limited to building destroyers for the US Navy. We read in the Kennebec Journal that the builder of destroyers is being clobbered by the high cost of medical care for injured workers. There's...
Posted by Jon Coppelman at 11:34 AM Link to, Comment (0), or E-mail this post
October 30, 2006

The View from the Summit: Aging Workers in the 21st Century

The Insider recently participated in the Aging Workforce Summit, a meeting of the minds focused on retirement in America. The conference took place on the 80th floor of the Aon Center in Chicago. The views of Chicago and Lake Michigan were supposed to be spectacular, but for the duration of the conference the building was socked in a fog, so...
Posted by Jon Coppelman at 1:33 PM Link to, Comment (0), or E-mail this post
September 21, 2006

America's Great Wall: A Modest Proposal

The Insider has apparently underestimated the will and the wisdom (if not the wit) of the US House of Representatives. We thought they were incapable of confronting the crisis of 12 million undocumented workers. OK, we were wrong. Now that the House has voted to build a 700 mile wall along the Mexican border, we're on board. We're part of...
Posted by Jon Coppelman at 1:56 PM Link to, Comment (3), or E-mail this post
August 15, 2006

Employer fraud: a $30 billion price tag?

When the talk turns to workers comp fraud, the default assumption is that the employee is the culprit. In reality, employer fraud is a huge problem, of a scope that many in the industry would say dwarfs claimant fraud. According to Loretta Worters of the Insurance Information Institute in a recent article in the San Antonio Business Journal, premium fraud...
Posted by Julie Ferguson at 10:11 AM Link to, Comment (0), or E-mail this post
August 1, 2006

Immigration Policy: Cracking Down or Cracking Up?

Our colleague Peter Rousmaniere continues to track the rocky road to a new immigration policy in his invaluable working immigrants blog. He brings our attention to the new federal emphasis on enforcement. The administration is cracking down on employers of illegal immigrants, not just slapping wrists as in the past, but slapping on handcuffs as well. Julia Preston writes in...
Posted by Jon Coppelman at 4:07 PM Link to, Comment (2), or E-mail this post
July 5, 2006

Immigration: Flip Flop on Wink Wink and a Modest Proposal

President Bush appears ready to abandon his uncharacteristically centrist position on immigration reform. Up until recently, he supported the Senate bill, which combines enhanced enforcement at the border with opportunities for illegal immigrants to take steps toward citizenship. He developed this position out of his experience as the governor of Texas, where he saw first hand the problems in border...
Posted by Jon Coppelman at 12:21 PM Link to, Comment (2), or E-mail this post
June 6, 2006

The Economics of Amnesty: A "Wink Wink" for the (Unacceptable) Status Quo

The U.S. House and Senate have each passed a bill relating to immigration. The Bills are so far apart, it's hard to imagine the conferees finding much common ground, other than tightening up border security. The House wants to criminalize all illegals and those who support them; the Senate wants a worker amnesty program that gradually offers illegals who have...
Posted by Jon Coppelman at 2:55 PM Link to, Comment (2), or E-mail this post
May 25, 2006

The Annotated Lay

The Insider has followed trial of former Enron CEO Ken Lay with considerable interest. Just as we like to track the memory lapses of CEOs who plagiarize the work of others (did someone say "Raytheon"?), we are intrigued when one of the most powerful corporate leaders in America claims that he didn't know what his people were doing. "You just...
Posted by Jon Coppelman at 1:51 PM Link to, Comment (0), or E-mail this post
May 18, 2006

Company Outing? Beware the Flying Umbrella!

Company outings should be a time to kick back, relax and enjoy some sun. Well, maybe. Employers need to stay alert to the potential liabilities that linger whenever they host employees at a company-sponsored event. We have blogged the dangers of serving alcohol at company events and the open-ended risks involved in hosting company outings. Now we read of a...
Posted by Jon Coppelman at 11:05 AM Link to, Comment (2), or E-mail this post
May 10, 2006

Accommodating a Mental Disability

Let's say you run a large insurance company. You sell through your own agents, one of whom has been a marginal performer for many years. You place the employee on probation several times, but he seems to be trying hard, so you continue his employment. This individual suffers from bi-polar disorder. Over the course of a decade, he goes out...
Posted by Jon Coppelman at 10:27 AM Link to, Comment (0), or E-mail this post
May 8, 2006

United we Fall: Preparing for the Next Pandemic

The Insider is determined to do its part in preparing the nation for a flu pandemic. Although the President did not specifically mention bloggers in his mobilization plans, we think that blogs offer a unique tool for getting out the word and for maintaining communications under adverse circumstances. Best of all, you don't have to come within three feet of...
Posted by Jon Coppelman at 2:55 PM Link to, Comment (0), or E-mail this post
April 26, 2006

The Perils of Management: When the Right Moves Go Wrong

You have a valued employee - a good producer - with a drinking problem. Ever since a traumatic divorce, his performance has suffered. He misses a meeting with a major client. You encourage him to seek help through the Employee Assistance Program. He voluntarily enters a detoxification program. He participates in Alcoholics Anonymous twice a week. He sees a counselor....
Posted by Jon Coppelman at 11:34 AM Link to, Comment (3), or E-mail this post
April 24, 2006

Immigration: The ICEmen Cometh

To hell with the truth! As the history of the world proves, the truth has no bearing on anything. It's irrelevant and immaterial, as the lawyers say. The lie of a pipe dream is what gives life to the whole misbegotten mad lot of us, drunk or sober. (The Iceman Cometh, Act I) The recent surge of activity by agents...
Posted by Jon Coppelman at 9:10 AM Link to, Comment (0), or E-mail this post
April 3, 2006

Know Noe? No No!

Although the country is in the middle of an emotional and compelling debate on immigration, the Insider returns to the amazing and appalling case of Tom Noe, the ubiquitous Ohio coin dealer whose name has disappeared from the address books of powerful people near the Great Lakes and the Potomac River. Toledo Blade reporters James Drew and Steve Eder have...
Posted by Jon Coppelman at 1:26 PM Link to, Comment (0), or E-mail this post
March 8, 2006

The Wobblies Versus Starbucks, revisited: Chalk One Up for the Union

The U.S. Labor Relations Board issued a finding in favor of the IWW ("Wobblies), in their ongoing effort to organize Starbuck baristas (employees). No, this does not mean that Starbucks has been unionized, or even that an election will take place any time soon. In agreeing to the finding, Starbucks does not admit any fault. However, they have agreed to...
Posted by Jon Coppelman at 4:34 PM Link to, Comment (0), or E-mail this post
March 7, 2006

Blogging in Bentonville

As part of its public relations offensive, Wal-Mart has taken to the blogwaves. They are encouraging bloggers sympathetic to their cause to publish positive news about the ubiquitous company. According to an article by Michael Barbaro in today's New York Times, the bloggers are using the tidbits, but not necessarily identifying the source. Here's a sample: One blogger in Iowa...
Posted by Jon Coppelman at 10:57 AM Link to, Comment (1), or E-mail this post
March 3, 2006

A Note to Fellow Immigrants

Franklin Roosevelt may or may not have begun an address to the Daughters of the American Revolution with the memorable line, "Fellow Immigrants." (A curmudgeonly blogger says a reporter made up the quote.) If Roosevelt didn't say it, he should have. It's a great line and perhaps more compelling than ever. The current debate over illegal immigrants - as fractious...
Posted by Jon Coppelman at 12:27 PM Link to, Comment (3), or E-mail this post
February 28, 2006

The Feds and the Phantom Miners

Today the Insider looks at seemingly divergent issues which converge in a striking manner: federal involvement in mine safety (MSHA enforcement), federal prosecution for workers comp fraud, and the ongoing saga of work in the mines. It's a complex picture, but one which resolves into a single focus: the exploitation of the people who work in mines. MSHA and the...
Posted by Jon Coppelman at 10:25 AM Link to, Comment (4), or E-mail this post
February 21, 2006

To War and Back Again

The good news from Iraq (OK, there isn't much) involves the dramatic improvement in battle-related trauma treatment. Soldiers are surviving injuries that in prior wars would have resulted in certain death. So far, over 15,000 soldiers have been injured since the fighting began in March 2003. By the time major military operations have been completed, more than two million soliders...
Posted by Jon Coppelman at 3:05 PM Link to, Comment (0), or E-mail this post
February 17, 2006

Shooting the Breeze at Lee's garage

H. Lee Scott Jr., the CEO of Wal-Mart, hosts an internal web site for Wal-Mart managers called Lee's Garage. He named it honor of his dad's service station, where Lee once pumped gas. Judging from the exchanges quoted in a fascinating New York Times article (registration required) by Steven Greenhouse and Michael Barbaro, Lee is still pumping gas. The internal...
Posted by Jon Coppelman at 12:01 PM Link to, Comment (0), or E-mail this post
February 8, 2006

"Stone Walls and Steel Bars" for Business Decisions

Business decisions other than outright fraud don't often lead to prison, but here are a couple of situations where this is likely to happen. The Insider has been tracking Rhode Island's Station Night Club fire, which took place three years ago. One hundred people died in a raging inferno that reached 1800 degrees in less than two minutes. The blaze...
Posted by Jon Coppelman at 3:42 PM Link to, Comment (2), or E-mail this post
January 30, 2006

Jockeys: Coverage Update and a Scandal

Back in August the Insider blogged one of the most dangerous professions in America: horse racing. We found that only five states included jockeys in the workers comp system: New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Colorado and California. In the other states, jockeys are either excluded from the comp system or considered to be independent contractors. While states struggle to come...
Posted by Jon Coppelman at 3:35 PM Link to, Comment (0), or E-mail this post
January 27, 2006

Day Labor: Undocumented, Unprotected, Unconscionable

From time to time the Insider has focused on the many compelling issues relating to undocumented workers. If you enter the words "immigrant workers"in our blog's search engine, about 30 responses pop up. There are probably 10 million undocumented workers throughout the country, performing some of the most hazardous and least desirable jobs. They usually work without the protection of...
Posted by Jon Coppelman at 1:22 PM Link to, Comment (1), or E-mail this post
January 10, 2006

Employer Fraud: In Search of a Level Playing Field

Today the Insider focuses on one of the biggest challenges facing state regulators: ensuring that every employer carries workers compensation insurance for their employees. It might sound simple, but it isn't. Premium Avoidance = Fraud There are many ways to avoid paying workers comp premiums. (Washington State has a list of red flags for employer fraud.) Some employers keep the...
Posted by Jon Coppelman at 12:32 PM Link to, Comment (3), or E-mail this post
January 4, 2006

Safety Risks for Undocumented Workers

Our colleague Peter Rousmaniere has been traveling the country, researching the intersection of undocumented workers and the workers comp system. In an editorial appearing in today's Boston Globe (free registration required), he explores one of the most compelling problems associated with undocumented workers, the dramatic erosion of long-standing safety standards. Undocumented workers tend to take on the least desirable and...
Posted by Jon Coppelman at 1:01 PM Link to, Comment (0), or E-mail this post
November 15, 2005

Workers Comp in China

As China moves its workforce into the modern era, they confront the issues that this country went through about 100 years ago, when the need for workers comp protection was first addressed. After a century of experience, our system has become a staple of the working world. Workers comp offers a unique set of benefits to workers, the only statutorily...
Posted by Jon Coppelman at 11:45 AM Link to, Comment (0), or E-mail this post
October 27, 2005

Walmart: A Modest Proposal

The New York Times (registration required) has published excerpts from an internal Walmart memo, in which M. Susan Chambers, Wal-Mart's executive vice president for benefits, outlines a fascinating dual strategy of polishing the company's public image and at the same time reducing the costs of benefits to employees. Wal-Mart executives said the memo was part of an effort to rein...
Posted by Jon Coppelman at 10:23 AM Link to, Comment (4), or E-mail this post
October 24, 2005

Attention Shoppers: Walmart is Expanding Health Care options for Workers

The Insider has tracked the impact of Walmart, the nation's largest retailer, with considerable interest. We have no idea what happens to employees who file workers compensation claims, but we would guess that the company is ferociously aggressive in applying claims management/denial techniques. As with many employers, the company's workers comp problems are compounded by the fact that more than...
Posted by Jon Coppelman at 1:16 PM Link to, Comment (0), or E-mail this post
September 27, 2005

Station Nightclub: Who Pays?

Jeffrey and Michael Derderian, former owners of the Station nightclub in Rhode Island, have filed for bankruptcy. The move surprised absolutely no one, least of all the attorneys on the other side. As owners of a club where 100 people died in a rapidly moving fire caused by illegal fireworks, the Derderians are on the hook not only for the...
Posted by Jon Coppelman at 2:11 PM Link to, Comment (0), or E-mail this post
September 20, 2005

Cockles and Mussels...and Gross Negligence

You may remember the Irish tune about Molly Malone, seller of fresh cockles and mussels. In Dublin's fair city, where the girls are so pretty I first set my eyes on sweet Molly Malone As she wheel'd her wheel barrow Thro' streets broad and narrow (Chorus) Crying "Cockles and Mussels alive, alive O!" Alive, alive O! Alive, alive O Crying...
Posted by Jon Coppelman at 10:03 AM Link to, Comment (1), or E-mail this post
September 13, 2005

Walmart Meets Katrina: Responding to Catastrophe

The Insider has been pretty tough on Walmart, and for good reason. In their passionate pursuit of lower costs, they squeeze vendors, they squeeze contractors, they occasionally lock cleaning crews into the buildings at night, and. perhaps most egregiously, they squeeze their own employees to the point where many require public assistance to survive. In his invaluable book, The World...
Posted by Jon Coppelman at 12:58 PM Link to, Comment (2), or E-mail this post
August 29, 2005

Thinking about Lobsters

While on vacation in Acadia, Maine, my family participated in a lobster boat tour, culminating in a visit to the tiny village of Frenchboro on Long Island. As I listened to the informative and entertaining talk by the boat's captain and watched him retrieve a full trap from the ocean floor, I knew there had to be a blog in...
Posted by Jon Coppelman at 1:37 PM Link to, Comment (0), or E-mail this post
August 18, 2005

Guns at work

Should employers be able to prohibit guns at the workplace? ConocoPhillips thinks so and is challenging a recently enacted Oklahoma law to assert that right. In response, the NRA will be launching a national billboard advertising campaign calling for a boycott of ConocoPhillip's gas. The Christian Science Monitor recently discussed this issue in an excellent article entitled Worker right or...
Posted by Julie Ferguson at 11:02 AM Link to, Comment (8), or E-mail this post
August 4, 2005

Independent Contractors: The Solution is a Problem

The Insider is intrigued with the issue of independent contractors. Some might say we are obsessed. Truth is, in the ever changing world of business, with conventional definitions being challenged every day, yesterday's straight-forward distinction has become today's ambiguity. Take the case of Michael Rowe, outlined by Andi Esposito in the Worcester Telegram and Gazette (PDF file -- and in...
Posted by Jon Coppelman at 11:34 AM Link to, Comment (0), or E-mail this post
July 27, 2005

BP's Damage Control

In the aftermath of the March explosion at BP's Texas City refinery that killed 15 people and injured 170, we are beginning to understand the roots of the problems that led to the explosion. We are also seeing BP's damage control in action -- a far more impressive operation than the safety program that preceeded the disaster. In a detailed...
Posted by Jon Coppelman at 3:19 PM Link to, Comment (4), or E-mail this post
July 14, 2005

Janitors: The Big Squeeze

Most of us react in horror when blatant safety and health violations are reported in the media. But we have a tendancy to close our eyes when the violations impact our own bottom lines. Sure, the working conditions in China are appalling, but when it comes to buying party favors for my child's birthday, I don't want to spend too...
Posted by Jon Coppelman at 12:20 PM Link to, Comment (0), or E-mail this post
July 5, 2005

Cell Phones and Driving: Headsets are Cheaper (But Not Safer)

Going back to July 19 of 2004 the Insider has been tracking the dangers of cell phone use while driving. There are currently over 190 million cell phone users in the United States, compared to a mere 4.3 million users back in 1990. There is a lot of research going on and a fair amount of anecdotal information, but there's...
Posted by Jon Coppelman at 11:55 AM Link to, Comment (1), or E-mail this post
June 28, 2005

When the Independent Contractor Strategy Literally Blows Up

The Insider has frequently explored the ramifications of getting work done through employees (who are protected by workers comp) and through independent contractors (who have no such protection). The practice of using independent contractors can save a lot of money in workers comp premiums, especially when your employees perform the more expensive classes of work such as in those in...
Posted by Jon Coppelman at 2:51 PM Link to, Comment (0), or E-mail this post
June 22, 2005

Drug Advertising: Only in America

The Insider has occasionally wondered about the thought process that leads a doctor to prescribe a specific medication for a particular injury. We are intrigued by the continued popularity of Oxycontin, which, even with its track record of abuse and addiction, is still the one of the most popular pain killing drugs in the workers compensation system. We wonder how...
Posted by Jon Coppelman at 1:58 PM Link to, Comment (0), or E-mail this post
June 20, 2005

Google New Hires!

If you were to Google the name "Dr. Jayant Patel," you would find over 20,000 references going back a number of years. The more recent entries are undoubtedly the most alarming. "Dr. Death" has been implicated in the demise of 87 patients at a municipal hospital in Bundaberg, Australia. He has become infamous for not washing his hands between surgeries,...
Posted by Jon Coppelman at 12:50 PM Link to, Comment (0), or E-mail this post
June 8, 2005

AIG's Pure Poetry

Insurance giant AIG is reeling from revelations of improper accounting practices. Maurice Greenberg, the legendary and autocratic driver behind the company's success (#106 on the Forbes list of wealthiest people), was abruptly removed from his post. In the midst of this classic and prolonged "public relations nightmare," the company is trying to rebuild public trust. One step is a turn...
Posted by Jon Coppelman at 10:22 AM Link to, Comment (1), or E-mail this post
May 20, 2005

Today's Blue Plate Special: Crow with Texas Hot Sauce

Apologies are in order for yesterday's posting on U. S. District Court nominee Priscilla Owens. Or as politicians are prone to say: "Mistakes were made." I made them. I suppose I could have gotten it more wrong, but I surely didn't get much of the story right. My thanks to a fellow blogger at Kiva.com who understands the law a...
Posted by Jon Coppelman at 2:58 PM Link to, Comment (0), or E-mail this post
May 19, 2005

FedEx and the Filibuster: The Future of Independent Contractors?

Perhaps you will think that the Insider is reaching a bit, when we state that the current judicial confirmation crisis in the U.S. Senate will eventually have a direct impact on the ultimate status of independent contractors in America, including the FedEx drivers that we have been following of late. Give us a moment to explain. The first U. S....
Posted by Jon Coppelman at 12:32 PM Link to, Comment (1), or E-mail this post
May 18, 2005

Negligent hiring: Any limits to employer liability?

We read in today's Boston Globe (registration required) that the family of Christa Worthington, a woman who was brutally murdered in her isolated Cape Cod home in 2002, has filed a $10 million wrongful death suit against her alleged killer and the trash-hauling company that employed him at the time of the slaying. We can assume that the alleged killer...
Posted by Jon Coppelman at 12:36 PM Link to, Comment (1), or E-mail this post
May 7, 2005

FedEx Drivers Head to Federal Courts: A Declaration of Dependence?

We have been focusing on the issue of independent contractors for some time now. As recently as April 27, we blogged that the FedEx strategy of hiring their drivers as "independent contractors" was not likely to prevail in Massachusetts, where the standards for establishing independence are very high indeed. Now Diane Lewis of the Boston Globe (registration required) reports that...
Posted by Jon Coppelman at 2:17 PM Link to, Comment (1), or E-mail this post
May 2, 2005

The Uninsured: Up Close and Personal

Our colleague Joe Paduda has done a great job of blogging the problem of the millions of Americans who lack health insurance. Over the past week, he has blogged good and not-so-good articles relating to this national crisis. The problem has many ramifications, one of which, Joe points out in today's blog, should be a business opportunity for health insurers...
Posted by Jon Coppelman at 12:21 PM Link to, Comment (0), or E-mail this post
April 27, 2005

Note to FedEx: Beware of Massachusetts!

We have been tracking the fortunes of FedEx, the ubiquitous delivery service that relies on the services of 17,000 "independent contractors" to deliver the goods. They tout their entrepreneurial strategy as a legitimate alternative to traditional employment. Indeed, when you put UPS and FedEx side by side (which Braun Consulting has done here), you are confronted with two polar views...
Posted by Jon Coppelman at 1:48 PM Link to, Comment (0), or E-mail this post
April 26, 2005

Business blogs - do they work?

If you are reading this post, you are among the 27% of Americans who read blogs...that means you are a relatively early adapter. If you are reading this over an RSS feed or a service like Bloglines, NewsGator or My Yahoo, you can count yourself among the ranks of the geek elite ;-) According to Business Week, there are now...
Posted by Julie Ferguson at 6:58 PM Link to, Comment (1), or E-mail this post
March 23, 2005

Older Workers Wanted: The Good News and the Bad

A feature article by Milt Freudenheim in the New York Times (registration required) touts new recruiting efforts by a number of nationally prominent companies to find older workers. In settings as varied as Borders bookstores, Home Depots, Pitney Bowes and Walmart, a serious effort is being made to lure people out of retirement by offering health benefits, flexible hours and...
Posted by Jon Coppelman at 11:12 AM Link to, Comment (0), or E-mail this post
February 11, 2005

Company Docs in the 21st Century

Frustrated with the high cost of providing medical insurance for its 12,000 employees, Quad/Graphics decided to set up its own health care system. In an article in the Wall Street Journal (available by subscription only), staff writer Vanessa Fuhrmans describes a fast growing company that was able to think way out of the box to solve an intractable problem. Quad/Graphics...
Posted by Jon Coppelman at 1:11 PM Link to, Comment (0), or E-mail this post
January 9, 2005

Independent Contractors, Revisited

In a January 6, 2005 article in the Wall Street Journal (available to subscribers only -- but accessible at the Teamsters website), Monica Langley outlines the working conditions of "independent contractors" who work for FedEx. They drive their own vehicles, but wear FedEx uniforms and adhere to FedEx policies. Their delivery schedules are sometimes set by FedEx -- especially where...
Posted by Jon Coppelman at 11:46 AM Link to, Comment (2), or E-mail this post
January 6, 2005

Trends and issues at the start of a new year

As we embark on the new year, many weblogs and business publications have been recapping 2004 or making predictions for the coming year. Here are a few we've noted. George's Employment Blawg suggests that a good way for employers to begin the new year is to update the employee handbook and offers some tips for key areas to address. Rough...
Posted by Julie Ferguson at 9:10 AM Link to, Comment (2), or E-mail this post
November 4, 2004

Middle Manager Discriminates, Senior Managers Pay

Can senior managers be held liable if a middle manager lies about the reasons for terminating an employee? You bet they can. In a recent federal case outlined in the Boston Globe, a court awarded $827,000 to a 62 year old former branch manager at Hertz Equipment Rental Corp. The fired manager had transformed a money-losing branch to profitability, but...
Posted by Jon Coppelman at 9:31 AM Link to, Comment (0), or E-mail this post
October 29, 2004

A (Tired) Fan�s Notes

In these rare days of the first Red Sox championship since 1918, we take a few moments to extract some of the lessons in this dramatic triumph for managers in all types of businesses. This is not meant to be an exhaustive list (and is written, frankly, by an exhausted fan). Hire people who are really motivated to do the...
Posted by Jon Coppelman at 10:45 AM Link to, Comment (0), or E-mail this post
October 4, 2004

New Overtime Regulations Impact Workers Compensation

[We are pleased to welcome as a guest blogger today our favorite actuary, Don Bashline of Bashline & Associates, based in Watertown, MA. Don has some interesting thoughts on the federal government's new regulations pertaining to overtime, which have a direct impact on workers compensation.] On August 23, 2004, the U.S. Department of Labors new regulations defining worker eligibility for...
Posted by Jon Coppelman at 11:58 AM Link to, Comment (0), or E-mail this post
September 23, 2004

Still No Exit

Back in January we posted a blog about Walmart locking night shift employees in the building, ostensibly for their own safety. Now we read that a Winn Dixie supermarket in Mobile, Alabama, has been cited by OSHA for a similar activity. So far we have not had the benefit of a management explanation of this bizarre practice, but regardless of...
Posted by Jon Coppelman at 4:13 PM Link to, Comment (0), or E-mail this post
May 17, 2004

Great American Business Leaders

Harvard Business School has compiled a database of 20th century American business leaders searchable by name, birthplace, industry, era, gender, ethnicity, and education. Many are the obvious names you might expect to see on such a list...but there are some lesser known names that are interesting to explore. The creators spent more than two years compiling the database. It's a...
Posted by Julie Ferguson at 11:40 PM Link to, Comment (0), or E-mail this post
May 6, 2004

Business and technology tools

What? You mean there's a world beyond insurance?! Here are a few good general business and technology tools and resources we've discovered recently. QuickMBA is an online knowledge resource for business administration operated by the Internet Center for Management and Business Administration, Inc. "Topics are presented as frameworks and summaries in the various subjects of business administration, as taught in...
Posted by Julie Ferguson at 8:07 AM Link to, Comment (0), or E-mail this post
May 4, 2004

Work force issues for the next decade

Will the offshore outsourcing trend continue? How will the work force of the future differ from the work force of today? In 25 Trends That Will Change the Way You Do Business, Workforce forecasts the way that work force management might differ 10 years from now. It's an interesting read, and some of the issues will have an impact on...
Posted by Julie Ferguson at 9:45 AM Link to, Comment (0), or E-mail this post
April 19, 2004

Reputation management and corporate social responsibily (CSR)

In the April issue of Risk Management, Morgan O'Rourke discusses protecting your reputation as a risk management strategy, and makes the case that reputation management is just plain good business sense. "A good reputation can convince the undecided to choose a certain product or service and dissuade existing customers from moving to a competitor. But a damaged reputation can be...
Posted by Julie Ferguson at 3:10 AM Link to, Comment (0), or E-mail this post
March 25, 2004

Business blogging: It's a blog world after all

Fast Company has an interesting series of articles on the corporate weblog as a knowledge management tool. The primary article makes the case that weblogs are a cost effective, flexible, and efficient way for teams to communicate via intranet. It cites one example of use by an insurer: The Hartford Financial Services Group is already finding success using blogs in...
Posted by Julie Ferguson at 7:22 AM Link to, Comment (1), or E-mail this post
January 18, 2004

Check out our new business weblog discoveries

We've added a few new corporate weblogs to our resources sidebar: adjuster.com, featuring claims adjusting news. The Small Business Blog, a weblog for and about small business. BusinessPundit, a weblog focusing on corporate strategy, economics, neuroscience, and more Business 2.0, a weblog maintained by the editors of Business 2.0....
Posted by Julie Ferguson at 9:06 AM Link to, Comment (0), or E-mail this post