News roundup: fraud, health care, compliance, and “quit complaining about your job!”

March 28th, 2006 by Julie Ferguson

Premium fraud – Misclassifying your employees can get you in trouble. Just ask the executives of Mayer Roofing, a southern California company that is facing a charge of premium fraud for allegedly listing workers as managers to get more favorable rates. Historically, this is one of the largest cases of premium fraud – the premium that was bilked may reach as high as $4.5 million.
Health care costs – A survey of 500 small business owners in California indicates that health care tops list of business woes. The cost and availability of health care was of concern to 91% or respondents, topping workers comp and government regulations in terms of worrisome issues.
California – Joe Paduda looks at why California’s workers comp injury rate is dropping and the effect on rates: “California’s workers comp rate roller-coaster looks to be poised to make another steep drop. The combination of the national decrease in claims frequency and the impact of reforms have led to drastic decreases in comp rates, with more likely on the way.”
Compliance – When companies get big fines for safety or labor violations, these fines make headlines. But what gets little follow-up attention is how these fines are frequently uncollected or bargained down to a fraction of the original levy. Jottings By an Employer’s Lawyer points us to a recent story on how corporations regularly avoid large, highly publicized penalties for wrongdoing. Here’s an excerpt:

When nuclear labs around the country were found exposing workers to radiation and breaking other safety rules, assessments totaling $2.5 million were quickly ordered.
A gas pipeline company was fined $3 million after a gasoline spill and explosion in Washington state killed three young people. The penalty later was reduced by 92 percent.
When coal firms’ violations were blamed for deaths, injuries and risks to miners from Alabama to West Virginia, companies were slapped with more than $1.3 million in penalties.
What happened next with these no-nonsense enforcement measures? Not much. The pipeline tab was eventually reduced by 92 percent, the labs’ assessments were waived as soon as they were issued and the mine penalties largely went unpaid.

Jordan Barab tackles the accountability issue – or lack thereof – in his recent post on the anniversary Of The BP refinery explosion that Killed 15. How much of the $21.3 million fine will BP actually pay for violations that led to this tragedy?
It is apparently a week for anniversaries of work fatalities. March 27 was the 10-year anniversary of an explosion at the Beta Steel Mill in Indiana which killed 3 workers and injured 7 others. ‘We’ve never forgotten’ takes a look back at the tragedy and its aftermath.
BlogsWorkers Work is an interesting blog that covers a grab bag of work-related topics. Examples of recent posts include such interesting stories as 10% of telecommuters work nude and Jobs where women make more money than men.
Short takes: