News Roundup – Mining, MO, SC, ergonomics, and overtime

October 4th, 2007 by Julie Ferguson

Mining hearings – Yesterday, families of deceased miners began testifying in a hearing on the Utah mine collapse sponsored by the House Committee on Education and Labor. In an emotional hearing, many testified that workers had been concerned about the safety of the mine but were reluctant to voice concerns too strongly for fear of losing their jobs. Much of the criticism is being directed at federal oversight authorities, most notably the Labor Department’s Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA). According to panel chairman Representative George Miller, neither the mining company, Murray Energy Corporation, nor MSHA has been fully cooperative in supplying information. Miller says that the Department of Labor cut critical staff, hired officials from the coal industry, failed to require wireless communications and underground rescue chambers for the miners, and failed to enforce compliance with rescue plans. Families say MSHA has failed to regulate the industry.
Missouri – Next month, Missouri will be facing a pending challenge to its controversial 2005 workers’ comp reforms, which we’ve discussed a few times before. In November, the Missouri Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in a lawsuit challenging the law’s constitutionality. The suit was brought by more than 70 employer groups. Suzanne King of the Kansas City Star offers a look at both sides of the issues in Missouri workers compensation reform and the upcoming challenge.
South Carolina – As a follow-on to its recent reforms, the Governor of South Carolina recently signed an executive order mandating the use of medical guidelines by the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Commission when determining awards. This is an attempt to curtail the variations in benefit payments, which average 81% higher than benefits in other sates.
ErgonomicsHR World offers 10 easy tips for workstation ergonomics along with a huge list of resources. There are links to other workstation guides, ergonomic weblogs and sites, exercise and posture resources, ergonomics associations and consultants, office furniture, and and more.
Employment law – George Leonard at George’s Employment Blawg features a post on an emerging trend of overtime litigation. He cites a Business Week article which classifies the types of suits involved:

There are two basic categories of overtime claims. One arises because a company has misclassified employees as exempt from the wage and hour laws, and thus improperly failed to pay overtime. In some of these cases the workers have been classified as independent contractors, meaning the company doesn’t pay them benefits, either.
The second is a so-called off-the-clock claim, in which employees allege that some of the work they do is not recorded by the company, sometimes as an intentional way to keep them from accruing overtime.

It’s worth a read – forewarned is forearmed!