Archive for the ‘Misc.’ Category

Guide to election matters: Clinton & Trump on workplace issues

Wednesday, October 5th, 2016

With about a month to go until the election, we’re offering  a guide to where the Presidential candidates stand on key workplace issues – in their words and in the view of various experts. If you haven’t yet registered to vote, voter registration deadlines (calendar) are upon us now!

Before delving into issues, we offer advice to employers from employment law experts  on managing politics in the workplace – good to review in this highly contentious year:

The candidates on healthcare

HR & workplace issues

On the issues – from the candidates:

Hillary Clinton on issues

Donald Trump on Issues

Report: Immigrant worker exploitation in the building trades

Wednesday, September 21st, 2016

The issue of immigrant deportation is front and center in this year’s impending election. There’s a lot of anger and invective aimed at immigrant workers, today, both those who are legal and illegal. One side of the story that is not told frequently enough is that of the unscrupulous employers who exploit these workers. For more than a dozen years, we’ve been talking about the abuse of workers who do the most dangerous jobs under appalling conditions – a situation that is often characterized as modern day slavery by journalists who investigate the employment practices.

In 2005 we wrote:

It’s one of our nation’s dirty little secrets: immigrant workers are doing some of the nation’s most dangerous jobs, are being injured and dying disproportionately in those jobs, and denied benefits when injuries and deaths occur. In a political climate where the rhetoric and emotions are high and seemingly getting higher by the day, a “blame the victim” mentality is pervasive.

The latest case in point is illustrated in an investigative report in the Boston Globe by Beth Healy and Megan Woolhouse: In building boom, immigrant workers face exploitation.

“A Globe investigation found that these workers, eager for a paycheck, are often paid below the prevailing wage and illegally, in cash. They are also the most likely to be subjected to unsafe work conditions, without insurance to cover medical bills or lost pay if they get hurt. And the unscrupulous contractors who employ them are too seldom caught and penalized.
“This is not about catching a few bad actors that are dragging down the industry,’’ said Diego Low, director of the Metrowest Worker Center in Framingham, which helps workers fight for fair wages and safety. “We’ve evolved a system for providing subsidized labor to build our houses, and it’s based on the vulnerability of the workforce.”

The report notes that in Massachusetts over the last three years, federal officials logged 910 “willful or repeat violations” involving hospitalizations or deaths, but that the real number of injured workers is likely much higher. This is a population that often doesn’t have command of the language and is generally unaware of labor laws. Those who are undocumeted feel powerless to bring complaints or are fearful about seeking help from hospitals or authorities.

The article cites numerous cases of primarily young, male workers, many who speak limited or no English, who are characterized as independent contractors. It paints a portrait of a disposable population that is abandoned after injuries and left to fend for themselves to find medical care. It’s a deplorable tale, one that has been playing out across the country for years. A common theme is the layer after layer of contractors and subcontractors, making it difficult to assign responsibility. For a number of years now, state authorities have tried to enact measures to restrict abuse of the “independent contractor” designation, but it’s a pervasive problem still.

This underground economy is not just exploiting workers, it’s also grossly unfair competition to legitimate employers who operate honestly, pay insurance, pay taxes, and pay fair prevailing wages.

Related by Tom Lynch: Undocumented Immigrants In The Workers Comp Bullseye?

Dave DePaolo: on the passing of a work comp giant and a fine human being

Tuesday, July 19th, 2016

It is with great shock and deep sadness that we learned of the untimely passing of Dave DePaolo. We send our most sincere condolences to his family and his colleagues.

Dave has been one of the most important voices in our industry and an online workers comp pioneer. He was founder and president of workcompcentral, one of the early online specialty media communities dedicated to news, education and data content to the workers’ compensation industry. He also maintained his own blog, DePaolo’s World, a regular stop for us here at Workers Comp Insider. We’ve relied on and linked to his keen insight here many times.

As an attorney, he had a sharp mind and a deep expertise in the many nuances of the workers compensation system. He was an educator to us all; passionate about the rights and wrongs of the system, and giving voice to the injured worker at the heart of the system. A remarkable man, his influence and voice will be missed. You can learn more about him at his workcompcentral biography. His posted obituary notice is here: DePaolo, WorkCompCentralCentral Founder, Dead at 56. In less than one day, it has amassing 4,500+ views and dozens of comments, well worth reading to get a sense of the impact he had on our community.

Here are two tributes from bloggers that we found moving because both go beyond the basic facts of his life and give a window into the man.

Life is short. Live it like David did. This blog post by Joe Paduda focuses on the way Dave lived his life to the fullest, including some personal details of his life that many of his regular readers may have been unaware.

Godspeed David DePaolo; You Were What Was Right in Workers’ Comp, and Your Voice Will Be Missed
This a warm and heartfelt tribute by Bob Wilson at his blog. Here’s an excerpt:

Exemplifying David’s passion towards our industry, one needs look no further than the CompLaude Awards. CompLaude is an annual effort created by DePaolo to recognize top achievers in our industry. It recognizes people from all sectors of comp, including injured workers; people who have achieved beyond the expected results normally seen in the realm of workplace injuries. David felt strongly that the workers’ compensation industry needs to highlight the good things we accomplish, and fight the persistent negative image cast upon us by external forces and bad players within the industry. He was right to insist on that – and David DePaolo was one of the good things workers’ comp needs to celebrate.

David was unique among industry bloggers because he wrote with a special human interest; he invited us into his home and shared his family with us, all while gearing the overall message to one applicable in workers’ comp. We became acquainted with his parents, following the lives of both his father and mother, through the aging process and related ailments to their ultimate passing. We celebrated their love and suffered his loss, all because David willingly invited us in and made us feel at home.

We’ve just seen the passing of WCRIBMA’s Paul Meagher here in Massachusetts, recently, too. Very sad time for our industry.  Take Joe Paduda’s advice as modeled by Dave: Live your life fully.

On The Passing of Paul Meagher

Tuesday, July 12th, 2016

Last week workers’ compensation lost a true professional and I lost a dear friend.

I first met Paul Meagher 32 years ago when he was Senior Counsel for Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM) and I was a young guy who thought he had a big idea. The idea was that if employers were educated about workers’ compensation they would approach it differently and losses and Experience Modifications would fall.

Paul believed in the idea. Workers’ compensation was entering a ten-year crisis, and AIM, at the time the largest such organization in America, needed a solution for its members. So Paul convinced the AIM hierarchy to launch a series of seminars around Massachusetts with my big idea as the centerpiece. And it worked. When employers saw there was a common sense, management 101 solution they took to it like water finding a crack in the floor. It culminated five years later with the creation of the Massachusetts Qualified Loss Management Program, which, along with sensible legislative changes, ended the crisis. A $2 billion dollar problem turned into a $1.3 billion dollar win for the state and its employers.  And it never would have happened without Paul’s steady, shoulder-to-the-wheel work.

Paul went on to become the President of the Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Rating & Inspection Bureau. He captained the Massachusetts workers’ compensation ship for 16 years until early Saturday morning, July 2nd, when he suddenly, but peacefully, died in his sleep in Maine on the first day of a much deserved vacation. He was only 64 years old.

If you met Paul you would have instantly underestimated him. He had not one gram of outsized ego in his body. His leadership style was calm, even quiet. He was perfectly happy to surround himself with people he judged smarter than himself. He played the steady, unassuming jockey sitting atop the speeding thoroughbred, nudging it along without the horse even knowing he was there. In a world of masses on the make, he just did his job, and the continued exceptional success of Massachusetts workers’ compensation is all the proof you need.

But worker’s compensation, while an important part of his legacy, pales beside the deeper, broader person who adored Addy, his wife of nearly 40 years, and Madeline and Michelle, his two accomplished daughters. When we talked about our families at our regular lunches he would ooze pride in those two young women. About a day and a half before he died we spent an hour on the phone, 40 minutes of which was devoted to his two daughters and my two daughters. He and I were entirely different people, but we were cut from the same cloth when it came to our pride in our children.

Paul made me understand why humility is such an important virtue. He was a successful person who could have flaunted his success, but never did, not for a minute; it just wasn’t in his nature.

The workers’ compensation industry will find a replacement for Paul Meagher. I won’t.

One Last Look At “The Demolition Of Workers’ Comp”

Monday, March 16th, 2015

This year’s WCRI conference is now a week in the past. It was an informative event with session presenters waxing eloquent with their charts and graphs and the general nitty gritty of workers’ compensation. There was a touching tribute to departing Executive Director Rick Victor and an equally touching and humble valedictory by him. An uplifting moment, that.

But in the week since then nobody’s talking about the charts and graphs and uplifting moments. No, what has filled the workers’ comp blogosphere is a continuing discussion about the ProPublica/NPR series, The Demolition of Workers’ Comp, the result of a year-long investigation by ProPublica’s Michael Grabell and NPR’s Howard Berkes.

On the date of publication, we wrote about the Grabell/Berkes piece, as well as another investigative report coincidentally released on the same day, this one by OSHA, entitled Adding Inequality to Injury: The Costs Of Failing To Protect Workers On The Job.

Both reports were highly critical, arguing that over the last decade more than 30 states have reduced benefits to injured workers. The ProPublica/ NPR series illustrated its thesis by focusing on individual workers who had suffered horrific injuries with poverty-inducing benefits. During the WCRI conference, as well as in the intervening week, the series has been roundly damned by workers comp professionals as biased in the extreme.

While explicitly saying he was not judging The Demolition of Workers’ Comp, Dr. Victor said, “It is hard to write a balanced report based on anecdotes.” Others in the business have not been so kind.
Most of our colleagues who have commented on the series have focused on what they perceived to be wrong with it. Lost in the weeds has been what is right with it. So, let me suggest what I think are two of the serious messages we should take from The Demolition of Workers’ Comp.

First, it is indisputable that there is wide variance and, in many cases, profound inequality with respect to workers’ comp benefits provided by the states. Grabell and Berkes pound this point home with the heaviest sledgehammer they can find. Workers’ comp pros may not like that, but it doesn’t make the point any less valid. Sure, they illustrate the issue with the most glaring examples, but so what? The inequality of scheduled benefits is absolutely true. It is true as Grabell and Berkes write that “The maximum compensation for the loss of an eye is $27,280 in Alabama, but $261,525 in Pennsylvania.” It is true that “The loss of an arm…is worth up to $48,840 in Alabama, $193,950 in Ohio and $439,858 in Illinois.

It is also true that maximum total temporary disability benefits differ among the states, sometimes markedly so. For example, if a worker living in West Stockbridge, Massachusetts, is injured on the job, maximum TTD weekly benefits are equal to the Massachusetts state average weekly wage, which is currently $1,214.99. However, if another worker, living 3 miles to the west – in New York – suffers the same injury, his or her maximum weekly benefit is $808.65. Is that fair? Why the difference?

The answer is that, although the average weekly wages in both states are roughly equal ($2.01 separate them) and although Massachusetts’ maximum benefit is equal to the state average weekly wage ($1,214.99), in New York the maximum benefit, at $808.65, is only two-thirds of the the Empire State’s average weekly wage. So, the Massachusetts maximum benefit is 50% higher. Both workers may shop at the same Big Y supermarket, but I can guarantee the Big Y doesn’t have one price for the New Yorker and another for the Bay Stater.

To me, this glaring disparity in state benefits, especially scheduled benefits due to the loss of bodily function, cries out for profound reform. Trouble is, I don’t see any Galahad coming over the crest of the hill to right this wrong. Do you?

The second message concerns employers and it is this: Regardless of what you may think of benefits paid to injured workers, and despite the perceived high medical loss costs and physician dispensing issues we spent nearly two days last week discussing in Boston, it is true that, nationwide, workers’ comp premium rates are at a level not seen since the very early 1980s, and, in some states, the 1970s. It is true that, in terms of workers’ comp premiums, today’s employers have never had it so good.

That’s great, and I plead guilty to having worked very hard over the last 30 years helping employers make that happen. But perhaps it’s time to take some of those premium savings and invest them in better scheduled benefits in the states that lag far behind in the fairness race. Perhaps it’s time for all states to take another look at the 1972 National Commission’s recommendations and consider re-examining how they stand with respect to recommendation adoption. Finally, perhaps it’s time we workers’ comp professionals unload the gatling gun and stop shooting the messengers.

LexisNexis: Furthering the Workers Comp Community

Monday, December 22nd, 2014

I am not a lawyer, thank you very much, but I am married to one. So, you may imagine that I am familiar with more than a few members of the breed. I’ve heard every lawyer joke there is (but if you want to send me a couple of your favorites, that would be OK).

In the mid-1980s, the early days of Lynch Ryan, I often heard my attorney friends saying they had to search “Lexis” for one thing or another. Since they were occasionally charging me for doing that, I wanted to know a bit about “that Lexis thing.” Over lunch one day I was educated about this remarkable innovation for the legal community, an innovation that was actually saving me money.

The whole thing began as a searchable database experiment of the Ohio State Bar in 1967. In 1970, the Mead Corporation’s Mead Data Central took it over and named it Lexis. In 1973, Mead made Lexis’s full text search available for all cases in Ohio and New York. In 1980, after a 7-year key punch effort (you read that right), Lexis went nationwide for all federal and state cases. That same year, Mead launched the Lexis sister, Nexis, which allowed journalists to search news stories related to law.

In 1994, Mead sold LexisNexis to Reed Elsevier for $1.5 billion. Not a bad return on investment from those Ohio State Bar days.

Starting in 2000, LexisNexis began to get into the risk solution business, primarily by acquisition: Riskwise in 2000 and ChoicePoint, a data aggregator, in 2008. By the time of the ChoicePoint buy, LexisNexis had become profoundly involved in risk, especially workers compensation. It became a leading publisher of workers compensation material, including Larson’s Workers Compensation Law.
The LexisNexis Senior Editor for all things workers compensation is Robin Kobayashi, a ridiculously smart and talented person (Phi Beta Kappa from UCLA — by contrast, the closest I ever got to Phi Beta Kappa was admiring Gary Anderberg’s pin).

Robin is the visionary who decided to recognize workers compensation bloggers, beginning in 2009. That year there was only one winner, and I’m proud to say we were it. However, beginning in 2010, Robin expanded the award to the top 25 blogs, realizing that there was a wealth of insightful Web commentary that cried out for recognition.

Recently, LexisNexis announced the top 25 workers compensation blogs for 2014, a most distinguished list, and we congratulate everyone on it. However, during this time of recognition, I thought it might be a good idea to shine the Workers Comp Insider arc light on the far-sighted professional who made this award possible, thus deepening and expanding the workers compensation community in a meaningful and long-lasting manner.

For her vision and dedication, we salute Robin Kobayashi.

A Friday Eulogy

Thursday, December 11th, 2014

Sitting here in Massachusetts on this dreary, dour and dank day, looking out the window and watching all manner of birds at the feeders (they’re really fond of the suet), I was planning on writing something about Roberto Ceniceros’s excellent article, “Taking the Psych Out of Psychosocial,” published this week in Risk & Insurance’s Workers Comp Forum.
Roberto suggests that the prefix “psych” in “psychosocial” causes confusion in the payer community, because it is difficult to distinguish between social co-morbidities and true psychological ailments. He also quotes our friend and colleague Jennifer Christian,M.D., who recently started a LinkedIn thread that gained immediate traction on the same subject.
Whatever you want to call them (how about co-morbid issues?), what we now know as psychosocial issues as well as the predictive analytics for identifying them early form the basis for an interesting and necessary discussion.
But we’re not going to do that today. No, today we’re going to sing the praises of someone most of you have never heard of – Ted Coughlin.
Over the years, the Insider has written about the shortage of skilled workers in the US, especially in manufacturing, which has become highly technical. The country’s educational systems were not keeping up with the speed-of-light technological advancements that bombard us continuously. This was especially true in Worcester, Massachusetts, where Worcester VoTech had become a city embarrassment. For twenty years, Worcester businessman Ted Coughlin devoted his considerable energy and local power to changing that. A one man force of nature, Ted was the person most responsible for the creation of Worcester Technical High School, a state of the art, nationally envied educational institution.
Early this year, the school won the US Department of Education’s National Blue Ribbon School Award, an award won by only 0.2% of the nation’s public and private high schools. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan toured the school in March. In April, the school’s Robotics and Automation Technology Team, the Commandos, one of 420 teams from 23 countries, won the VEX Robotics World Championship. In June, President Obama came to deliver the Commencement Address and acknowledged the extraordinary commitment of the city to lead the way to education’s future. But he saved his greatest praise for Ted, without whom the school would never have happened.
We lost Ted last night. He took a fall at home and died. He was a big-hearted, charismatic Prince of a guy who was loved and admired. In the years to come, graduates of Worcester Technical High School, as well as those from the other schools that Worcester inspires, tomorrow’s leaders, will owe a debt of gratitude to this wonderful man.
And so, that’s why, with apologies to Roberto and Jennifer, we’re postponing the column on psychosocial issues.
Rest in peace, Ted.

9/11 Remembrance

Thursday, September 11th, 2014

If you’re looking for something about workers’ compensation, might as well stop reading now, because this isn’t about workers’ compensation, although we know that 9/11 produced a slew of claims .
No, this is a brief post to share my 9/11 tribute song recorded on 28 September 2011 at one of the three greatest small concert halls in American – Mechanics Hall in Worcester, MA. Peter Clemnte is on guitar. As the song says:
We must be strong
For friends who’ve gone.

I hope the song brings comfort on this sad anniversary.

Women of Steel

Friday, June 27th, 2014

women-of-steel
Are there many women in construction? They represent about 9% of the industry. Dorothée Moisan offers an excellent feature on New York’s Women of Steel, illustrated beautifully with photos by Jonathan Alpeyrie. Early pioneers talk about what it was like to break into the field. One little vignette from days gone by:

“I remember a young woman very well,” Janis says while smoking a cigarillo in her New York office. “This was really early in the game, in the late 1970s. The boss sent her into the field in order to do the kind of job that a superintendent would do. But the men yelled and threw rocks at her. The boss came and said, ‘Guys, what’s the matter with you? I want to train her.’ And their response was, ‘We don’t want her here because now we can’t pee on the steel!'”

Things have changed considerably since those days, as women in the article relate. You can also get a current feel for the profession in these associations:
The National Association of Women in Construction was founded in 1953 by 16 women working in the construction industry. Today its an an international association of women employed in construction, which promotes that industry and supports the advancement of women within it. In addition to its national charter, NAWIC has International Affiliation Agreements with the Canadian Association of Women in Construction, NAWIC-Australia, NAWIC-New Zealand, NAWIC-United Kingdom and South African Women in Construction. They offer women in construction stats in the chart below (or click here for the original Fact Sheet (PDF))
Another key organization is the Professional Women in Construction, with 6 chapters and over 1,000 members. PWC serves a constituency of close to 15,000, representing a broad spectrum of the industry. As its mission, PWC encourages and advances the goals and interests of woman and minority owned businesses.
nawic

What Are They Breeding In Snohomish, Washington?

Wednesday, May 28th, 2014

Yesterday was a dank, dour, dreary, drizzling day, so, rather than diving deep into work, I spent a good part of the day devouring dumb and dumber insurance stories from the internet.
I came away asking, “What are they breeding in Snohomish, Washington?”
But before I tell you about Danny Calhon, a 19 year old from Snohomish who has achieved his 15 minutes of fame in a way you could never in your entire lifetime conceive, permit me a small digression and a bit of a rant.
I grew up in Massachusetts in the idyllic Leave It To Beaver and Dobie Gillis era. Maynard G. Krebs was the closest thing to a weird kid as one could encounter, and he was tame fiction. True, we had our share of “Whoops, Billy and Betsy have to get married” moments, but that was about as far as anyone my friends and I knew strayed from the beaten path, and that wasn’t often. Just often enough to make you sincerely grateful you weren’t Billy.
In those days, the closest one came to technology was the party line rotary dial phone sitting on the bench near the kitchen and the black and white, 15-inch television resting in the living room, gathered around which, every night at 6:30, the entire family would take in NBC’s Huntley-Brinkley Report. Fifteen minutes of all the news in the world. “Good night, David. Good night, Chet.” There was no internet. There weren’t even area codes. Calculators were “adding machines,” and they were hand-cranked. People hand-wrote letters. The postal service was a marvel of efficiency. Mail a letter then and within three days it would be delivered by hand through a mail slot in your front door by your own, personal, smiling, friendly (except when there were dogs around – no leash laws then) mailman. Sorry, no women. Feminism and women’s rights hadn’t hit the post office yet, or anywhere else for that matter, which is a real pity. Gloria Steinem had yet to go undercover for 11 days as a Playboy Bunny in Hugh Heffner’s New York Playboy Club. That wouldn’t happen until 1963.
That world blew up, and this may surprise you, in 1967 with the appearance of Texas Instrument’s hand-held calculator, which added, subtracted, multiplied and divided. That was it. In the early 1970s, I bought one for our office. It cost $479. After that, there was no stopping the communications bullet train (which didn’t exist back then, either). Pretty soon, Al Gore invented the internet and Steve Jobs and Bill Gates and, eventually, Mark Zuckerberg dragged everyone kicking and screaming into the galaxy we now inhabit. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, you name it. Everyone’s a reporter and everything gets reported. If a Bumble Bee farts in Pasadena, we know it in Boston within five minutes.
One of the fun games my friends and I used to play when we were 11 or 12 was to take a deep breath and hold it while blowing really hard on our thumb, which we had stuck in our mouth. We’d then pass out for a second or two, and a friend would catch us before we hit the ground. Seems a little childish now, but, well, we were children.
Which brings me back to Danny Calhon. Remember him? Danny – he’s going to put Snohomish on the map – Calhon made it into the local newspaper, and now all over the country, maybe the world, for – get ready now – causing a three-car crash after fainting due to intentionally holding his breath while driving through the 772 foot long Dennis L. Edwards Sunset Tunnel near Manning, Oregon.
You can be forgiven right about now for asking yourself if you read that last bit correctly. Trust me. You did.
There’s good news and bad news here. The bad news (my wife always wants the bad news first – seems counterintuitive, but there you are) is that after he fainted, Danny’s 1990 Toyota Camry, which was carrying him and his friend, 19-year-old Bradley Meyring, drifted across the center line and crashed, head-on, into a Ford Explorer being driven without a care in the world just before the roof caved in – literally – by 67-year-old Thomas Hatch. His wife Candace, 61, was in the front passenger seat. The good news is that there are no life-threatening injuries.
Young Mister Calhon faces a laundry list of charges. At this time, we don’t know why in the world he was holding his breath enough to faint while driving through the tunnel. Neither does Lt. Gregg Hastings, with the Oregon State Police, who drew the short straw to investigate. Maybe Danny doesn’t even know, himself.
Back in Leave It To Beaver country, we would never have known about this. Think of all we were missing.