Employer Fraud and Recommendations from New York State Supreme Court’s Grand Jury Report

Today’s post was shared by Jon L Gelman and comes from legaltalknetwork.com

A recent Grand Jury Report from the New York State Supreme Court brought recommendations of change to handle Employer Fraud in Workers’ Compensation. Among the recommended areas of change are the application process, criminal statutes, and the method of collecting data. On this episode of Workers Comp Matters, host interviews Gilda Mariani of the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office. Together they discuss the results of the Grand Jury Report and the subsequent victims of premium fraud. Tune in to learn more about employee classifications, the involuntary insurance market, and drivers of cost for workers’ compensation insurance.

Gilda Mariani is with the New York County District Attorney’s Office, having held supervisory positions including Deputy Chief of its former Frauds Bureau as well as Chief of its former Money Laundering and Tax Crimes Unit. She has had a significant role in drafting legislation, including the New York Money Laundering Statute and the misdemeanor crime of Providing a Juror with a Gratuity. She has conducted several investigations that have led to issuance of Reports by the New York County Grand Jury, including the Grand Jury Report released in March 2014  on workers’ compensation reform. Mariani is also a recipient of the Robert M. Morgenthau Award by the District Attorneys Association of the State of New York.

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Are Uber Drivers Getting Their Tips?

Today’s post comes from guest author Leonard Jernigan, from The Jernigan Law Firm.

A U.S. federal judge recently ruled that a ride-sharing service must face a lawsuit alleging that the company has been pocketing tips meant for the drivers (Detroit Free Press, September 19, 2014). Uber Technologies is a smartphone-summoned car service based in San Francisco that has been charging a 20% surcharge on rides. Uber was founded in 2009 and is currently in 35 countries and more than 100 cities. It is valued at $18.2 billion and is the most valued ventured-back company in the world.

Filed in January, the class-action suit alleges that Uber has been keeping a “substantial portion” of the gratuity as additional revenue rather than sharing with its drivers. This lawsuit also accuses the company of misleading customers about the true cost of its service. The complaint characterizes Uber’s practice as unfair and deceptive because Uber keeps most of the surcharge and it’s not a gratuity.

Uber, Lyft and other car-booking companies have been facing a growing number of legal challenges. In Chicago, cab drivers sued the city claiming that these smartphone-summoned services are not subject to the same regulations governing conventional taxi companies. In Connecticut, Uber and Lyft have also been accused of racketeering by taxi and livery operators who accuse the companies of preying on established businesses and cutting legal corners by partnering with affiliated drivers instead of owning cars. That way, these companies claim they are different from taxi dispatchers and shouldn’t be forced to comply with existing regulations, such as driver background checks and liability insurance.

 

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A Special Warning About Over-the-Counter Pain Medications

Today’s post comes from guest author Jay Causey, from Causey Law Firm.

The dangers of prescription pain meds get a fair amount of regular attention in the media.  A recent Consumer Reports (CR) article described a 300% rise in prescriptions of opiods – particularly those with hydrocodone –over the past decade, and provided a scary statistic:  17,000 people – 46 per day – die from overdose of these drugs.

What is less well known, and gets relatively scant attention, is that over-the-counter (OTC) painkillers containing acetaminophen (e.g. Tylenol) take 80,000 people yearly to the emergency room from overdose.  Acetaminophen, widely regarded as a “safe” drug is now the most common cause of liver failure.

The CR article points out the primary problem:  the directions for usage of these OTC drugs are ridiculously confusing and misleading.  Many of these only provide the caveat “take only as directed.”  What exactly does that mean?  Wildly different things according the cautions provided by differing drug manufacturers.  Some labels advise taking no more than 1000 milligrams of acetaminophen daily while others set the limits four times that high.  In some bizarre bureaucratic misstep, the FDA has lowered the maximum per-pill dose of the drug in prescription medications but has not done the same thing for OTCs. 

CR warns that overdosing on acetaminophen is easy as it is the most common drug in the U.S., found in more than 600 OTC and prescription medications.  There is little margin for error in exceeding the maximum recommended dose as only as small excess amount of the drug can be toxic to the liver.  A scary little graphic in the article shows how easy it is to do this.  A person might take six 500 milligram Extra Strength Tylenol (states maximum daily dose of 3000 milligrams) starting in the morning and through the day; then be on NyQuil for a cold and take eight 325 milligram pills (states maximum daily dose 2600 milligrams); and then do Walgreens Pain Reliever PM as a sleep aid (two 500 milligram pills at bedtime for a daily dose of 1000 milligrams).  At the end of a 24-hour period, that person would have ingested 6,600 milligrams of acetaminophen!!  Repeated doses of more than 4000 milligrams of the drug have been linked to liver, brain and kidney damage.  Chronically large doses have been correlated with the need for a liver transplant, or death, more than from one large overdose.

In 2011, the FDA limited the amount of acetaminophen in prescription pills to 325 milligrams per pill, but there has been no similar limitation imposed for OTCs, even though that market accounts for 80% of that drug taken yearly in the U.S.  For those regular users of acetaminophen, signs of potential liver damage to watch for are:  dark urine, pale stool, upper right abdominal pain, and a yellowish tint to the whites of the eyes.

 

Photo credit: Be.Futureproof / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

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Attorney Frank Francis Joins the Board of Directors of LeGal

Frank Francis

Congratulations to Pasternack Tilker Ziegler Walsh Stanton & Romano Associate Frank Francis on being installed to the Board of Directors of LeGal.   

LeGaL was one of the nation’s first bar associations of the LGBT legal community and remains one of the largest and most active organizations of its kind in the country.  Serving the New York metropolitan area, LeGaL is dedicated to improving the administration of the law, ensuring full equality for members of the LGBT community and promoting the expertise and advancement of LGBT legal professionals. Through the LeGaL Foundation, the organization publishes Lesbian/Gay Law Notes, the most comprehensive monthly publication summarizing legal and legislative developments affecting the LGBT community here and abroad, conducts a weekly walk-in pro bono clinic at Manhattan’s LGBT Community Center serving hundreds of individuals each year, a monthly clinic on Long Island, a twice monthly clinic in Brooklyn, a collaborative Life Planning Clinic with NYLAG’s LGBT Law Project, sponsors the Dr. M.L. Hank Henry, Jr. Fund for Judicial Fellowships and, among its many other activities, runs the area’s only career fair dedicated to first-year LGBT law students.

M. Francis graduated from Georgetown University, received his Master’s from Johns Hopkins University while participating in Teach For America, and graduated from Brooklyn Law School in 2009. He worked as a student Assistant District Attorney at the Kings County DA, Bronx Legal Aid Juvenile Division, and as a clerk for an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Judge while in law school. He also worked for the New York City Transit Authority’s Law Department and the New York City Department of Education, from which he brings municipal experience to his advocacy for injured workers. In addition to his involvement with LeGal, he is a member of the Hispanic National Bar Association, the Brooklyn Bar Association Young Lawyers Committee, the New York County Lawyers Assoation Employment and Labor Relations Committee, the New York State Trial Lawyers Association, and the New York State Bar Association. 

 

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Did a Local Manufacturer Violate Federal Law with a Sudden Layoff?

Today’s post comes from guest author Jon Rehm, from Rehm, Bennett & Moore.

Employees at the Store Kraft plant in Beatrice, Neb., were stunned to find out on Monday morning that Monday would be their last day on the job. Such short notice may be against federal law and entitle the laid-off workers to back pay and benefits for up to 60 days.

Under the WARN Act (Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act), employers of more than 100 employees are required, in most instances, to give workers 60 days of notice in the event of a plant closing or a mass layoff.

Press coverage of the plant closing appears to show that Store Kraft is roughly at 100 employees. If Store Kraft had more than 100 employees, then it is very possible that their former employees may have a case under the WARN Act. The closing of the Store Kraft factory is devastating for its workers and hurtful to Beatrice and the surrounding community, but former workers may have a claim against Store Kraft for the abrupt manner in which the employer shut down the plant.

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Examining Workers’ Compensation’s ‘Grand Bargain’ and the Upcoming Election

Today’s post comes from guest author Rod Rehm, from Rehm, Bennett & Moore.

Here’s why people should support candidates who will protect workers’ rights. Understand that the ongoing workers’ compensation issues faced by state legislatures are not going away, so state legislatures are the front lines when it comes to making sure workers’ compensation systems are not diluted even more for injured workers and their loved ones.

Here’s some background. Over 100 years ago, workers’ compensation law was developed across the United States. Nebraska was actually one of the pioneering states, back when we were more progressive.  Workers’ compensation was viewed as the “Grand Bargain,” with several presumptions on how the system should work. A January 2014 LexisNexis Legal News Room Workers Compensation Law blog post addresses these presumptions. The blog itself is a respected neutral source on workers’ compensation issues.

While employers and insurance companies are chipping away at the protection workers’ compensation systems offer to injured workers and their loved ones through stalling tactics such as disputing if an injury happened at work or just straight out refusing coverage, those same interests are bending the ears of each state’s politicians to further erode the “Grand Bargain.”

Year in and year out, business and insurance groups cause a large number of bills to be filed that take away benefits from workers or make it more difficult for workers to obtain benefits or take control of their treatment for work injuries.

A recent study’s results, written in the same blog by the same author, reinforces what many injured workers, their loved ones, and their attorneys already know: essentially that workers in New Mexico (and I would argue that this is easily applicable to injured workers in many states) are no longer benefitting from the “Grand Bargain.”

The Grand Bargain Is Out of Equilibrium

“An important part of the ‘grand bargain’ between employers and employees within the workers’ compensation arena is the idea that just as the wear and tear on an employer’s machinery ought to be reflected in the price of the employer’s goods or services, so also should the wear and tear on the employer’s work force. A product’s price should reflect the total cost of production, including the costs associated with work-related injuries and illnesses. The Seabury study adds weight to the argument that the grand bargain is out of equilibrium, that workers’ compensation benefits do not adequately replace what a worker loses through his or her injury, that the physical and economic costs associated with work-related injuries and illnesses are not being fully addressed, and that the injured worker is at least partially subsidizing the overall cost of America’s goods and services with his or her lost income.”

The bottom line from this respected author is that workers’ compensation benefits should not be reduced, made more difficult to obtain, etc., when workers who get injured already make less money over a 10-year period of time than workers who aren’t injured.

So let’s elect legislators who will both restore and support the “Grand Bargain” for injured workers and their loved ones.

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Protecting Workers from being Destroyed by the Work Schedule

Senator Tom Harkin

Today’s post comes from guest author Paul J. McAndrew, Jr., from Paul McAndrew Law Firm.

I wrote the post below as an editorial in the Iowa City Press-Citizen. Because The Scheudles That Work Act is of national importance I want to make sure this issue receives the attention that it deserves by promoting awareness of it as broadly as possible. I hope you’ll take the time to read my editorial and pass it along to concerned citizens in your area.

Workers deserve some certainty in their work schedules. Why? Because we all have need to plan for child care, time for school, transportation, or simply time to pay bills and manage the household. It’s basic fairness.

But don’t you, a friend or an acquaintance work a job with unpredictable and irregular work schedules? You’ve probably noticed that irregular and on-call scheduling are increasingly common. It’s especially common in the fastest-growing areas of our economy—- cleaning, janitorial, retail and restaurant work.

These scheduling practices can devastate the worker and her/his family. The practices demand the worker choose between his job or his family. They often lead to the worker being fired.

Vermont and San Francisco have already passed laws to help employers and workers avoid this devastation.

Senator Tom Harkin has now proposed The Schedules That Work Act to help workers balancework duties with family duties. The Act helps both workers and employers by:

  • Protecting all employees from retaliation for requesting a more flexible, predictable or stable schedule.
  • Creating a process under which an employer considers a worker’s schedule request in a way that’s sensitive to the needs of the worker and her/his family. For example, schedule requests based on caregiving duties, health conditions, pursuing education or the need to meet the demands of a second job, must be granted, unless the employer has a good business reason for denying it.
  • Compensating retail, food service, and cleaning workers for at least four hours of work if an employee reports to work when scheduled for at least four hours but is sent home early.
  • Providing that retail, food service, and cleaning employees receive work schedules at least two weeks in advance. Though schedules may later be changed, one hour’s worth of extra pay is required for schedules changed with less than twenty-four (24) hours’ notice.
  • Providing workers an extra hour of pay if scheduled to work split shifts or non-consecutive shifts, within a single day.

Kudos to Senator Harkin! Some politicians and billionaire-driven PACs parrot “Iowa values” as a campaign slogan. Senator Harkin, on the contrary, uses those values to create legislation like the ADA and The Schedules That Work Act.

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Taking A Stand For Workers – Partners Earn National Recognition Through Service

New WILG Officers Are Sworn In. Pictured from left to right: President Michael Galpern, President-Elect Matthew Belcher, Treasurer Alan Pierce, Secretary Michael Gruber

Several of our attorneys recently attended the Workers Law & Advocacy Group (WILG) Annual Convention, held at the Bacara Resort in Santa Barbara. At this conference, Micheal Gruber was elected and sworn in as WILG’s new Secretary.

Senior Partner Edgar Romano received a Special Recognition award.

Senior Partner Catherine Stanton and Micheal Gruber each received a Presidents Award, presented by WILG’s outgoing President Charles Davoli.

WILG’s full slate of new officers is:

  • President Michael Galpern
  • President-Elect Matthew Belcher
  • Treasurer Alan Pierce
  • Secretary Michael Gruber

WILG provides a unique opportunity for attorneys to share knowledge and ensure that we are doing everything we can to advocate for our clients. We are proud to support this effort to ensure that workers’ rights are protected in every corner of our nation.

Workers’ Injury Law & Advocacy Group

WILG is the national non-profit membership organization dedicated to representing the interests of millions of workers and their families who, each year, suffer the consequences of work-related injuries or occupational illnesses and who need expert legal assistance to obtain medical care and other relief under workers’ compensation programs. WILG is a network of like-minded advocates for workers’ rights, sharing information and knowledge, a sense of commitment and kinship, and networking to help each other and our clients.

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