Tag: Employment

Judge rules against insurer that fired adjuster after comp claim
Welfare

Judge rules against insurer that fired adjuster after comp claim

A federal judge in Chicago on Tuesday ruled against an insurance company’s summary judgment in a suit filed by a former employee fired after an 11-month, unresolved workers comp claim.
Timothy Buhe worked as a claims adjuster for Lincoln, Rhode Island-based Amica Mutual Insurance Co. when in early 2013 he fell off a roof while investigating a homeowner’s claim, according to court documents in Timothy Buhe v. Amica Mutual Insurance Co., filed in U.S. District Court in Illinois’s Eastern Division.
In discussions with two Amica representatives, Mr. Buhe indicated he needed at least two surgeries and was “confused” by the company policy on disability leave, according to court documents.
Complicating matters, Mr. Buhe ran a mortgage business on the side, one which his employer had known about.
In November, an adjuster with Amica’s workers comp insurer Chubb Ltd. contacted the company to inform them that Mr. Buhe had been surveilled and was working for his own company while collecting workers compensation.
In 2016, Mr. Buhe filed for bankruptcy, failing to disclose his workers compensation claim and subsequently claimed he did not know he was supposed to, according to court documents.
Judge Jorge Alonso ruled in part against the summary judgment, finding merit in both claims related to the ADA and retaliatory termination: “…A disability leave of absence that an employee seeks as a reasonable accommodation ‘is a factual issue well suited to a jury determination,’ ” his ruling stated.
He also found that “a reasonable jury could conclude that the real reason for plaintiff’s termination was not the violation of company policy but the fact that plaintiff had filed a workers compensation claim against defendant.
A jury could reasonably conclude that Amica seized on the pretext of a violation of company policy as soon as it presented itself in order to terminate plaintiff, but that the real reason for the termination was retaliatory animus against plaintiff for pursuing a workers compensation claim.
There is a genuine issue of material fact as to plaintiff’s claim of retaliatory discharge, and defendant’s motion for summary judgment on this claim is denied.” Judge Alonso granted the summary judgment related to the estoppel claim, as Mr. Buhe voluntarily requested to dismiss this part of his suit, according to court records.

Judge rules against insurer that fired adjuster after comp claim
Welfare

Judge rules against insurer that fired adjuster after comp claim

A federal judge in Chicago on Tuesday ruled against an insurance company’s summary judgment in a suit filed by a former employee fired after an 11-month, unresolved workers comp claim.
Timothy Buhe worked as a claims adjuster for Lincoln, Rhode Island-based Amica Mutual Insurance Co. when in early 2013 he fell off a roof while investigating a homeowner’s claim, according to court documents in Timothy Buhe v. Amica Mutual Insurance Co., filed in U.S. District Court in Illinois’s Eastern Division.
In discussions with two Amica representatives, Mr. Buhe indicated he needed at least two surgeries and was “confused” by the company policy on disability leave, according to court documents.
Complicating matters, Mr. Buhe ran a mortgage business on the side, one which his employer had known about.
In November, an adjuster with Amica’s workers comp insurer Chubb Ltd. contacted the company to inform them that Mr. Buhe had been surveilled and was working for his own company while collecting workers compensation.
In 2016, Mr. Buhe filed for bankruptcy, failing to disclose his workers compensation claim and subsequently claimed he did not know he was supposed to, according to court documents.
Judge Jorge Alonso ruled in part against the summary judgment, finding merit in both claims related to the ADA and retaliatory termination: “…A disability leave of absence that an employee seeks as a reasonable accommodation ‘is a factual issue well suited to a jury determination,’ ” his ruling stated.
He also found that “a reasonable jury could conclude that the real reason for plaintiff’s termination was not the violation of company policy but the fact that plaintiff had filed a workers compensation claim against defendant.
A jury could reasonably conclude that Amica seized on the pretext of a violation of company policy as soon as it presented itself in order to terminate plaintiff, but that the real reason for the termination was retaliatory animus against plaintiff for pursuing a workers compensation claim.
There is a genuine issue of material fact as to plaintiff’s claim of retaliatory discharge, and defendant’s motion for summary judgment on this claim is denied.” Judge Alonso granted the summary judgment related to the estoppel claim, as Mr. Buhe voluntarily requested to dismiss this part of his suit, according to court records.

S.D. bill aims to prevent lawsuits against comp insurers, employers
Welfare

S.D. bill aims to prevent lawsuits against comp insurers, employers

Reprints Louise Esola Lawmakers in South Dakota are slated Tuesday to hear about proposed legislation that would prevent injured workers from suing their employers, workers compensation insurers and third-party administrators on bad faith claims.
S.B.
145, sponsored by a total of 21 state senators and representatives, will leave bad faith claims up to the state’s Department of Labor and Regulation, which oversees the state’s workers compensation program, and would ensure that an employee receives that which is due.
Currently, parties involved in workers comp claims can be sued in civil court if an employee finds that he or she has been treated unfairly.
The department, if it finds favor in the employee’s claim, can “allow the employee a reasonable sum for attorney’s fees to be recovered and collected as part of the costs following a separate hearing of record,” according to a draft of the legislation.
“No person may bring or maintain a cause of action in relation to workers’ compensation benefits sounding in tort or in contract against any employer, employer who is self insured, a risk sharing pool, a third-party administrator, or any insurance company, including any reciprocal or interinsurance exchange, based on a wrongful act, omission, wrongful denial or any claim for refusal to investigate a claim or pay a loss that was considered vexatious, without reasonable cause, or in bad faith,” the draft states.

Employers urged to mitigate workplace bullying risks
Welfare

Employers urged to mitigate workplace bullying risks

DALLAS — Workplace bullying can lead to employment-related and workers compensation claims that can hurt productivity and lead to litigation, said experts speaking at the 2018 CLM & Business Insurance Retail, Restaurant & Hospitality Conference in Dallas.
“It occurred to me that many of the cases that I have defended over the years regarding stress in the workplace, psychiatric injury, sexual harassment, as well as other issues, really in a way have their genesis in the bullying behavior of someone in the workplace,” Jeffrey M. Adelson, Santa Ana, California-based general counsel and managing partner at Adelson, Testan, Brundo, Novell & Jimenez, said speaking on a panel on Thursday.
A 2017 survey conducted by the Bellingham, Washington-based Workplace Bullying Institute found that 19% of responding workers were victims of workplace bullying, with 61% of the perpetrators described as a “boss” or “supervisor,” 65% of the workers who reported being bullied also reporting they lost their jobs and 37% of workers having their workplace bullying experiences covered up by people in the workplace.
Workplace bullying has affected 60 million Americans, according to the institute.
“It is sort of the foundation for which all other inappropriate behavior in the workplace springs from.” Workplace bullying affects an employer’s bottom line because it broadens the liability and leads to cases alleging discrimination based on age, disability, gender, race and other protected classes, according to experts.
“On the workers comp side, you tend to see bullying coming through the door in California with stress claims.
You will also see worker fatigue, absenteeism and when you are in the retail/ restaurant industry, it is difficult to track.
Another thing that I have seen is someone with a workers comp claim being in a huge hurry to get back to work because that person’s absence was felt and there was pressure put on them to ‘hurry up and get the doctor to get you released,’ ” said Kendra Schropp, Irving, Texas-based director of risk management and safety at On the Border Mexican Grill & Cantina and a 2017 BI Women to Watch.
It is important to pay attention to claims data for signs, according to experts.
Employers should address workplace bullying before it is too late because it can create liability issues when left unaddressed, according to experts.

Pilot attacked by drunken co-worker eligible only for comp benefits
Welfare

Pilot attacked by drunken co-worker eligible only for comp benefits

An airline pilot attacked by a drunken flight crew member while on an overnight layover in Chicago cannot sue the hotel or other parties, but he is eligible for workers compensation, according to a federal appeals court.
“The crewmembers drank pre-dinner cocktails together that night, where (Mr.) Mann consumed a significant amount.
It appeared to (Mr.) Baylay that he had imbibed before meeting the group, too.
At dinner, (Mr.) Mann downed even more alcohol and then expressed anti-American and anti-British views while emphasizing his distaste for the British by placing his hands around (Mr.) Baylay’s throat.” The attack continued later when “back at the hotel, (Mr.) Baylay heard a knock on the door of his hotel room and saw (Mr.) Mann standing outside his room.
Thinking (Mr.) Mann was there to apologize for his earlier actions and collect his coat, (Mr.) Baylay opened the door.
(Mr.) Mann struck him on the head and leg with a bronze hotel decoration.” During the attack, Mr. Mann threatened Mr. Baylay with his life, according to court documents.
The pilot managed to escape, took the elevator to the lobby of the hotel and was transported to Northwestern Memorial Hospital.
In 2016, Mr. Baylay filed his lawsuit in federal court alleging negligence, among other claims.
The court subsequently dismissed all his claims against his employer “on the basis that the claims should be heard by the Illinois Workers Compensation Commission instead,” according to court records.
Mr. Baylay appealed that decision, but the Court of Appeals affirmed those dismissals.

U.S. employers add 148,000 jobs in December, unemployment remains 4.1%
Unemployment

U.S. employers add 148,000 jobs in December, unemployment remains 4.1%

That is typical when the unemployment falls to ultra-low levels and fewer people are available to be hired.
The unemployment rate remained at 4.1% for a third straight month, the lowest level since 2000.
But the economic stability started years before he entered the White House.
The December numbers were below expectations as analysts had predicted between 200,000 and 250,000 jobs would be added to close out the year.
Average hourly wages rose by nine cents, or 0.3 %, in December.
That lifted the annual increase in wages to 2.5%, still below pre-recession levels.
As more Baby Boomers reach retirement age, the unemployment rate will continue to fall, according to experts.
That may force employers to raise wages to attract workers.
Most economists expect the Trump tax cuts to help speed the economy’s already decent pace of growth, but others weren’t so sure.
The U.S. central bank raised rates three times in 2017 and planned to make the same number of hikes this year.

U.S. Employment Costs Rise 0.6% in Fourth Quarter
Unemployment

U.S. Employment Costs Rise 0.6% in Fourth Quarter

WASHINGTON – Compensation for American workers grew at a slower pace in the fourth quarter, but picked up strongly for the year as a whole, signaling historically low unemployment might be starting to put upward pressure on wages and benefits.
The employment-cost index, a measure of wages and benefits for civilian workers, rose a seasonally adjusted 0.6% in October through December, the Labor Department said Wednesday, matching expectations of economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal.
The total index increased 2.6% over the past year, matching the largest annual increase since 2015, when compensation also increased at a 2.6% rate.
Growth in the index hasn’t exceeded 2.6% since 2008.
Private workers saw compensation rise 0.5% in the fourth quarter, a slowdown from the previous quarter.
The rise in overall costs suggests employers may be feeling pressure to raise wages or boost benefit offerings as the supply of available workers shrinks.
Other metrics have pointed to modest wage growth.
Average hourly earnings for private-sector workers rose 2.5% in December from a year earlier, the Labor Department reported earlier.
The Labor Department’s report on the employment cost index can be found at: http://www.bls.gov/news.release/eci.toc.htm.
Write to Sarah Chaney at sarah.chaney@wsj.com and Josh Mitchell at josh.mitchell@wsj.com (END) Dow Jones Newswires January 31, 2018 08:45 ET (13:45 GMT)

Millions of workers may still need to find jobs before we can talk about ‘full employment’
Unemployment

Millions of workers may still need to find jobs before we can talk about ‘full employment’

Robert Galbraith/Reuters US unemployment has fallen to a 17-year low of 4.1%, raising the question of whether the economy has reached full employment.
A new analysis from the Atlanta Fed shows the jobless rate would be higher if adjusted for key demographic changes since 2000.
He just posted an analysis that argues that, when accounting for demographic changes in the economy over the last two decades, the unemployment rate is far off full employment.
Robertson is using 2000 as the jumping off point for this analysis that’s the last time the US labor market was viewed as being very tight, after years of a tech boom that eventually became a bubble.
But Robertson argues in a Macroblog post that if you adjust the population to reflect demographic changes that have taken place over the past 17 years, then the picture looks different.
He cites three large demographic shifts since the early 2000s: rises in both the average age and educational attainment of the labor force as well as a decline in the share who are white and non-Hispanic.
Roberston concludes that “after adjusting for changes in the composition of the labor force, we are not as close to the 2000 level as you might have thought.”
His analysis is part of a broader body of research by Fed officials and others who argue that historically low inflation, which has chronically undershot the Fed’s 2% target for many years, means the unemployment rate can actually go substantially lower, and wage growth can move significantly higher.
This camp, which includes Minneapolis Fed President Neel Kashkari, argues the Fed has room to keep interest rates on hold for some time.
The rate, which has been raised five times since December 2015 after being left at zero for seven years in response to the Great Recession, now stands in a range of 1.25% to 1.5%.

Employer can’t claw back mistaken payment to attorney: Court
Welfare

Employer can’t claw back mistaken payment to attorney: Court

Section 440 of the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act provides that an employee in a workers compensation case is entitled to attorneys fees when an insurer unreasonably contests its liability under the statute, according to the ruling released Thursday in County of Allegheny v. Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board.
The employer, Allegheny County, was ordered to pay $14,750 in attorneys fees under Section 440 after the Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board determined that the county unreasonably contested its liability.
After that, the county filed a separate petition before a workers compensation judge in which it sought reimbursement of the erroneously awarded attorneys fees from the employee’s counsel, according to the ruling.
But the state Supreme Court found that the General Assembly, in enacting the Workers’ Compensation Act, did not provide any mechanism by which employers can recoup erroneously awarded counsel fees once paid.
Because such an order was requested and denied in this case, requiring the appellee to pay the awarded attorneys fees, and there is no statutory provision authorizing reimbursement if the award is reversed, the Supreme Court held that the county may not recoup the already paid attorneys fees from the employee’s counsel.
The Supreme Court vacated the Commonwealth Court’s order and reinstated the order of the Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board, which affirmed the denial of the county’s reimbursement petition.
“This was a unanimous decision, which is unusual for this court, and the decision was rendered within three months of oral argument, which is really fast.
They clearly knew the Commonwealth Court made an error.
All the court was doing was returning us to status quo because the law has always been and should always be that lawyers do not have to return their unreasonable contest fees.
If we had to give back those fees, there would be a chilling effect.” The attorney for the county could not be immediately reached for comment.

U.S. Employers Slow Pace of Hiring in December
Unemployment

U.S. Employers Slow Pace of Hiring in December

Meanwhile, the unemployment rate remained at 4.1%, matching the lowest level since December 2000 for the third straight month.
Hourly wages improved modestly during December, and rose 2.5% from a year earlier.
For all of 2017, employers added 2.1 million jobs, the seventh straight year of job growth of 2 million or better.
The pace of job creation in 2017 suggests the expansion may have more room to run eight and a half years after the most recent recession ended.
The Fed raised the rate in December to a range between 1.25% and 1.5%, and penciled in three quarter-percentage point rate increases in 2018.
Hourly wage growth has failed to match the prerecession pace, despite a lower unemployment rate.
Friday’s report showed the employers added jobs in manufacturing, construction and health care.
December marked the 87th straight month employers added to payrolls, a streak nearly twice as long as the second-best run.
Payroll growth has only topped 2% for the year once in the current upturn, in 2014.
A broad measure of unemployment and underemployment that includes Americans stuck in part-time jobs or too discouraged to look for work increased in December to 8.1% from 8.0% the prior month.