Blog April 2019

Workers’ Comp for Administrative Professionals

Posted On: April 22, 2019

Workers’ Comp for Administrative Professionals

When many people think of workers’ compensation, they think of construction workers and laborers.  But, our attorneys at Gilbert, Blaszcyk & Milburn have been in the workers’ compensation business for many decades, and have had clients from dozens of professions.

This week, as our office is celebrating our own Administrative Professionals, we’ve compiled some of the workers’ compensation claims that office workers may have.

  • Administrative professionals often experience injuries that are gradual in nature. These repetitive motion injuries include carpal tunnel, back pain and eye strain. These conditions can develop over years of typing and staring at a computer screen. Many people do not realize that injuries like carpal tunnel are eligible for workers’ compensation.
  • Slips and falls are a common workplace injury. Wet floors, exposed computer and phone wires, cluttered offices, upturned rugs and uneven surfaces are all everyday hazards in offices. Rain, snow, ice and wind can make sidewalks and parking lots dangerous. No matter how careful we are to straighten our rugs and tuck in loose wires, an accidental fall from a leaky faucet or icy sidewalk can still cause an office worker injury.
  • Many administrative professionals routinely run errands like picking up supplies for their workplace. A car accident when completing a task necessary to his/her job would also fall under workers’ compensation.
  • Unfortunately, office workers are occasionally injured in acts of violence by coworkers or strangers. An assault by a coworker or client would fit under this category. Workplace violence can also include threats, harassment and intimidation.
  • Occupational diseases like asthma can also occur from poor ventilation, exposure to irritants, and/or mold. This can be especially problematic for office workers regularly exposed to manufacturing and construction materials.

If you have suffered any of these workplace injuries, contact the law office of Gilbert, Blaszcyk & Milburn for your free consultation.

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New York Workers’ Comp and the Opioid Crisis

Posted On: April 16, 2019

New York Workers’ Comp and the Opioid Crisis

Opioid addiction is a major public health concern affecting workers’ compensation nationally.

Pain management—and the use of prominent drugs such as hydrocodone, oxycodone and fentanyl—is often an important component of healing from workplace injuries. While opiates are effective at controlling pain, are relatively inexpensive and easy to access, they are also highly addictive. For injured workers facing managing their pain, long-term opioid use can also lead to dangerous respiratory depression and failure, liver damage and brain damage. For employees returning back to work after recovering from their injuries, drug misuse can contribute to workplace accidents and even death from impaired judgement and motor function.

According to the National Safety Council, “more than 70% of employers have been impacted by prescription drugs.”[i][1] According to the CDC, “46 people die every day from overdoses involving prescription opioids,” and “prescription opioids are involved in more than 35% of all opioid overdose deaths.”[2]

Facing this epidemic of opioid addiction and high costs of treatment, the New York State Workers’ Compensation Board adopted the Non-Acute Pain Medical Treatment Guidelines in 2010. These guidelines were intended to be a new mandatory standard of care for treating New York’s injured workers.

A carrier may file an RFA-2 requesting a hearing for opioid weaning issues. During the hearing, the Judge will consider whether or not the claimant’s opioid use adheres to New York’s Non-Acute Pain Medical Treatment Guidelines. The claimant can present medical reports and depositions from his/her treating physician(s) outlining their treatment and opioid usage. A Workers’ Compensation Judge will then weigh evidence and decide generally if 1) the opioid use is effective at the time of the hearing and can continue under the guidelines, or 2) the claimant should be weaned from opioids. If the Judge decides that the claimant requires enrollment in an addiction treatment program, the insurer would be required to cover the expenses of this treatment.

If you or someone you know is struggling with drug abuse, please consider calling New York State’s HOPEline at 1-877-8-HOPENY or visit the nearest emergency room.


[1] https://www.nsc.org/Portals/0/Documents/NewsDocuments/2017/Media-Briefing-National-Employer-Drug-Survey-Results.pdf

[2] https://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/data/prescribing.html


 

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Workers' Comp in a "Gig" Economy

Posted On: April 03, 2019

Workers' Comp in a “Gig” Economy

Nationally, the gig economy is on the rise. A report by the Freelancer’s Union titled “Freelancing in America 2018” indicates that 56.7 million people in the United States are in the gig economy, and this number continues to grow.[1] You may be familiar with some of the most famous examples of freelancing businesses: Uber, Lyft, Juno, Doordash, PostMates, Handy, TaskRabbit, Fiverr and Care.com.

And while services like these make our lives as consumers easier, they have serious implications for workers. As stated in a National Employment Law Project report, “Tech-mediated gig work is the latest iteration of a 50-year-old pattern of workplace fissuring—the rise of ‘nonstandard’ or ‘contingent’ work that is subcontracted, franchised, temporary, on-demand, or freelance. Gig companies are simply using newfangled methods of labor mediation to extract rents from workers, and shift risks and costs onto workers, consumers, and the general public.”[2]

These now large and powerful companies continue to lobby for lower standards of worker protection. Their goal is to avoid complying with tax and labor laws by ensuring so-called “gig” workers are seen as independent contractors under workers’ compensation law.

When an employer incorrectly treats employees as independent contractors, it is called “misclassification”. Growing businesses like Uber use misclassification to hire as few employees as possible and claim the workers who carry out the bulk of their business (e.g. driving) as independent contractors. These businesses can then avoid paying for sufficient workers’ compensation insurance, as well as unemployment insurance and social security benefits, and upholding proper minimum wage and overtime laws. This not only hurts workers by depriving them of their rights, but also places an unfair burden on law-abiding businesses that sustain higher costs for their workers’ compensation, unemployment and social security benefits.

There is an ongoing debate as to whether these “gig” workers are employees or independent contractors. The companies contend that the workers make their own schedules and provide their own equipment (e.g. cars), thus making them independent contractors. However, companies like Uber or Handy negotiate the workers’ pay rates (e.g. the cost of a ride), take a percentage of these earnings, and solely handle behind-the-scenes business matters like complaints and advertising.

Misclassification is fraud. While the business may contend that a worker is an independent contractor and provide them a 1099 form instead of a W-2 form, this may not be valid under the law. The New York Workers’ Compensation Board may decide that the workers are in fact employees and thus are entitled to benefits.

New York State has developed a task force specifically for tackling this exploitation of workers’ rights. Their task force hotline number is 1-888-469-7365, and they also have a digital reporting form available at https://www.ny.gov/content/report-suspected-workplace-violations

If you have been injured on the job but your employer contends that you are an independent contractor and not entitled to benefits, please call the office of Gilbert, Blaszcyk & Milburn. Our attorneys will help to assess your case and ensure your rights as a worker are upheld.


[1] https://www.upwork.com/press/2018/10/31/freelancing-in-america-2018/

[2] https://s27147.pcdn.co/wp-content/uploads/Rights-at-Risk_4-2-2019.pdf

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