Articles Posted in Workers’ Rights

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has revised its reporting requirements when an employee dies on the job or suffers a work-related hospitalization, amputation or loss of an eye. If an employee is severely injured, employers will now be required to immediately notify OSHA of the work-related fatality within 8 hours and work-related in-patient hospitalizations, amputations or loss of an eye within 24 hours. This shortened the timing that employers are required to notify OSHA of these serous injuries.

In the past, OSHA was required to report only work fatalities and in-patient hospitalizations of three or more employees. In other words, if only one employee died or was seriously injured at work, no report to OSHA was required.

The new reporting rule goes into effect Jan. 1, 2015 and is particularly directed at workplaces under federal OSHA jurisdiction. This would exempt companies who employ 10 or fewer individuals regardless of the industry classification.

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Levia Moultrie began working at Penn Aluminum in 1990. Over the next 20 years, Moultrie worked in different positions, including forklift operator, block operator, utility coiler and scrap chopper.

In September 2008, Moultrie used his seniority to take on the job of forklift operator. The collective bargaining agreement between Moultrie’s union and Penn Aluminum gave Moultrie two days to show that he could perform the job.

A little more than a week after Moultrie switched into the forklift operator job, he began experiencing performance problems. During one shipment he was tasked with handling, Moultrie incorrectly hooked up some wires causing a delay in a shipment.

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Monika Salata was cleaning property owned by Weyerhauser Corp. on March 28, 2008 when she fell and was severely injured. She claimed that she fell because of loose floor tiles. Originally the lawsuit was filed in state court in the Circuit Court of Kane County, Ill.

Weyerhaeuser removed the case to the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. The parties attempted voluntary mediation but could not reach an agreement. At that point Salata’s attorney withdrew from representing her, and a new attorney took over in March 2012.

At a status hearing on April 4, 2012, the new lawyer stated that she needed additional time to conduct fact discovery. The court extended the discovery deadline until the end of May 2012.

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Wisconsin has a long history of protecting private and public labor unions. In fact, before 2011, Wisconsin granted broad protections and privileges to public-sector unions. This all changed when the Wisconsin legislature passed a new budget bill known as Act 10. This act reduced state and municipal employers’ collective-bargaining obligations to non-public safety employees in the public sector.

In a lawsuit brought by two public employee unions and an individual union member, the defendants argued that the changes by the Wisconsin legislature infringed on their First Amendment petition and association rights, and that Act 10 denied the union members equal protection under the law.

The U.S. District Court granted the state’s motion for judgment on the pleadings and the unions, the plaintiffs, brought this appeal.

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The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago has reversed a district court judge’s decision in a case involving an indemnification clause in a contract.

Robert Krien was an employee of Riley Construction.  Riley was the general contractor on a construction project located in Wisconsin.  Riley in turn, hired Harsco Corporation to supply the scaffolding for the construction work.  Krien was injured when he fell from the scaffolding after a plank broke beneath him.  The parties settled Krien’s injury claim for $900,000.

Before the settlement, Harsco had filed a third-party complaint against Riley seeking indemnification for any damages Harsco might pay by way of judgment or settlement.  Then the parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment, and the district court judge granted Riley’s motion.  Harsco took this appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals in Chicago.

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On Oct. 12, 2004, Clinton Haywood, 47, was working as a Metra signal maintainer. He was unloading a 123-pound joint box from a rat bed sliding platform on the back of a truck when the rat bed unexpectedly slid into the truck. This caused the box to start to drop. Haywood bent and twisted his body to prevent the box from falling onto him.

Haywood was first diagnosed by Metra physicians with just a back sprain for which he received conservative medical treatment.

However, three years later, in 2007, Haywood was testing a signal when he fell over a fence that had been knocked down and was partially covered with snow. This incident exasperated his original back strain injury.Haywood was diagnosed with a herniated L5-S1 disk injury.  This injury was aggravated by the second work injury resulting in a one-level lumbar fusion in 2012.  Haywood attempted to return to his job after the surgery, but was not able to work after May 2013.

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It is sometimes overlooked in trial practice or not given enough emphasis that the conduct of a defendant must be proved to have proximately caused the injuries or damages claimed in the pleadings. Also, expert testimony must meet the rules of scientific reliability. 

For example, Gary McCann, an engineer for more than 17 years for the defendant, Illinois Central Railroad, sued the railroad in a 4-count complaint. He claimed damages for carpal tunnel syndrome caused by the railroad’s inadequate and defective cab seats, rough track, oversized ballast and defective switches.

In this case, McCann claimed negligence under the Federal Employer’s Liability Act (FELA), 45 U.S.C. §51 et seq.; negligence per se; violations of the Locomotive Inspection Act, 49 U.S.C. §20701; and negligence for causing his carpal tunnel syndrome.

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On April 10, 2010, Daniel Coile, 33, went to Shepherd’s Closet, a store, to pick up a desk purchased by his mother. Coile was told that he would need to load the desk into his car by way of a loading dock at the rear of the store.  Shepherd’s Closet or Closet Two is located in Gibson City, Ill.

At the loading dock there was an unsecured railroad tie that went along the face of the dock. While Coile was attempting to load the desk, he placed his left foot on the railroad tie to get closer to the dock, but the tie slid as he lifted the desk causing his left knee to twist.

Coile suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament of the left knee and required reconstructive surgery and physical therapy. As a result of his injury, Coile was unable to work for 4 months as a deputy sheriff.

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The Illinois Supreme Court has taken a case for consideration dealing with the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission as to an employee’s commute from a motel to a job site. The issue in the case is whether the employee is covered for his injuries by the Workers’ Compensation Act when he was on his way from his motel (temporary living quarters) to his job site. The Supreme Court will look at whether the jobsite is linked closely enough to the worker’s employment so that the injuries he suffered in a car accident on the way to work are compensable. 

The law does not usually consider injuries while commuting to or from work as compensable unless the travel is a result or requirement of the job.

In 2006, the plaintiff, Ronald Daugherty of Springfield, Ill., took a temporary pipefitting job with The Venture-Newberg Perini Stone & Webster, which is a contractor working on a nuclear power plant in Cordoba, Ill.,  owned by Exelon Corp.  Daugherty was injured in a car accident on his way to work from his motel. As a result of his injuries, he filed a workers’ compensation claim. 

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A jury in a Southern Illinois federal district court entered a $95 million jury verdict in a sexual harassment lawsuit brought against a retail store and one of its managers by a female employee. Ashley Alford v. Aaron’s Rents, Inc., Richard Moore, et al., 08 cv 00683, included widespread claims of sexual harassment by the store manager and allegations of inaction on behalf of the company itself.

Twenty year-old Ashley Alford worked at Aaron’s, Inc., a nationwide chain that offers rent-to-own appliances and furniture. Alford’s lawsuit claimed that in November 2005 her store manager began calling her degrading pet names, accompanied by inappropriate touching, groping, and pinching. In addition, the store manager, Richard Moore, began giving her gifts, which were accompanied by him stating that he expected some form of sexual acts in return.

After six months of this behavior, Ashley took action by calling the company’s sexual harassment hotline. However, while this did result in the regional supervisor coming to her local store, he failed to take any action against the supervisor. And even worse, the regional supervisor discussed Ashley’s sexual harassment allegations in front of the very supervisor she had filed a complaint against.

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