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Workers’ Compensation Daily News for February 24th, 2024

  • Fake Doctor Attempts to Open New Practice 2 Weeks After Prison Release
    on February 23, 2024 at 3:18 PM

    An Anaheim man who plead guilty to multiple felonies for impersonating a medical doctor and performing medical procedures including Botox injections, lip and face fillers, and thread-lift procedures on numerous unsuspecting victims has been charged with attempting to start another Botox and thread lift business less than two weeks after he was released from prison.

    The fake doctor targeted Spanish-speaking women to perform the unlicensed procedures.

    Elias Segoviano, 63, of Brea, pleaded guilty in April 2023 to 13 felony counts of the unauthorized practice of medicine, one felony count of false indication of a medical license, and one felony count of perjury. He also pled guilty to one misdemeanor count of misrepresenting himself as a licensed medical practitioner, one misdemeanor count of representation of license not issued to him or her, one misdemeanor count of misrepresentation of qualifications, and one misdemeanor count of impersonating a professional nurse or pretending to be licensed to practice nursing.

    Segoviano was arrested on July 19, 2022 at his business, Botox in Anaheim, within the Phenix Salon Suites, located at 935 S. Brookhurst St. in Anaheim, California. Segoviano used various social media platforms to advertise his services to potential clients, including videos and postings on Facebook, Tiktok, and other social media platforms.  Segoviano used various aliases including "Dr. Elias", "Dr. Elias Renteria", "Dr. Elias Renteria M.D." and used "ELIASMD" on his vehicle license plate.

    Segoviano is believed to have utilized other locations for his unlawful medical practice since 2019 including 339 La Habra Blvd, La Habra, CA.  Various business names were used for his unlicensed practice including "Botox in Anaheim," "Botox in Anaheim- Health and Beauty," "Neurotoxina Botulinica- Massage Service," "Threads in Anaheim, -Threads La Habra", "Botox La Habra," and "OC Threads, Botox & Fillers."

    Segoviano admitted performing invasive procedures and injecting victims with potentially counterfeit Botox, fillers, anesthetics, and other medical drugs that placed the public at extreme risk.

    The charges involved the illegal practice of medicine involving 28 victims. He was sentenced to four years in state prison, but served just one year and four months before being released on December 22, 2023.

    Less than two weeks later, on January 4, 2024, while on Post-Release Community Supervision following his release from prison, Segoviano is accused of attempting to sublet a space at the Phenix Salon in Brea. He also applied for a business license in the city of Brea, but his application was rejected.  Based on a tip from the Probation Department about Segoviano’s attempt to rent the space in Brea, investigators with the Orange County District Attorney’s Office immediately opened an investigation.  OCDA investigators interviewed multiple witnesses and located the rejected business license application, substantiating the charges filed in this case.

    Segoviano is accused of providing the two suite owners with a fake name and stating that he performs Botox injections and face thread lifting procedures, both of which require valid medical authorizations which Segoviano doesn’t have.

    One of the suite owners initially entered into a sublease agreement with Segoviano, but after learning of news coverage about his prior criminal conduct the owner cancelled the agreement and demanded the keys be returned.

    Segoviano has been charged with two felony counts of the unauthorized practice of medicine and one misdemeanor count of falsely representing himself as a licensed medical practitioner.

    "This man walked the walk and talked the talk of being a licensed medical professional, but he was anything but what he pretended to be," said Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer. "These women trusted this individual to have the training and the expertise required to perform these medical procedures, and instead they unknowingly put their very lives in the hands of someone who was never licensed to perform the kind of work he was doing. The fact that he was out of prison less than two weeks - and while under supervision - when he returned right back to a life of crime makes it painfully obvious that he has no intention of changing his behavior and he will continue to try to make money off unsuspecting women every chance that he gets."

    Anyone who was treated by Elias Renteria Segoviano is encouraged to report those procedures to the Orange County District Attorney’s Bureau of Investigation by contacting Investigator Jesse Alfonzo at 714-834-6538.

    Deputy District Attorney Michael Chay of the Consumer and Environmental Protection Unit is prosecuting this case.

  • UCSF Launches Comprehensive Study of Long COVID
    on February 23, 2024 at 3:18 PM

    UC San Francisco will launch the world’s first tissue bank with samples donated by patients with long COVID. The move follows research indicating that the virus can continue to linger throughout the body and may hold the key to understanding the cause of the debilitating disorder and lead to effective treatments.

    By October 2023, an estimated 14% of Americans had or had had long COVID, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The disorder may appear as a continuation of the original COVID symptoms or manifest as new symptoms affecting any part of the body. In serious cases multiple body systems are affected, including the brain, heart, lungs, kidneys and skin.

    Recent studies have shown that in patients with long COVID, the SARS-CoV-2 virus may not fully clear after the initial infection. Instead, the virus remains in what scientists have termed "viral reservoirs," identified in patient tissue months or even years later. These reservoirs are now believed to be a primary driver of long COVID, provoking the immune system to respond by prompting conditions like blood clotting disorders and inflammation and cognition dysfunction.

    "Based on our work so far, we believe that long COVID is a tissue-based disease," said Michael Peluso, MD, principal investigator of the UCSF Long COVID Tissue Program and an infectious disease physician-scientist in the UCSF School of Medicine.

    "This program will allow us to comprehensively study the biological processes occurring across tissue compartments - in the blood, gut, lymph nodes, spinal fluid and bone marrow - in people living with long COVID. This will help us better understand the underlying mechanisms of long COVID,” said Peluso, who co-led recent research with Timothy Hendrich, MD, a UCSF physician-scientist, that showed the virus was present in colon tissue up to 676 days following infection.

    Tissue specimens will be acquired from existing and future participants enrolled in UCSF’s LIINC study, and shared with non-UCSF scientists conducting complementary research. The study, which was launched in April 2020 before long COVID was recognized, is open to all adults who have ever tested positive for COVID-19.

    "The persistence of SARS-CoV-2 in tissue is a major target for our rapid research and clinical trials," said Steven Deeks, MD, co-principal investigator of LIINC, professor of medicine in residence at UCSF and an internationally recognized HIV expert. Current clinical trials include a monoclonal antibody - a lab-made protein that effectively attacks viruses - and an antiviral therapy that blocks viral replication.

    The UCSF Long COVID Tissue Program is supported by a $3 million grant from the Long Covid Research Consortium of the PolyBio Research Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to complex chronic conditions, which also funded for the LIINC study.

    "The UCSF team includes people who helped make HIV and AIDS a treatable disease," said Amy Proal, PhD, president of PolyBio. "These researchers rapidly pivoted into long COVID research at the outset of the pandemic, leveraging years of experience performing similar research with patients with HIV and AIDS."

    An additional $1.7 million funding from PolyBio will also enable Henrich, and UCSF cardiologist Zian Tseng, MD, to expand their study of sudden cardiac death. Advanced technologies will be used to examine traces of SARS-CoV-2 and related immune changes in tissue samples. Findings may result in recommendations for antiviral treatments for patients who have been exposed to the COVID virus and are at risk for sudden cardiac death.

  • Injured Worker's $8.2M Verdict Against Alleged Employer Reversed
    on February 22, 2024 at 11:11 AM

    Edward Younan began working in the food truck business in 1975 as a driver. He and his wife eventually owned between 50 and 60 trucks. Younan acquired Avalon Foods, Inc, a food truck commissary, in 1999.

    Food trucks are required to park at a "certified commissary," such as Avalon, and Avalon charges its customers for "housing space" (i.e., a parking spot), electricity, security, and ice. At the time of trial, Avalon owned only "maybe a couple" food trucks, which were not usually on the road, but served as spares.

    Jorge GuzmanJr. began working on food trucks in approximately 1992. He was the driver and cashier. His job duties included "driv[ing to] the stops where they go, sell[ing] food, . . . tak[ing] the money, get[ting] change" and "driv[ing] to the next stop."

    At the time of the accident, Guzman drove a food truck owned by Philma Alvarez. Philma parked her trucks at Avalon during the relevant time period.

    On January 11, 2014, after the truck completed its business at one of its stops, the cook on the truck asked Guzman to retrieve a table from outside. When Guzman stepped outside, a car hit him, resulting in serious injuries.

    Following the accident, Guzman filed a civil complaint against Philma and Hector Chavez. Guzman later named Avalon and Younan as defendants. The operative complaint alleged that, on January 11, 2014, while Guzman was employed by "defendants," "[t]he employee manager negligently instructed [Guzman] to retrieve a serving table in a manner that subjected [Guzman] to extreme danger of, and resulted in, [Guzman] being struck by a car and severely injured."

    Guzman brought the lawsuit under Labor Code section 3706, which permits an injured employee to file a civil complaint for damages against an employer who "fails to secure the payment of compensation" to the injured employee. Avalon and Younan answered the complaint, and, as relevant here, asserted no employment relationship existed between them and Guzman.

    At the close of plaintiff’s case-in-chief, defendants orally moved for nonsuit and the court took the motion "under advisement". On October 24, 2019, the jury returned a verdict finding both Younan and Avalon were Guzman’s employers at the time of the accident. Phase 2 of the trial was for damages, and a second jury awarded Guzman $8,245,034.00. Following trial, Avalon and Younan moved for JNOV and a new trial, and the trial court denied the JNOV, and granted a new trial on allocation of damages between defendants.

    The Court of Appeal reversed the order denying Avalon and Younan’s JNOV motion, and direct the trial court to enter judgment in favor of Avalon and Younan in the unpublished case of Guzman v Younan -B317573 (February 2024).

    During trial, Guzman repeatedly and unambiguously testified he worked exclusively for Philma at the time of the accident. For example, in response to defendants’ counsel’s question, "But you stopped " at least your testimony is you stopped working for [Younan] in 2013 and worked exclusively with Philma, is that not correct?" Guzman replied that was correct. Guzman testified that, before the accident, in 2013, he worked for Younan doing the "same thing I did with Philma."

    When Guzman worked for Philma at the end of 2013 through the time of his injury in 2014, Philma told Guzman what to do and where to go. If the truck broke down, or Guzman was sick and he could not work, he called Philma. Neither Avalon nor Younan paid Guzman when he worked for Philma, and he never reported to anyone at Avalon while working for Philma. Guzman further testified that he did not wear a uniform when he worked for Philma, but when he worked for Younan he was required to wear a shirt Younan provided him.

    The Court of Appeal concluded that "the record contains no evidence that Guzman was employed by Avalon or Younan on the date of the accident; rather, the evidence merely demonstrates that Guzman may have driven a truck for Avalon and Younan at some point in 2013, before the accident occurred."

  • 7 Restaurant Industry Convictions for Insurance Fraud and Wage Theft
    on February 22, 2024 at 11:11 AM

    Seven restaurant owners have been sentenced and ordered to pay nearly $12 million dollars in restitution to their victims.

    A California Department of Justice led Task Force executed 27 search warrants at multiple locations in Los Angeles County, and seven individuals were charged in separate complaints with wage theft, tax evasion, insurance fraud, and/or commercial burglary.

    California Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Tax Recovery in the Underground Economy (TRUE) Task Force prosecuted the cases in partnership with multiple state agencies including the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration (CDTFA), Employment Development Department (EDD), Franchise Tax Board (FTB), California Department of Insurance (CDI), and the Department of Industrial Relations (DIR).

    The details on the cases are as follows:

    - - Xu Dong, the owner of Asia Buffet and Americana Buffet and Grill, pleaded guilty to wage theft, sales tax evasion, income tax evasion, payroll tax evasion, and insurance fraud. He paid more than $3.94 million restitution and was sentenced to 32 months in prison.
    - - Yan Zheng, the owner of China Great Buffet, pleaded guilty to sales evasion, income tax evasion, payroll tax evasion, and insurance fraud. She paid more than $2.81 million restitution and was sentenced to 24 months in prison.
    - - Jiahan Zheng, the owner of Tropical Buffet and Grill, pleaded guilty to sales tax evasion, income tax fraud evasion, and payroll tax fraud evasion. He paid $599,508 restitution and was sentenced to one year probation and ordered to complete 60 days of community service
    - - Elva Chen, Ya Lu, and Yituan Chen owned and operated Gold Hibachi Buffet. Elva Chen pleaded guilty to sales tax evasion, income tax evasion, payroll tax evasion and insurance fraud. She paid over $1.67 million in restitution and was sentenced to 32 months in prison. Defendant Ya Lu pleaded guilty to grand theft and commercial burglary. She paid nearly $1.7 million restitution and was sentenced to 32 in prison. Defendant Yituan Chen pleaded guilty to sales tax evasion. He paid $428,226 restitution, and was sentenced to two years formal probation and ordered to serve 364 days in prison.
    - - Jian Zhang, the owner of Kami Buffet and Grill, pleaded guilty to sales tax evasion and income tax evasion. He paid $785,177 restitution and was sentenced to 32 months in prison.

    The sentences were the result of an investigation by DOJ, CDTFA, EDD, FTB, CDI and DIR. DOJ, CDTFA, FTB and EDD are a part of the (TRUE) Task Force. The TRUE Task Force was created to ensure multiagency collaboration and to combat wage theft, tax evasion, and other crimes in the underground economy. The task force consists of attorneys, investigators, and special agents from the member agencies.

  • Supreme Court to Resolve Conflicting Decisions on ER Fees Class Actions
    on February 21, 2024 at 12:20 PM

    Taylor Capito received treatment in the emergency room of San Jose Healthcare System LP dba Regional Medical Center San Jose on two occasions. Regional is a major hospital in San Jose with an emergency room.

    Regional initially billed Capito $41,016 for her two visits, including two "`Level 4' Evaluation and Management Services Fee" charges of $3,780. Regional thereafter reduced Capito's total bill to $8,855.38, after deducting adjustments and discounts.

    Capito alleges she did not receive advance notice that Regional would charge the EMS fee in addition to each item of service and treatment provided by the hospital. Capito claims that had she been informed that she would be charged the EMS fee before incurring treatment, she would have left Regional and sought less expensive treatment elsewhere.
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    Capito filed a complaint against  on behalf of herself and all others similarly situated in June 2020, under the Consumer Legal Remedies Act (CLRA), which she amended shortly thereafter, challenging Regional's "unfair, deceptive, and unlawful practice of charging [an EMS fee] without any notification of its intention to charge a prospective emergency room patient such a Fee for the patient's emergency room visit."

    Capito claimed that Regional charged the EMS fee simply for seeking care in the emergency room - describing it as designed to cover overhead' type expenses of operating an emergency room without correlating the fee to the individual items of treatment and service that a patient received, and that the EMS fee "invariably comes as a complete surprise to unsuspecting emergency room patients."

    Regional demurred and moved to strike the class allegations. In doing so, it briefed the legislative history behind the Payers' Bill of Rights (Health & Saf. Code, § 1339.50 et seq.) and other federal and state regulations governing its pricing disclosures.The trial court sustained the demurrer and dismissed the case. And the Court of Appeal affirmed the dismissal in the unpublished case of Capito v. San Jose Healthcare System, LP - H049022, - H049646 (April 2023).

    In another case, Joshua Naranjo filed a class action lawsuit against the Doctors Medical Center of Modesto Inc., seeking declaratory and injunctive relief, and alleging violations of the unfair competition law (UCL) and the Consumer Legal Remedies Act (CLRA) in connection with Medical Center’s emergency room billing practices. The Medical Center charged Naranjo a total of $12,889.93 before any discounts or adjustments were applied. The gross charge included a "Level 4" EMS Fee in the amount of $8,833.35. The trial court dismissed his case, however the Court of Appeal reversed and reinstated his class action against the Medical Center.

    On July 26, the California Supreme Court granted review in the two different cases in which appellate courts had addressed the same issue and come to different conclusions. The first is Naranjo v. Doctors Medical Center of Modesto (2023) 90 Cal.App.5th 1193, a published decision of the Fifth Appellate District in which the court had ruled that the hospital was required to further disclose the EMS fee prior to treating ER patients. The second case is Capito v. San Jose Healthcare System, an unpublished decision of the Sixth Appellate District holding that no additional disclosure was required.

    This month the California Attorney General filed an Amicus Brief in Capito urging the California Supreme Court to reverse the Court of Appeal. He urges the Supreme Court to "ensure that lower courts have clear guidance in deciding cases alleging fraudulent practices, and to adopt a standard definition of unfairness under the Unfair Competition Law, as the current lack of clarity inhibits effective enforcement and creates confusion."

    The California Hospital Association points out that for "over a decade, at least 15 different class action lawsuits have been filed against California hospitals for failing to disclose their facility fees before patients were treated."

    "These lawsuits were brought even though each hospital had fully complied with both state and federal pricing transparency laws by disclosing the EMS fee in their chargemaster. While some of these lawsuits were settled or dismissed by the plaintiff after losing important rulings, other cases are on appeal or proceeding to trial."  

    The California Hosptial Association has filed as amicus in both Captio and Narango.

  • Bipartisan Coalition of 39 States in Support of Pending PBM Legislation
    on February 21, 2024 at 12:20 PM

    The California Attorney General joined a bipartisan coalition of 39 attorneys general urging Congress to pass legislation that will hold Pharmacy Benefits Managers (PBMs) accountable for what they say are unfair and deceptive practices that drive up the costs of prescription drugs.

    PBMs act as middlemen between pharmacies, drug manufacturers, health insurance plans, and consumers. Their position gives them an enormous impact on consumers’ access to prescription drugs.

    In the letter, the coalition asks House Speaker Mike Johnson, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to urge Congress to implement reform and regulate PBM business practices. Importantly, the attorneys general note three pieces of pending federal legislation that include proposals that would convey important steps to reform the industry and combat high healthcare costs: DRUG Act (S1542/HR6283), Protecting Patients Against PBM Abuses Act (HR2880), and Lower Costs, More Transparency Act (HR5378).The following are some of the key provisions of these three proposed federal laws.

    The DRUG Act:

    - - Eliminates rebates at the point of sale: This practice allows PBMs to receive rebates from drug manufacturers based on the amount of a drug they manage, incentivizing them to select higher-cost drugs even if cheaper alternatives exist.
    - - Bans spread pricing: This involves charging pharmacies more for a drug than they can bill the patient, creating a profit margin for the PBM.
    - - Restricts fees on generic drugs: The bill limits the fees PBMs can charge pharmacies for generic drugs, aiming to increase access and affordability.

    Protecting Patients Against PBM Abuses Act:

    - - Limits PBM income: Restricts PBMs to receiving flat service fees, prohibiting income based on drug prices, discounts, or rebates, which critics argue incentivizes them to choose pricier drugs.
    - - Transparency in fees: Requires PBMs to disclose fees to plan sponsors, fostering clearer understanding of pricing structures.
    - - Fair reimbursement for pharmacies: Prohibits PBMs from reimbursing network pharmacies less than PBM-affiliated pharmacies, aiming to level the playing field and enhance competition.
    - - No hidden costs: Bans charging plan sponsors for ingredient costs or dispensing fees different from what's reimbursed to pharmacies, addressing potential cost markups.

    Lower Costs, More Transparency Act (HR5378):

    - - Hospitals: Requires hospitals to publicly disclose charges for standard procedures and services, including the discounted cash price and negotiated rates with insurers.
    - - Clinical labs and imaging facilities: Similar transparency requirements for clinical diagnostic labs and imaging facilities.
    - - Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBMs): Increased reporting requirements for PBMs to health plan sponsors, revealing details on spending, rebates, and fees associated with covered drugs.
    - - Employer-sponsored plans: Enhanced access for employers to claims and cost information, allowing them to make more informed choices about health insurance plans.

    The California Attorney General joins the attorneys general of Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virgin Islands, Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

  • Court has Jurisdiction Over Employer's Assets in Premium Fraud Case
    on February 20, 2024 at 1:54 PM

    Detectives with the California Department of Insurance arrested Gina Marie Gregori of Lafayette, for allegedly underreporting payroll and ripping off insurers to the tune of $32 million. Gregori was charged with multiple counts of worker’s compensation insurance fraud and associated thefts. The complaint alleged the white-collar criminal enhancement pursuant to Penal Code section 186.11 and named as criminal defendants several of Gregori’s companies, including Apex Janitorial Solutions.

    The department’s investigation revealed Gregori was keeping two sets of books, using a payroll processing service to report to Employment Development Department and pay her employees, and keeping a fraudulent set of books that she provided to insurers and insurance auditors, which showed a significantly lower payroll amount.

    The People moved for appointment of a receiver to manage and preserve Gregori’s assets pursuant to Penal Code section 186.11. The court granted the motion and issued an order appointing the Receiver, identifying the assets subject to the receivership, and specifying the Receiver’s powers.

    Among other things, the Receiver was authorized to take possession of, collect income from, and otherwise operate, manage, preserve, and control Gregori’s properties. The order also authorized the Receiver to request court approval and confirmation of all fees and expenses incurred by the receivership in executing its duties. The court "reserve[d] jurisdiction to allocate the receivership costs of administration as between the parties."

    One of the real properties in the receivership estate was located on Dolores Street in San Francisco and owned by Gregori’s former romantic partner, Richard Bertero,with whom Gregori had commingled funds. Bertero used the Dolores Street property as collateral for a loan from Avalon Funding Corporation.

    Later, Bertero filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy; the Dolores Street property became part of the bankruptcy estate. The bankruptcy court released the Dolores Street property from the automatic bankruptcy stay to allow foreclosing lenders to sell it. When both Avalon and the Receiver made claims to the surplus proceeds from that sale, the trial court ordered the surplus turned over to it to resolve the priority of their claims. Relying on section 186.11, the court ordered that the bulk of the surplus be used to pay the Receiver’s fees and expenses incurred in administering the receivership estate which was roughly $148,000.

    The Court of Appeal Affirmed in the unpublished case of People v. Gregori -A164081 (February 2024)

    On appeal, Avalon argues that the Receiver had no valid claim to the surplus; that the court erred by applying section 186.11 rather than the nonjudicial foreclosure statute, Civil Code section 2924k; that the court lacked jurisdiction over the surplus; and that the court misapplied section 186.11. The Receiver argues that the trial court had jurisdiction over the surplus as part of the receivership estate and that the court properly exercised its discretion by finding that section 186.11 authorized it to pay the Receiver before paying Avalon.

    Penal Code section 186.11, the "Freeze and Seize' statute, authorizes a trial court to appoint a receiver to preserve the assets of a criminal defendant subject to an "aggravated white collar crime enhancement' because the defendant was "charged with having committed two or more related felonies involving fraud . . ., a pattern of related felony conduct, and the taking of more than $100,000."

    The court’s goal in the pendent receivership proceedings is to prevent defendants from "dissipat[ing] or secreting [their] assets or property" while the criminal proceedings are pending, and then to use "those assets to pay restitution to victims if the People secure a conviction."

    Subdivision (b) of Civil Code section 2924j specifies that "[n]othing in this section shall preclude any person from pursuing other remedies or claims as to surplus proceeds." Thus the trial court did not abuse its discretion in declining to adhere to the claim priorities in Civil Code section 2924k.

    The trial court’s interpretation of section 186.11 to permit compensation to the Receiver was not an abuse of discretion or contrary to law. The court reviewed the plain language of section 186.11, harmonized the language of the statute to give force and effect to its distinct provisions, and interpreted it to further the policy interests embodied therein.

  • California Invests $18 Million in Grants to Prosecute Wage Theft
    on February 20, 2024 at 1:54 PM

    The California Department of Industrial Relations (DIR) and the Labor Commissioner’s Office have launched an $18 million Workers’ Rights Enforcement Grant Program creating opportunities for local prosecutors to obtain funding for wage theft prosecutions. In 2024-2025 (Year 1) and 2025-2026 (Year 2), there will be two annual grant award cycles amounting to a total of $8,550,000 each.

    The funding for this program was provided in Assembly Bill No. 102 amendment to the Budget Act of 2023

    The Workers’ Rights Enforcement Grant is a new funding source to protect workers from wage theft and other exploitative practices in the workplace. Grants will be competitively awarded to California "public prosecutors" to develop and implement a wage theft enforcement program. A "public prosecutor" is a district attorney, city attorney, county council or any other city or county prosecutor who has established a workers’ rights enforcement program.

    This funding will enhance the capacity of public prosecutors to take action against wage theft - ensuring that labor laws are enforced, violators are prosecuted, and employers are deterred from engaging in practices such as unpaid overtime and minimum wage violations. This investment sends a strong message to employers about the State of California’s commitment to ensuring every Californian is fairly compensated for their labor.

    Grant funds can only be used for staff salaries and benefits. No other items will be funded, other than the noted annual audit costs. The year 1 Grant Application Timeframe is August 1, 2024 to July 31, 2025, and the year 2 Grant Application Timeframe is August 1, 2025 to July 31, 2026.

    Application, Eligibility, and Funding Essential Details

    - - Grant Uses: Staff Salaries/Benefits and Annual Audit Costs
    - - $750,000: Maximum per applicant per year
    - - Eligible Recipients: Public Prosecutors

    Register Today: Wage Theft Grant Informational Webinar scheduled for February 22, 2024 @ 11 am PST

  • Cal/OSHA Toughens Rules On Workplace Lead Exposure
    on February 16, 2024 at 12:28 PM

    The nation’s toughest rules for on-the-job lead exposure has just been passed by California workplace safety regulators.The Cal/OSHA Standards Board passed the sweeping update to California’s lead regulation despite heavy concerns of feasibility and inaccurate cost estimates from the construction and battery industries.

    In a 5-2 vote, the Standards Board expressed concerns over the timeline for implementation, despite supporting the regulation’s substantive goals and ultimately approving the regulation.

    In addition to training and blood lead monitoring of exposed employees, California’s present regulation regarding workplace lead exposure (Title 8, Section 5198) requires employers to ensure that no employees have lead exposure over a Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL) of 50 micrograms in a cubic meter of air.

    The California Chamber of Commerce reports that this new update would, among other changes, drastically lower the threshold for testing (from 30 micrograms of exposure to 2 micrograms) and the PEL (from 50 micrograms to 10 micrograms).  Importantly, the new update covers both construction and non-construction worksites.

    Because of the extreme lowering of the relevant thresholds, even industries that do not consider themselves to be lead-based should be aware of this regulation. For example, any workplaces working with brass (of which lead is a component) or containing brass fixtures may want to examine whether their activities (such as polishing brass) would now be covered by the regulation.

    Although no opposition groups debated the hazards of lead, extensive testimony from opposition groups criticized the cost estimates in the Standardized Regulatory Impact Assessment (SRIA) as grossly inaccurate. In addition, strong opposition from battery manufacturers focused on the unrealistic nature of Cal/OSHA’s implementation timeline, noting that their facilities would need years to come into compliance given the time required to obtain permits and complete construction.

    Notably, the Standards Board and staff did acknowledge these implementation timing concerns, and the rulemaking took the rare step of asking the Office of Administrative Law to delay its approval by six months, which will functionally delay enforcement until January 2025.

    The Board adopted amendments to title 8, California Code of Regulations (CCR), section 1532.1 of the Construction Safety Orders (CSO) and sections 5155 and 5198 of the General Industry Safety Orders (GISO).

  • Solana Beach Pharmaceutical Company Resolves Kickback Case for $750K
    on February 16, 2024 at 12:28 PM

    A California pharmaceutical company has agreed to pay $750,000 to resolve allegations that it violated the False Claims Act by causing the submission of claims for certain opioids in violation of the federal Anti-Kickback Statute.

    From Dec. 1, 2015, through Aug. 31, 2016, Sentynl Therapeutics Inc., of Solana Beach, California, a specialty pharmaceutical company, marketed and sold prescription opioids Abstral and Levorphanol Tartrate (Levorphanol).

    The settlement resolves allegations that, during the relevant time period, Sentynl knowingly caused the submission of claims for Abstral and Levorphanol medications to Medicare in violation of the federal Anti-Kickback Statute.

    These allegedly false claims resulted from Sentynl’s alleged indirect payment of kickbacks to a physician. Specifically, the United States contends that Sentynl hired the girlfriend of a physician who was a top prescriber of Transmucosal Immediate Release Fentanyl (TIRF) medications to act as a sales representative in South Florida - the same region in which the physician practiced.

    Sentynl hired, employed, and made salary and bonus payments to the physician’s girlfriend to induce the physician to prescribe its Abstral and Levorphanol medications.

    "Pharmaceutical companies that sold opioids are being held accountable for improper inducements offered to prescribers," FBI - Newark Special Agent in Charge James E. Dennehy said. The Newark FBI and our law enforcement partners will continue our pursuit of those who continue to believe the rules don’t apply to them."

    "Pharmaceutical companies are not exempt from their responsibilities to operate within the confines of the law," Special Agent in Charge Cheryl Ortiz of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s New Jersey Field Division said. "We are glad our diversion investigators were able to assist efforts to bring this matter to a resolution."

    "Some violations of the Anti-Kickback Statute, like those alleged here, can induce physicians’ imprudent prescribing of controlled substances," stated Special Agent in Charge Naomi Gruchacz with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General. "Individuals and entities that participate in the federal health care system are required to obey the laws meant to preserve the integrity of program funds and the provision of appropriate, quality services to patients."

    U.S. Attorney Sellinger credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge James E. Dennehy in Newark; investigators of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Cheryl Ortiz; special agents of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Naomi Gruchacz, with the investigation leading to the settlement.

    The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Susan J. Pappy of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, District of New Jersey’s Health Care Fraud Unit and Robert L. Toll of the Office’s Opioid Abuse Prevention and Enforcement Unit, and Trial Attorney Douglas J. Rosenthal of the Department of Justice’s Civil Division, Commercial Litigation Branch (Fraud Section).

    The government’s pursuit of this matter illustrates its efforts to combat healthcare fraud. One of the strongest tools in this effort is the False Claims Act. Tips and complaints from all sources about potential fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement can be reported to the Department of Health and Human Services, at 800-HHS-TIPS (800-447-8477).

    The claims resolved by the settlement are allegations only and there has been no determination of liability.

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