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Governor Brown has appointed of Debra Lee and Eric Berg as the newest Cal/OSHA Deputy Chiefs. The appointments build on Lee and Berg’s combined 39 years of experience working with Cal/OSHA to strengthen workplace health and safety.

"Governor Brown appointed two of the most experienced and informed Cal/OSHA employees to help guide the division into the future," said DIR Director Christine Baker. Cal/OSHA, officially known as the Division of Occupational Safety and Health, is a division of DIR.

As Deputy Chief of Safety with Cal/OSHA’s Enforcement Branch, Debra Lee will oversee investigations and inspections of California’s worksites. Her duties will include managing Cal/OSHA’s regular enforcement offices statewide, as well as the specialized Mining and Tunneling, High Hazard and Labor Enforcement Task Force units.

As Deputy Chief of Health, Eric Berg will manage Cal/OSHA’s research and standards activities, including the development of health and safety regulations. He will also oversee Cal/OSHA’s Medical and Toxicology, Asbestos and Carcinogen and Crane units.

The new appointees will serve under the general direction of Cal/OSHA Chief Juliann Sum. "I have worked closely with both Debra Lee and Eric Berg, and have complete confidence in their ability to carry out our critical responsibilities in enforcement, research and standards," said Chief Sum.

Debra Lee originally joined Cal/OSHA as an industrial hygienist with the High Hazard Unit in 1994. She was promoted several times, most recently to Acting Deputy Chief of Field Enforcement in April 2015. Lee holds a bachelor’s degree in health science from Cal State University Northridge and knew at an early age that she wanted a career protecting working people. She is inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s quote, "All labor has dignity."

Eric Berg also started his career with Cal/OSHA as an industrial hygienist in 1997. He has served as a safety engineer in multiple units, and was promoted to Acting Deputy Chief of Research and Standards in April 2015. Berg holds a master’s degree in environmental health engineering from University of California, Berkeley, and a bachelor’s in civil engineering from Cal State University Chico. He is also fluent in the Spanish language ...
/ 2015 News, Daily News
A father and son were convicted of embezzling over $300,000 from employee wages on public works jobs. Daniel Jacob Siapin, 60, and his son Gabriel Daniel Siapin, 37, both of La Habra Heights, pleaded guilty to a court offer of 28 felony counts of taking and receiving a portion of worker’s wage on public works, and 32 felony counts of recording a false and forged instrument with a sentencing enhancement for property loss over $200,000.

At the time of the crime, Daniel Siapin owned Siapin Horticulture, a landscaping, irrigation, and maintenance company, which he ran with his son Gabriel Siapin.

Daniel Siapin’s California state contractor’s license was revoked by the court. Daniel Siapin and Gabriel Siapin are each expected to sentenced to 90 days in jail, three years formal probation, ordered to pay over $227,000 in restitution, and are prohibited from working on any other public works contracts at their sentencing on April 11, 2016, at 9:00 a.m. in Department C-57, Central Justice Center, Santa Ana.

The defendants violated the law on a public works job, which requires a minimum "prevailing wage" be paid to workers. Prevailing wage consists of a base salary and "fringe benefits," or benefits in addition to base pay such as vacation pay and pension money. Fringe benefits must be paid directly to the worker or may be put into a fund for later withdrawal by the worker if they do not work a full 40 hours a week.

In June 2010, both Daniel and Gabriel Siapin met with employees and offered to contract with a third party administrator to hold the employees’ fringe benefits in a savings account. However they failed to deposit over $300,000 in employee fringe benefits into the savings account from work performed in Orange County and other Southern California counties. The defendants instead embezzled the money meant for employee fringe benefits.

"Prevailing wage laws ensure that workers on public works projects are paid a just day's pay for a hard day's work, and those who violate those laws engage in wage theft," said Labor Commissioner Julie A. Su. "Wage theft is a crime and my office is working with District Attorneys across the State to investigate and prosecute these cases. I am proud of and grateful for our collaboration with the Orange County District Attorney to bring scofflaw employers to justice." ...
/ 2015 News, Daily News
A port trucking firm in Carson has been ordered to turn over nearly $7 million in back pay to 38 drivers, the latest in a series of recent wins for port drivers and the Teamsters union that has been trying to organize them.

The state Labor Commissioner's Office ruled this month that the drivers at Pacific 9 Transportation were improperly treated as independent contractors rather than as employees. It ordered the company to compensate drivers for illegal paycheck deductions, back wages and legal costs, payouts that amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars for some.

According to the report in the Los Angeles Times, the decision affects just a fraction of the nearly 12,000 drivers who haul cargo at the local ports. But the order shows that labor organizers are having some success in using employee classification claims to push trucking firms to treat drivers as employees - who, unlike contractors, are allowed to unionize.

Disputes between trucking companies and port truck drivers have become common in recent years, but typically state labor regulators handle classification complaints individually or in small groups. But the recent case involving Pacific 9 - as well as two others involving trucking firms - was heard en masse, with the Labor Commissioner's Office ruling in favor of dozens of drivers at once. These larger actions could spark an acceleration in the number of claims against trucking firms at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, most of which say their workers are independent contractors, according to labor organizers.

"There are hundreds of trucking companies at the ports, and the vast majority are misclassifying drivers," said Julie Gutman Dickinson, an attorney who has represented the Teamsters union and is on the advisory board of the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy, a labor-backed advocacy group that represented drivers in the Pacific 9 case.

Labor Commissioner Julie Su said 720 truck drivers have filed complaints with her office since 2012. The office has ruled in three cases affecting more than 100 drivers since July. "In this industry, we have found misclassification routinely in the case we've heard," she said.

It is likely that these misclassification situations have an adverse effect on workers' compensation premiums for the trucking industry ...
/ 2015 News, Daily News
Around 52.5 million adults in the US have been diagnosed with some form of arthritis, and this number is expected to grow in coming years, emphasizing the need for new treatments. Arthritis is the most common cause of disability in the US, affecting around 1 in 5 adults. There is no cure for the condition, but there are medications and non-pharmacologic treatments available to help manage symptoms caused by the condition. Now, a new study may have paved the way for just that, revealing how patients with arthritis could be treated using their own "microvesicles."

Researchers say a patient's own microvesicles - small particles released by cells - could help treat arthritis.Microvesicles are tiny, fluid-filled particles - around 0.5-1 micrometer in diameter - that are released by cells in large numbers. While it is known these particles transfer lipids and proteins to other cell types, their role in disease remains unclear.

According to the research team microvesicles released from some white blood cells, such as neutrophils, tend to accrue in the joints of patients with rheumatoid arthritis. But what do these microvesicles do once they reach the joints? This is what the team decided to investigate by analyzing genetically modified mouse models of arthritis and human cartilage cells from patients with the disease.

It is widely believed that cells and other small particles are unable to penetrate cartilage, making delivering therapies to the joints of patients with arthritis very challenging. From their research, however, Prof. Perretti and colleagues found that microvesicles released from neutrophils have the ability to enter cartilage - a discovery that could open the door to novel treatment strategies for arthritis. Their findings are published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

The team says further studies are needed to determine the potential of translating their findings into a new therapeutic approach for arthritis. "Our study indicates that these vesicles could be a novel form of therapeutic strategy for patients suffering from cartilage damage due to a range of diseases, including osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and trauma. Treating patients with their own vesicles may only require a day in hospital, and the vesicles could even be 'fortified' with other therapeutic agents, for example, omega-3 fatty acids or other small molecules." ...
/ 2015 News, Daily News
The Division of Workers' Compensation has posted an adjustment to the pathology and clinical laboratory section of the Official Medical Fee Schedule to conform to the 2016 changes in the Medicare payment system, as required by Labor Code section 5307.1.

The update includes all fee schedule changes identified in Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Change Request (CR) number CR 9465, which can be accessed on the CMS website.

The 2016 update includes significant changes to the codes and rules related to drug testing. The Administrative Director’s order adopts the Medicare 2016 Clinical Laboratory Fee Schedule and the "Calendar Year (CY) 2016 Clinical Laboratory Fee Schedule (CLFS) Final Determinations" document. The order is effective for services rendered on or after Jan. 1, 2016 and can be found on the DWC website .

Some analysts believe the rate changes for lab testing could shave as much as 91% off the price of some tests. Current coding for testing for drugs of abuse relies on a structure of "screening" (known as "presumptive" testing) followed by "confirmation" to confirm the results of the screening tests and quantitative or "definitive" testing that identifies the specific drug and quantity in the patient. CMS was concern about the potential for overpayment when billing for each individual drug test rather than a single code that pays the same amount regardless of the number of drugs that are being tested.

Thus in 2014 CMS created alphanumeric G codes to replace the 2014 CPT codes that were deleted for 2015. In Jul y 2015, CMS proposed to delete all current drug testing G codes, and continue to not recognize the new AMA CPT codes, and create a single G code for presumptive testing and a single G code for definitive testing. After public comment the final rule creates three G codes for presumptive testing and for definitive drug testing, it will create four tiered G codes. The revised fee schedule will continue to not recognize the AMA CPT codes 80300 - 80377 ...
/ 2015 News, Daily News
Mia Chang, 51, former insurance broker and owner of Lotte Insurance Services, collected full payment for an annual workers' compensation insurance policy and pocketed a majority of the victim's premium, forwarding only a small amount to the insurer and leaving the business owner without coverage and at considerable financial risk. Lotte Insurance Services was located at Wilshire Center at 3470 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, 90010.

After receiving a letter from a collection agency for nonpayment of premium, the victim contacted Chang who assured him there had been an error, that he was still insured and issued him a bogus insurance certificate.

The victim remained suspicious, contacted the insurance company and discovered he had been uninsured for several months. The victim contacted Chang and asked her to return the money, but she ignored his request and shortly after, closed her business and disappeared.

Unaware of the resources available to help him, the victim did not file a complaint with the California Department of Insurance until two years after the premium theft was discovered. By the time the victim requested help, the department had already revoked Chang's license and she was convicted of grand theft for stealing premiums from five businesses and one individual. The department launched a new investigation and a warrant for Chang's arrest was issued, which she evaded for over three years until investigators located and arrested her in La Quinta in June 2015.

Chang pleaded no contest and was sentenced to three years formal probation and 200 hours of community service.Just moments after being sentenced Chang returned $19,218 in stolen premiums with interest to the owner of a sizable construction company. This case was prosecuted by the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office ...
/ 2015 News, Daily News
Photocopy services are required to be registered and bonded under Business and Professions Code sections 22450 and 22455. However section 22451(b) exempts "[a]member of the State Bar or his or her employees, agents, or independent contractors" from the registration requirements. This WCAB en banc case considered a photocopy lien claimant's contention that it was exempt from being registered and bonded.

Rogelio Cornejo through his attorney Jonathan C. Rosen, Esq., of the JCR Law Group, Inc., filed two Applications for Adjudication of Claim. Both were jointly settled by a compromise and release agreement. As part of the agreement, defendant agreed to "pay, adjust or litigate any and all liens filed according to Labor Code § 4903.5, reserving any and all-defenses, with the WCAB retaining jurisdiction in the event of a dispute."

Western Imaging Services (WIS) filed a lien claim for "copy service" in one of the cases in the amount of $1,585.56. At the time WIS was not registered and bonded, but was by the time the case was decided. The WCJ disallowed the lien claim of WIS based upon his finding that "Business and Professions Code Section 22451 did not exempt lien claimant Western Imaging Services from registration and bonding pursuant to Sections 22450 and 22455."

The WCAB reversed in the en banc decision of Cornejo v. Younique Cafe, Inc., Zenith Insurance.

The WCAB held that the Business and Professions Code requirements by its own terms does not apply to a lien claimant seeking to recover copy service fees that are medical-legal expenses under Labor Code section 4620(a) when the lien claimant is an agent and/or independent contractor of a member of the State Bar at the time the documents are photocopied.

When a lien claimant makes an unrebutted prima facie showing that it is an agent and/or independent contractor of a member of the State Bar at the time the documents are photocopied, proof of compliance with the registration and bonding provisions of Business and Professions Code sections 22450 and 22455 is not required ...
/ 2015 News, Daily News
Cal/OSHA has cited Dignity Health, operator of Northridge Hospital Medical Center, for safety and health violations that exposed the hospital's 1,700 employees to hazards . These include failure to record information in 18 cases where hospital workers were stuck with needles, and failure to provide closable containers in emergency rooms that would keep biohazard waste from spilling.

Cal/OSHA ’s Van Nuys office opened an investigation in June after receiving a complaint. Investigators aided by Cal/OSHA’s medical unit found 13 health code violations.

There were four serious violations of the bloodborne pathogens standard, which requires employers to protect workers from coming into contact with blood or other disease carrying body fluids. A serious violation is cited when there is a realistic possibility that death or serious harm could result from the actual hazardous condition. In this case, the serious violations included :

1) Failure to gather information required by the Sharps injury log, such as type and brand of needles involved in the 18 injury cases. The employer had no procedure in place to review the log, or to solicit required input from employees about factors contributing to contaminated needle injuries. Well kept injury logs, and their regular review, help to identify the causes of injuries and prevent future occurrences.
2) Failure to provide containers that would prevent spillage or protrusion of contaminated needles in emergency treatment and trauma rooms. Additionally, the employer did not provide readily accessible hand washing facilities for emergency room employees.
3) Failure to provide appropriate sizes of gloves for employees using the medication cart in the trauma room and the after-hours intake area.

Cal/OSHA also issued eight general and regulatory violations because Dignity Health kept broken gurneys in the working area, skipped essential elements of training employees in safe patient handling, and failed to take corrective action after accidents occurred. Fines for all violations total $44,125 ...
/ 2015 News, Daily News
A San Diego grand jury has indicted the owners of Good Neighbor Services as well as six accomplices for a massive, ongoing insurance fraud and tax evasion scheme. Two defendants, Hyok "Steven" and Woo "Stephanie" Kwon, own a janitorial company that provides cleaning staff to major hotels across San Diego, Los Angeles and Riverside Counties, including The Hotel Del Coronado, Loews Coronado, La Costa Resort and Spa, The Grand Del Marin La Jolla, L'Auberge Del Mar, The Ritz Carlton, Four Seasons, Hilton and Hyatt hotel chains.

The Kwons have been indicted on 11 counts of workers' compensation premium fraud, 18 counts of payroll tax evasion and one count of extortion. The investigation uncovered a methodical and systematic shell game involving six straw owners. These straw owners were used to conceal the existence of hundreds of hotel workers to avoid paying millions of dollars in insurance premiums and payroll taxes. If convicted of all charges, they each face up to 31 years in prison.

Six co-defendants have also been charged with workers' compensation premium fraud and tax evasion. They are Melquiades Brizuela Jr, Manuel Rodriguez, Veronica Lucas Cuin, Aimee Sunmyung Kwon, Daniel Kwon and Hyun Bung Chae for their involvement in the scheme. They face sentences between six and eight years in prison.

For nearly a decade, Good Neighbor Services allegedly concealed their real payroll information in order to fraudulently obtain workers' compensation insurance from multiple companies including Travelers, Norguard, AIG, Southern Insurance, Everest National, Preferred Employers, State Compensation Insurance Fund and Employers Compensation Insurance. In doing this, the company avoided paying more than $3.6 million in insurance premiums and evaded paying over $3.3 million in payroll taxes.

Employees who were interviewed said they were paid with checks bearing the name of businesses other than Good Neighbor Services throughout the course of their employment,even though they wore uniforms with the Good Neighbor Services' logo and identified the Kwons as the owners. The employees also said they did not receive overtime pay or workers' compensation benefits when they were injured on the job, and they feared retaliation if they reported their injuries. One employee said she had to repeatedly ask for medical attention for her injury. When she was finally sent to a doctor, she found out later the Kwons sent her to a dentist rather than a physician ...
/ 2015 News, Daily News
A $23.2 million settlement has been reached by the California Department of Insurance and whistleblowers with pharmaceutical company Warner Chilcott to resolve a lawsuit alleging drug marketing fraud in violation of state law. (In 2013, Actavis announced the acquisition of Warner Chilcott creating an $11 billion leading specialty pharmaceutical company with over $3 billion in pro forma sales.) The settlement resolves allegations filed by three former Warner Chilcott employees. The lawsuit alleged that Warner Chilcott executives violated the California Insurance Code False Claims Act, which prohibits anyone from defrauding private insurance companies by using kickbacks or other inducements to procure or steer clients or patients.

The former Warner Chilcott employees alleged the company knowingly used illegal inducements to influence physician decisions, including paying kickbacks and falsifying prior authorization forms to increase the number of prescriptions written for several Warner Chilcott medications. Whistleblowers alleged Warner Chilcott management funneled kickbacks and inducements to physicians under the guise of physician education, often hosting events with little or no education content at high-end hotels and spas-all in an effort to encourage physicians to increase the number of prescriptions written for Warner Chilcott medications.

Of the $23.2 million state settlement, California will receive $11.8 million, which is to be used for enhanced insurance fraud investigation and prevention efforts.

In addition to the allegations of violating California law, a separate lawsuit was filed in federal court in Massachusetts alleging Warner Chilcott violated the Federal False Claims Act. The U.S. Department of Justice announced a settlement of the federal allegations on October 29, in which Warner Chilcott pleaded guilty to healthcare fraud and agreed to pay $125 million to resolve both federal civil and criminal liability for alleged activities that violated the federal anti-kickback and HIPAA statutes, and for false claims submitted to Medicare and Medicaid ...
/ 2015 News, Daily News
Urgent Nurses Resources Inc., is a nursing registry. It provides hospitals with temporary nurses at hospitals’ requests.

After Urgent receives a hospital’s request for a temporary nurse, it offers certain nurses in its registry, who have been preapproved by the hospital, the requested assignment. The nurses are free to reject the assignment without explanation or penalty. Once a nurse accepts an assignment, Urgent reviews with the nurse a checklist provided by the hospital of the assignment’s duties. If the nurse can perform the duties, the nurse reports to the hospital. The nurse provides his or her own uniform, shoes, stethoscope, watch, and occasionally other small supplies (such as pens and pen lights) for the assignment, but does not provide any other equipment. The nurse completes the assignment, usually a shift, under the supervision of hospital. Once the nurse completes the assignment, the hospital pays Urgent for the nurse’s and Urgent’s services. Urgent later distributes the nurse’s portion of the payment to the nurse.

Urgent allows nurses in its registry to choose whether to be designated as an employee or independent contractor. To be classified as an independent contractor, Urgent requires, in part, that the nurses sign an independent contractor agreement and provide their own liability insurance. These nurses receive Internal Revenue Service forms 1099 (1099 Nurses).

Urgent was audited by State Fund at the end of 2007 and 2008. State Fund determined Urgent owed it premiums for the 1099 Nurses. Urgent disagreed and refused to pay. State Fund sued Urgent for the premiums. The trial court held the 1099 Nurses were independent contractors and consequently Urgent did not owe State Fund for the 1099 Nurses’ premiums. State Fund appealed. The trial court was affirmed in the unpublished case of SCIF v Urgent Nurses Resources Inc.

Urgent presented substantial evidence the 1099 Nurses were independent contractors under the Borello factors. (S. G. Borello & Sons, Inc. v. Department of Industrial Relations (1989) 48 Cal.3d 341, 349), It is of note other courts have similarly decided that nursing registries are agents for independent contractor nurses. For example, in Avchen v. Kiddoo, the court reasoned that nursing registries role was that of a commercial matchmaker, where a commissioned go-between attempts to put buyers and seller of goods and services in contact with each other and found that nursing registries are not employers ...
/ 2015 News, Daily News
The Division of Workers’ Compensation (DWC) is announcing the decrease of the mileage rate for medical and medical - legal travel expenses by three and one - half cents - down from 57.5 to 54.0 cents per mile effective January 1, 2016. This rate must be paid for travel on or after January 1, 2016 regardless of the date of injury.

Labor Code section 4600, in conjunction with Government Code section 19820 and the Department of Personnel Administration regulations, establishes the rate payable for mileage reimbursement for medical and medical - legal expenses and ties it to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

IRS Bulletin Number IR - 2015 - 137 dated December 17, 2015 announced the rate decrease. The IRS standard mileage rate for business is based on an annual study of the fixed and variable costs of operating an automobile.

The updated mileage reimbursement form is posted on the DWC website ...
/ 2015 News, Daily News
The Department of Industrial Relations released its 2015 Legislative Digest which summarizes new laws and vetoed bills relevant to DIR and its divisions.

Most of the chaptered bills are slated to take effect on January 1 , 2016. Highlights of the chaptered bills include:

1) SB 358 mandates that women be paid equally for work that is substantially similar to the work of their male colleagues . It also prohibits discrimination or retaliation of employees who discuss their wages and those of their male colleagues .
2) SB 579 gives workers more flexibility to take job - protected leave to address child care issues, a schoo l emergency or to enroll or re - enroll a child in school.
3) AB 970 authorizes the Labor Commissioner’s office to issue citations for violations of local minimum wage laws and failure to reimburse employees for unpaid business expenses.
4) AB 1124 requires the Division of Workers’ Compensation to establish a prescription drug formulary for the California workers’ compensation system.
5) AB 1513 clarifies pay requirements for piece - rate workers’ mandated rest and recovery breaks and other nonproductive time, and addresses back liability by providing employers the opportunity, within a specified period, to make back wage payment s for rest and recovery breaks and other nonproductive time in exchange for relief from statutory penalties ...
/ 2015 News, Daily News
Detectives with the California Department of Insurance arrested nine individuals involved in a complex scheme allegedly targeting more than 230 workers' compensation insurers and self-insured employers. Siblings Francisco Javier Gomez, Jr., 32, and Angela Rehmann, 38, owners of G&G Interpreting Services, allegedly fraudulently billed more than $24.6 million for interpreting services for injured workers with Latino surnames. G&G Interpreting Services changed their company name to American Liberty Interpreting in August 2012. The company is family owned and operated. Francisco Javier Gomez, Jr., Angela Rehmann, Cynthia Gomez, Gloria Sandoval, Arnulfo Reyes III, Crystal Garcia, and Jamilett Ortega are related.

According to Department of Insurance detectives, over a four year period G&G Interpreting allegedly billed for translation services provided to clinics where the majority of the clinic staff spoke Spanish and there was no need for translation services. In other cases, the company billed for services to clinics where 13 treating physicians spoke fluent Spanish-and again-there was no need for translation.

G&G Interpreting had a substantial operation providing Spanish-language interpreting services across the Los Angeles Basin and Southern California for injured workers receiving healthcare services through the workers' compensation system. Billing occurred in San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, Orange, Los Angeles, Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties.

The investigation revealed that 83,411 interpreting service events exceeded 12 hours in a day-more hours than the clinics were actually open. Detectives also discovered that G&G Interpreting billed workers' compensation insurers more than $422,000 for the services of an interpreter who was actually incarcerated in state prison during the time the company claimed she was providing interpreting services; in fact, she is still in state prison.

The arrest operation was conducted by the Department of Insurance with assistance from the California Highway Patrol and the Riverside County District Attorney's Office and San Bernardino District Attorney's Office. The case is being prosecuted by the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office. Officials carried out a morning raid on a North Hollywood home, which is one of the nine sites investigators arrested suspected conspirators. As the investigation continues, the California Department of Insurance said they need the public's help to stop similar schemes.

"For example, if an interpreter does show up in the room in a medical clinic as a part of your workers' compensation case and you don't need one, we urge you to call the California Department of Insurance," Jones said.

Investigators are trying to determine whether the owners of G&G, Angela Rehman and her brother Francisco Gomez, opened a new operation to hide their activities.This investigation is ongoing ...
/ 2015 News, Daily News
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's proposed opioid prescribing guideline for chronic pain is a step toward improving patient safety, but it falls short when addressing long-term users, reports a story in Business Insurance.

The voluntary guideline, released Monday along with a Federal Register notice of a 30-day comment period on the proposal, is aimed at primary care providers who prescribe opioids for "chronic pain outside of active cancer treatment, palliative care and end-of-life care." With health care providers writing millions of prescriptions for opioid pain relievers in 2012, the CDC's proposal attempts to address the epidemic. Workers compensation is not immune, as many industry professionals say opioid abuse is the biggest issue they face.

"It's really important that CDC take the lead on opioid guidelines," said Michael Gavin, Duluth, Georgia-based president of medical cost management company PRIUM. "It's the right agency to do it. They have the voice, they have the bully pulpit and they should have the credibility." Recommendations in the proposal cover when to initiate or continue opioids for chronic pain; how to select the drugs, dosage and duration; and how to assess the risks of use.

Mr. Gavin said he's "concerned that there's no guidance on weaning and tapering."

"The guidelines don't appear to be particularly useful for patients already on chronic opioid therapy," he said, adding that it's unclear whether the proposal would influence the workers comp industry's thinking about legacy chronic pain claims.

More in-depth prescribing guidelines devised by organizations such as the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM) and Washington State already are used in workers comp. But the industry still can benefit from the CDC guideline, which will help "general practitioners gain a level of insight and education that they might have been missing before," Mr. Gavin said ...
/ 2015 News, Daily News
Sheik Zahid Ali was injured in 2006, after having driven a tractor-trailer rig filled with latex paint from Hayward, California to Spokane, Washington. While unloading the trailer a pressurized cap came off the trailer causing serious injury. The truck was owned by Ali’s Trucking; the trailer was owned by Trimac who was insured by Lexington Insurance Company. The injury was industrial. The significant issue was the claim of an employment relationship with Trimac.

Trimac is a multi-national corporation that specializes in transporting liquid latex-based products from producer to buyer. To transport its products, Trimac used approximately four tractors it owned driven by about six employee-drivers and about 14 tractors leased to it by about 32 "independent contractors." One such owner/operator was Ali’s Trucking, a business owned by Intaz Ali. Intaz owned two tractors he had purchased from Trimac. He leased the tractors back to Trimac for its business, sometimes driving one himself and using other drivers. Ali’s Trucking had no business premises apart from Trimac’s Hayward location, where Ali’s Trucking kept its tractors. Ali’s Trucking entered into a contract with Trimac, entitled "Lease Agreement Independent Contractor" (Lease Agreement) which designates Trimac as "Carrier" and Ali’s Trucking as "Independent Contractor."

However the relationships among Trimac, Ali’s Trucking and Sheik operated quite differently in practice from the way their relationships are outlined in these contracts. Most significantly was the exercise of control over drivers. Although the Lease Agreement purported to place responsibility on the Independent Contractor for "selecting, hiring, firing, supervising, training, setting wages and working conditions" for their drivers and employees. But the way in which the operation actually worked reflects substantial Trimac involvement.

At the conclusion of a hearing on the employment issue, it was found that that Sheik Zahid Ali was an employee of Trimac. It was further found that "[t]he legal relationship between Sheik Ali, Ali’s Trucking and Trimac was one of joint employment. Both employers had the right to direct and control Sheik Ali’s activities while he was at work on the joint enterprise of transporting materials for Trimac and Ali’s Trucking and that Trimac not only had the right to control, it affirmatively exercised that control. Trimac appealed this finding.

The WCAB and the Court of Appeal affirmed in the unpublished case of Lexington Insurance Co. v. WCAB (Ali).

The seminal case of Borello and Sons, Inc. v. DIR (1989) 48 Cal.3d 341 acknowledged that the right to control work details is the primary consideration. Ultimately, Lexington’s arguments must fail because it has fallen short of demonstrating that the decision is unsupported by substantial evidence or that, as a matter of law, all commercial truck drivers whom a transportation company designates as "independent contractors" are necessarily so ...
/ 2015 News, Daily News
The Division of Workers’ Compensation has added a new form to give users of the JET File system greater flexibility .

JET File is an electronic filing method that transmits DWC forms and attachments using secure State of California servers. While JET File allows users to bypass paper handling processes in DWC district offices, it has been limited to the six most commonly filed forms since its debut in 2011.

The new Unstructured Form adds the ability to file petitions, requests, answers and other frequently filed court documents, including the Request for Withdrawal of Lien and the Petition for Reconsideration. The complete list is on the JET File Unstructured Form Document titles list on DWC’s website.

DWC has tested and certified the new Unstructured Form for participating JET File vendors . Customers should contact their vendor for further information.

DWC has also updated the Declaration of Readiness for Expedited Hearing form to capture the stated reasons for the requested trial.

Electronic filing is the fastest way to get documents into EAMS , DWC’s electronic case management system for the workers’ compensation courts. In addition to JET File, e-forms are also available. Information on both methods is posted on DWC’s website ...
/ 2015 News, Daily News
An Ontario man was sentenced to 3 years’ probation and 120 days in jail for committing workers’ compensation insurance fraud and stealing wages from his workers, both felonies. Miguel Contreras, 36, the former owner of Ontario-based National Drywall, Inc., was also ordered to pay his insurance carrier $262,535 in underpaid workers’ compensation insurance premiums.

The conviction stems from a 2011 project in which Contreras was awarded the contract to install drywall at Joe Baca Middle School in Colton. "Because this was a ‘Public Works’ project, Contreras was required to pay his employees the current prevailing wage," said the prosecutor in charge of the case. "However, he employed two schemes to avoid doing so."

One method required some of his workers to "kick back" a portion of their pay on a weekly basis in order to keep their jobs. The other required some workers to alter their time cards to falsely indicate that their primary job duties included "stocking/scrapping," which was paid at a much lower prevailing wage, when in fact they were framing and hanging drywall, which was paid at a much higher prevailing wage.

While this theft of wages was occurring, National Drywall submitted false payroll reports to its workers’ compensation insurance carrier, ICW Group, which resulted in a fraudulent reduction of its insurance premium.Contreras was originally arrested on Oct. 23, 2014. A year later, on Oct. 23, 2015, Contreras entered pleas to workers’ compensation insurance fraud, and theft of prevailing wages, and admitted his conduct was subject to California’s white collar crime enhancement.

In March 2015, the Little Hoover Commission issued a report highlighting the magnitude of California’s underground economy problem. An underground economy is one that includes activities that businesses try to hide from government licensing, regulatory, tax and law enforcement agencies, and is subsidized by businesses that otherwise would be legal operators but who are breaking the law to gain a leg up on their competition. The Little Hoover Commission believes California’s underground economy is costing the State upwards of $10 billion in annual tax revenue, money that could be used for funding education, law enforcement, and infrastructure improvements, or reducing taxes and insurance premiums for Californians who play by the rules.

According to District Attorney the theft of prevailing wages and workers’ compensation premium fraud that took place in this case are the types of illegal activity that feed California’s underground economy ...
/ 2015 News, Daily News
The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently referred to opioid abuse - including prescription painkillers - as "a growing epidemic that is gripping our country." And increasingly, that grip includes the American workplace.

A new survey, the first of its kind, conducted by the National Safety Council (NSC), along with Indiana's attorney general, concluded that 80 percent of Indiana employers have been impacted by prescription drug misuse and abuse by employees. Deborah Hersman, president and CEO of the NSC, told CNBC that these issues are not just limited to Indiana. "We would expect very similar results in many states," Hersman said. "This is not a local problem; this is a national problem, and it's very important for employers to understand this is an issue they need to pay attention to and not put their head in the sand." Millions of Americans are addicted to opioids, and the rate of death from addiction has tripled since 2010.

Though research is limited as to the exact economic costs of opioid abuse, the story on CNBC says that the most recent estimates suggest that the economic annual burden is upward of $60 billion, with nearly half of that attributable to workplace costs, such as productivity loss. "If an employee is taking a prescription painkiller, their cost on worker's comp goes up four times, and 25 percent of all prescription costs in workers comp are opioid painkillers," Hersman told CNBC.

Moreover, while only about half of employers have a written policy on using prescription drugs, according to the survey, nearly two-thirds believe prescription pills, like Vicodin and Percocet, cause more problems than illegal drugs.

To try to deal with the issue, the NSC recommends that employers expand drug testing to include detection of opioid painkillers. The survey found that while 87 percent of employers conduct drug testing, only about 52 percent test for synthetic opioids. "Beyond the loss of productivity, prescription abuse can cause impairment, injury and may lead employees to bad choices, such as theft or embezzlement from the employer," Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that non-medical use of prescription painkillers costs health insurers up to $72.5 billion annually in direct health-care costs ...
/ 2015 News, Daily News
Cal/OSHA announced that the owner/operator of California’s Great America theme park in Santa Clara was at fault for a roller coaster accident that critically injured a ride mechanic on June 12.

Robert Hooks , 66, suffered serious injuries when he was s truck by the Flight Deck ride while retrieving a cell phone in a restricted area. Cal/OSHA learned that Cedar Fair Southwest, the amusement park owner/operator, failed to have safety protocols in place to ensure that the roller coaster was shut down prior to retrieving lost articles near it , and also failed to effectively train workers to shut down the ride to retrieve lost articles. The accident happened shortly after 8 p.m. that night as the train was returning to the station. A park patron on the ride also suffered a hand injury.

"Employers are required to maintain a comprehensive injury and illness prevention program that addresses all safety hazards," said Cal/OSHA Chief Julian n Sum. "Cedar Fair Southwest 's lack of safety protocols and training for employees contributed to this serious workplace accident."

Cal/OSHA issued citations with penalties totaling $70,200 for eight workplace safety violations, including five serious in nature, two of them directly related the accident . A serious violation is cited when there is a realistic possibility that death or serious harm could result from the actual hazardous condition. A willful violation is cited when the employer is aware of the law and violates it nevertheless, or when the employer is aware of the hazardous condition and takes no reasonable steps to address it. The park was issued six violations in the past 10 years, one of which was serious, according to online federal Department of Labor records.

Great America issued the following statement in response to the charges: "On Monday, December 14 California's Great America received six OSHA citations related to events occurring at the park earlier this year. The safety of all guests and associates is our highest priority. It is our intent to appeal each of the citations that have been put forward." ...
/ 2015 News, Daily News