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Lead plaintiff Amanda Frlekin sued Apple Inc., the Cupertino-based technology giant in 2013, claiming it illegally withheld pay from workers who had to spend five to 20 minutes on average waiting for managers and security officers to search their bags and verify their Apple devices before they could leave for lunch breaks or at the end of shifts.

In 2015, Senior U.S. District Judge William Alsup granted summary judgment in favor of Apple, finding that because store employees chose to bring bags and Apple devices to work, they could not prove the bag checks were mandatory. He found Apple could have imposed an even stricter policy by banning workers from bringing bags or personal Apple devices to stores. This ruling gave rise to the decision by the California Supreme Court, and subsequent reversal of the summary judgment by the 9th Circuit in September 2020.

In a unanimous February 13, 2020 decision, the California Supreme Court in the case of Frlekin v. Apple Inc., held that the time spent by employees waiting for and undergoing security checks of bags and other personal items is compensable time under California law, even when the policy only applies to employees who choose to bring personal items to work.

Over the last several years, the question of whether the time employees spent having their bags checked at work is compensable has arisen in several different contexts, in California and across the country:

In late 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court in Integrity Staffing Solutions, Inc. v. Busk (135 S. Ct. 513, 574 US 27, 190 L. Ed. 2d 410) held that security checks are not compensable time under federal law because they are not part of the actual workday.

In California, employees in most industries must be paid for the time they are subject to the control of their employer, not just the time spent doing work. This is so because, since 1947, California has specifically departed from federal law and has provided greater protection to working employees.

This month, Apple has inched closer to ending more than eight years of litigation over claims it owes thousands of its retail employees in California for time spent undergoing security checks of their personal belongings.

Judgle Alsup granted preliminary approval to a $29.9 million settlement in an eight-page order issued Tuesday night.

Defendant Apple, Inc. employed settlement class members in its 52 retail stores in California. The total settlement is settlement worth $29.9 million A net of $18,895,333 will go to the class of 14,683 workers. Separately, Apple will pay $757,000 to cover the employer’s share of the payroll taxes owed on the wage portion of the settlement fund. Attorney fees and other costs will be separately decided.

Class attorney Lee Shalov of Mclaughlin and Stern in New York called it "the largest reported settlement in a security-search case in California." ...
/ 2021 News, Daily News
COVID-19 vaccine mandates have put some vital U.S health and safety institutions in a tough spot after cutting personnel who didn’t comply.

Overlapping federal mandates for military personnel, state mandates for health care workers, and other private mandates have created an increasingly difficult situation in the face of the omicron variant as numbers continue to surge in some states due to the much greater transmissibility of the variant.

Various states issued vaccine mandates for health care personnel in August, including California; Colorado; Illinois; Maryland; Rhode Island; New Mexico; Washington, D.C.; New York; Maine; Pennsylvania and New Jersey, with more to follow in the months after that.

But as thousands of health care workers faced termination over their refusal to comply, President Biden deployed over 1,000 military doctors, nurses, and medics to cover the shortage in the face of the omicron variant, which may further strain military health care services.

"FEMA is deploying hundreds of ambulances and EMS crews to transport patients," Biden said Monday during a call with the National Governors Association. "We’ve already deployed emergency response teams in Colorado, Michigan, Minnesota, Vermont, New Hampshire, and New Mexico. We’re ready to provide more hospital beds as well."

New York already has recorded 90% capacity in a number of hospitals, halting elective procedures to focus on the surge. The state terminated or furloughed around 32,000 health care workers at nursing homes, hospitals, and other health providers as of Dec. 21, according to data provided to Fox News.

"We have a massive nursing shortage," Eric Smith, the statewide field director for the New York State Nurses Association, told the New York Daily News last month. "We have a vacuum in the double and triple digits all across the New York area."

Massachusetts and New Jersey are among the states seeing spikes. Vaccine mandates in those states also led to hundreds of firings and resignations.

Some governors, such as Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker deployed National Guard members to help support hospitals, but even the Guard has faced its own loss of personnel due to the federal vaccine mandate.

Five governors called on the Pentagon to rescind the vaccine mandate for National Guard members, while Texas Gov. Greg Abbott outright refused to enforce it.

"As Governor of Texas, I am the commander-in-chief of this State’s militia," Abbott wrote in a letter to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin. "In that capacity, on October 4, 2021, I ordered the Adjutant General of Texas to comply with my Executive Order GA-39."

"If unvaccinated guardsmen suffer any adverse consequences within the State of Texas, they will have only President Biden and his Administration to blame," he explained ...
/ 2021 News, Daily News
American jurisprudence on vaccine mandates dates back over 100 years, but the Supreme Court will likely focus on a 40-year-old administrative precedent that is continually under fire to determine if President Joe Biden can require Covid-19 vaccines and testing for large private businesses.

Courthouse News reports that In the wake of a Sixth Circuit reversal last week, the high court has docketed over a dozen emergency applications in just the last two days challenging a federal mandate that would require businesses with over 100 employees to require Covid-19 vaccinations or weekly testing. The test-or-vaccine mandate is enforced through the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and is set to take effect on Jan. 4. Without relief from the court, 84 million workers will be affected.

The court has already seen multiple applications come across its shadow docket concerning state vaccine mandates. So far, it has declined to offer those individuals any relief. What that will mean for the OSHA mandate, however, is still unclear.

"The OSHA ETS and the CMS Interim Final Rule litigation matters, each of which are headed to the Supreme Court now, present a new question as to whether the federal government agencies have exceeded their authority in implementing their respective vaccine-or-test and vaccine requirements," Michelle Strowhiro, a partner at McDermott Will & Emery, said via email. "Therefore, while past decisions may be some indication, it is anyone’s guess how the Supreme Court will come out on this latest challenge."

As the Sixth Circuit determined Friday, one must only read the agency’s name to understand it has this authority and that the vaccine mandate is distinct from August precedent that ended the federal eviction moratorium.

"In comparing this case with Alabama Association, the Fifth Circuit wrote, "But health agencies do not make housing policy, and occupational safety administrators do not make health policy." The Fifth Circuit fails to acknowledge that OSHA stands for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration," a 2-1 majority of the Sixth Circuit wrote Friday.

Ranging from Republican states and conservative organizations to business groups and construction workers, groups challenging the mandate claim that OSHA does not have the authority to mandate vaccines.

"For the vast majority of covered employees, the Covid-19-related risk presented by work is the same risk that arises from human interaction more broadly," Ohio and 26 other states wrote in their brief. "The virus’s ‘potency lies in the fact that it exists everywhere an infected person may be - home, school, or grocery store, to name a few.’ Because it is not an occupational danger, it is not the sort of danger that the Emergency Provision empowers OSHA to address."

The justices will have to decide if OSHA is acting within its authority to mandate vaccines.

"The big issue is whether the Supreme Court will show deference to the agency's determination that this is necessary and that it's an emergency," Lawrence Gostin, a professor at Georgetown Law, said in a phone call.

Specifically, the court could apply the 1984 case Chevron USA Inc. v. Natural Resources Defense Council Inc., which says unless Congress has said otherwise, the courts should defer to agencies where the agency’s interpretation of the law is not unreasonable.

"I think that the court’s new conservative majority, they're flexing their muscles, and even with the well-established precedents, like Roe v. Wade or Chevron, they seem to be fully prepared to take a different path than the court has done for many decades," Gostin said.

"There is some dispute between the circuit courts as to whether OSHA’s actions implicate the major questions doctrine, with the Fifth Circuit applying the doctrine in its order granting a nationwide injunction on enforcement, and the Sixth Circuit more recently finding no applicability in its order dissolving that stay," Strowhiro said.

Another factor to consider when analyzing what the court could do in this case is that multiple justices regularly express their animosity to Chevron. Justice Clarence Thomas did so less than a month ago in a Medicare reimbursement case when he floated overturning the precedent. Justice Neil Gorsuch also seemed skeptical of the precedent implying that the government often uses deference for rules to their advantage.
/ 2021 News, Daily News
Riot Games announced that it has reached a global settlement agreement with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH), California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE), and several private Plaintiffs to resolve the class-action gender discrimination litigation originally initiated as "McCracken vs Riot Games" in 2018.

Riot is headquartered in Los Angeles, California, and has 3,000+ employees in 20+ offices worldwide. The company was founded by Brandon Beck and Marc Merrill in 2006, and is currently led by CEO Nicolo Laurent.

The settlement covers a 2018 class action lawsuit filed by current and former Riot employees in the wake of a Kotaku report detailing systemic sexism and unfair treatment. The suit described an environment where male employees made derogatory sexual comments about female colleagues and passed them over for promotion, creating a company-wide "unwritten policy and practice of preferring men to women in the hiring, promotion, and compensation of its employees."

Under the proposed consent decree, Riot will pay over $100 million to remedy violations against approximately 1,065 women employees and 1,300 women contract workers. The decree requires comprehensive injunctive relief in the form of workplace reforms, independent expert analysis of Riot’s pay, hiring, and promotion practices, and independent monitoring of sexual harassment and retaliation at Riot’s California offices for three years.

The decree will also resolve claims brought by the California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE) in the first case jointly prosecuted by DFEH and DLSE.

In November 2018, former Riot employees filed a putative class action in Los Angeles Superior Court with private counsel and entered a proposed $10 million settlement of that action soon thereafter. In January 2020, both DFEH and DLSE objected to the proposed $10 million settlement. Both state entities then successfully intervened in the pending private action to protect the interests of the State and the women workers, and ensure the fairness of the resolution of the claims.

Both the DLSE and DFEH have jurisdiction to enforce the Equal Pay Act. This is the first case DFEH has litigated involving claims under that law, which the California Legislature authorized -DFEH to enforce starting January 2021 under SB 973 (Jackson).

Under the consent decree, Riot has agreed to:

- - Pay $100 million, of which a minimum of $80 million is dedicated to compensating workers. This amount includes $4 million in penalties under the Private Attorney General Act (PAGA), one of the largest such penalties assessed by the DLSE in its history.
- - Create a $6 million dollar cash reserve for each year of the three-year term of the consent decree (for a total of $18 million) to make pay adjustments and to fund diversity, equity, and inclusion programs.
- - Make available 40 full-time positions in engineer, quality assurance, or art-design roles to qualified class members who worked as temporary contractors in a competitive process.
- - Hire and pay for an independent third-party expert approved by DFEH to conduct a gender-equity analysis of employee pay, job assignments, and promotions each year for three years and remedy disparities that cannot be explained by bona fide, legitimate reasons.
- - Hire and pay for an independent third-party monitor approved by DFEH to audit compliance with workplace protections, including a review of complaint investigations and outcomes, each year for three years.

Women who worked as employees or contractors for Riot since November 6, 2014 may be eligible to receive compensation. Additional information will be posted on DFEH’s website following entry of the consent decree by the court.

Final approval of the settlement by the court is pending, with a hearing expected in the coming months ...
/ 2021 News, Daily News
There is rapid demand for insurance third party administrator (TPA) for handling the claims of worker’s compensation offered by employment firms under employee benefits. In addition, TPAs are used to manage company’s group benefits, particularly health, workers compensation, and dental claims that are typically self-funded.

A new study published by Allied Market Research reports that the insurance third party administrator market size was valued at $280.69 billion in 2020, and is projected to reach $514.98 billion by 2030, growing at a CAGR of 6.3% from 2021 to 2030.

Rapid adoption of third party administrators in the health insurance industry and rise in need for operational efficiency & transparency in insurance business process are some of the factors propelling the insurance third party administrator market growth. However, security issues and privacy concerns are the major factors limiting the market growth.

On the contrary, technological advancements in third party administrator, such as adoption of Internet of things (IoT), artificial intelligence, machine learning, and robotics process automation, have led to the growth of the insurance third party administrator industry.

Furthermore, artificial intelligence technology has claims administration with predictive outcomes, wherein a low-cost claim can be identified automatically through processing & eliminating the need for claim adjustment intervention. Thus, the demand for insurance third party administrator market is expected to grow tremendously in the coming years.

The insurance third party administrator market is fragmented with the presence of regional vendors such as CRAWFORD & COMPANY, SEDGWICK, and Charles Taylor. North America dominated the insurance third party administrator market, in terms of revenue in 2020, and is expected to retain their dominance during the forecast period. However, Asia-Pacific is anticipated to experience significant growth in the future as insurance TPAs play an important role in terms of enhancing customer relationships and delivering niche & unique insurance third party administrator services in this region.

The report analyzes the profiles of key players operating in the insurance third party administrator market such as Charles Taylor, CORVEL, CRAWFORD & COMPANY, ESIS, ExlService Holdings, Inc., GALLAGHER BASSETT SERVICES, INC., Helmsman Management Services LLC, Meritain Health, SEDGWICK, and United HealthCare Services, Inc. These players have adopted various strategies to increase their market penetration and strengthen their position in the insurance third party administrator market.

The outbreak of COVID-19 is anticipated to provide growth opportunities for the Insurance third party administrator market expansion during the forecast period, owing to rise in digital transformation trend in insurance and surge in demand for third party administration solutions that are hosted or managed on the cloud.

Moreover, during the pandemic, there is a rising number of claims in health insurance. Therefore, to effectively handle such high number of claims, the insurance companies are heavily investing in third party administrator services. Thus, these factors ensure that insurance companies are considering third party administrators for improving cost efficiency and business operations during the pandemic situation ...
/ 2021 News, Daily News
The volume of prescription opioids dispensed from retail pharmacies declined by 21% from 2008 to 2018, but the decline was not uniform across geographic areas, among types of patients, or by type of prescriber, according to a new RAND Corporation study.

The study, published by the Annals of Internal Medicine, is the first to examine the decline in opioid prescriptions filled at retail pharmacies based on both volume and potency of the drugs dispensed.

"The findings do not provide concrete answers about how much of the unnecessary prescribing of opioids has been eliminated," said Dr. Bradley D. Stein, the study's lead author and a senior physician researcher at RAND, a nonprofit research organization. "But the work demonstrates that there is a lot more nuance in the changes in opioid prescribing than we previously understood."

There is wide agreement that the overprescribing of opioid medication for pain was a key driver in creation of the U.S. opioid crisis, which has led to widespread addiction and now kills more than 100,000 Americans annually.

State, federal, and private initiatives have been undertaken to encourage physicians and other health providers to reduce the number of prescriptions written for opioids to treat pain. The number of opioid prescriptions peaked in 2011.

RAND researchers examined differences in opioid prescriptions filled at pharmacies during the periods of 2008 through 2009 and 2017 through 2018. The prescription information came from IQVIA Prescription data, which captures about 90% of prescriptions filled at U.S. retail pharmacies.

They used days' supply and total daily opioid dose to calculate per capita morphine milligram equivalents (MME) for opioid prescriptions filled during the study period. Because opioids are available in different forms, this measurement provides a better assessment of the total amount of opioids filled by patients as compared to just the number of pills dispensed.

The study found that over the study period, per capita MME volume declined the most in metropolitan counties (more than 22%) and in counties with higher rates of fatal opioid overdoses (a 35% decline).

Substantial variation existed both within and across states. In some states, MME volume per capita increased in multiple counties. In many other states, there were both counties with increases and others with substantial decreases. Counties that experienced substantial decreases in per capita MME often were adjacent to counties with per capita increases.

Most clinical specialties recorded declines in the MME volume per practicing clinician. The greatest decrease in MME volume per practicing clinician was among adult primary care physicians (40% decline) and pain specialists (15% decline)—the clinicians with the highest MME volume per clinician in 2008–2009.

The greatest percentage decrease was among emergency physicians (71% decline)—clinicians who are likely prescribing opioids predominantly to patients experiencing acute pain in acute care settings.

"These results suggest the effects of clinician and policymaker efforts to reduce opioid prescribing have affected populations differently," Stein said. "Future efforts to enhance clinically appropriate opioid prescribing may need to be more clinically nuanced and targeted for specific populations." ...
/ 2021 News, Daily News
The California Insurance Fraud Protection Act (IFPA) allows qui tam plaintiffs to file lawsuits on the government’s behalf and seek monetary penalties against perpetrators of insurance fraud. Under the IFPA, a defrauder is assessed penalties for each fraudulent insurance claim it presented to insurers. To prevent duplicative lawsuits, the IFPA contains a “first-to-file rule” that bars parties from filing subsequent actions related to an already pending lawsuit.

State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company filed an IFPA action alleging defendants Sonny Rubin, M.D., Sonny Rubin, M.D., Inc., and Newport Institute of Minimally Invasive Surgery fraudulently billed insurers for various services performed in connection with epidural steroid injections.

However, a month prior Allstate filed a separate IFPA lawsuit against the same defendants, alleging they were perpetrating a fraud on Allstate, also involving epidural steroid injections.

In the State Farm lawsuit, the trial court sustained defendants’ demurrer to State Farm’s complaint under the IFPA’s first-to-file rule, finding it alleges the same fraud as Allstate’s complaint

State Farm appealed, arguing its complaint alleges a distinct fraud. The Court of Appeal agreed that the demurrer was incorrectly sustained, but for another reason in the published case of P. ex rel. State Farm Mutual Automobile Ins. Co. v. Rubin 12/14/21 CA4/3.

In applying the rule, the trial court and both parties only focused on whether the two complaints allege the same fraudulent scheme. But, in this matter of first impression, the Court of Appeal finds the IFPA’s first-to-file rule requires an additional inquiry.

Courts must also review the specific insurer-victims underlying each complaint’s request for penalties. If each complaint seeks penalties for false insurance claims relating to different groups of insurer-victims, the first-to-file rule does not apply.

A subsequent complaint is only barred under the first-to-file rule if the prior complaint alleges the same fraud and seeks penalties arising from the false claims, submitted to the same insurer-victims.

Here, both complaints largely seek penalties relating to separate pools of victims. Allstate’s complaint only seeks IFPA penalties for the false insurance claims that defendants presented to Allstate. State Farm’s broader action seeks penalties for all the false insurance claims that defendants submitted to any insurer. Allstate is the only overlapping victim.

Thus, even if the two complaints allege the same fraud, State Farm is only precluded from pursuing IFPA penalties for the false claims that defendants billed to Allstate. As to the other inquiry, there is partial overlap between the fraudulent schemes alleged in the complaints.

Both complaints allege a common scheme in which defendants presented false claims to insurers pertaining to epidural steroid injections. However, State Farm’s complaint also alleges a distinct scheme involving false charges for magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) interpretations that defendants billed independently from epidural spinal injections.

For the portion of State Farm’s action based on MRI charges billed independently from epidural spinal injections, State Farm may pursue penalties for any false claims that defendants submitted to any insurer, including Allstate ...
/ 2021 News, Daily News
Yeny Garcia resolved his industrial claim against Securitas Security Services USA by way of compromise and release on September 10, 2015.

On October 21, 2016, Delmar Medical Imaging filed its Notice and Request for Allowance of Lien. The declaration attached by the notice did not include the language found in section 4903.8(d)(1) or (d)(2).

On August 21, 2017, Delmar submitted an "Amended Declaration Pursuant to Labor Code Section 4903.8(d)," which included the language found in section 4903.8(d)(1) and (d)(2).

The WCJ found that lien claimant’s lien was invalid when filed on October 21, 2016 and that the "amended" lien filed on August 21, 2017, was untimely. The lien claimant was required to file its lien no later than 18 months after the last day of service. Thus the lien claimant’s lien was barred by the statute of limitations and the provisions of Code of Civil Procedure section 473 were not met, and thus could not be used to allow them to amend the lien.

Based on these findings, the WCJ ordered lien claimant’s lien dismissed, and that it take nothing on its lien.

The Petition for Reconsideration filed by Delmar was denied in the panel decision of Garcia v Securitas Security Services USA.

"A lien claimant may seek relief . . . by utilizing a procedure substantially similar to Code of Civil Procedure section 473 . . . ." (Fox v. Workers’ Comp. Appeals Bd. (1992) 4 Cal.App.4th 1196, 1205-1206.) Code of Civil Procedure section 473(b).

CCP 473 allows a party to be relieved from "a judgment, dismissal, order, or other proceeding taken against him or her through his or her mistake, inadvertence, surprise, or excusable neglect" provided the "application for relief is made no more than six months after entry of judgment...."

In this case Delmar called Ms. Ghorbanian as a witness to support relief pursuant to CCP 473.

"This WCJ assessed Ms. Ghorbanian’s overall testimony, demeanor and determined that it was self-serving and did not demonstrate inadvertence, surprise, mistake or excusable neglect required by Code of Civil Procedure section 473."

"She made contradictory statements about her knowledge of requirements for the Declaration. She placed reliance on a filing and document system authorized by an approved vendor. There was no testimony about any independent investigation, research, training, or other attempts to verify that the lien was properly filed with complete, accurate and required documents at the time of filing. She further justified the lack of her own verification of a proper filing because there was no contemporaneous objection made by Defendant when the lien was filed and served." ...
/ 2021 News, Daily News
In an announcement on Wednesday, the U.S. Supreme court said that on January 7, it would hear oral arguments on separate disputes challenging the Biden administration’s mandate for businesses with more than 100 employees, and for some 17 million health care workers at facilities receiving Medicaid and Medicare funding.

The court, which has a 6-3 conservative-leaning majority, delayed action on emergency requests in both cases that sought an immediate decision. The workplace mandate is currently in effect nationwide, while the health care worker mandate is blocked in half of the 50 U.S. states.

The mandate for health care workers was issued last month by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), and affects roughly 17 million workers. It requires facilities that receive Medicare or Medicaid funding to require workers to get vaccinated, and has no testing opt-out.

The deadline for meeting the mandate is Jan. 4, 2022. However, OSHA said on Dec. 18 that it would not be issuing fines to businesses for noncompliance until Jan. 10.

The Biden administration’s private employer COVID-19 vaccine mandate, meanwhile, was promulgated by the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). If allowed to take effect next month, it will force every business with 100 or more employees to require proof of a negative COVID-19 test on at least a weekly basis or proof of vaccination from each worker. Companies that don’t comply would face escalating fines.

The White House on Wednesday said that it is "confident in the legal authority for both policies."

The announcement comes as the Biden administration ramps up its messaging for Americans to get vaccinated and receive their booster shots.

The Omicron variant of the novel coronavirus on Monday became the dominant source of new infections in the United States, accounting for roughly 73 percent of new infections nationwide, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Federal officials cited CDC figures for the week ending Dec. 18 that showed a nearly six-fold increase in Omicron’s share of infections in only one week.

Infectious diseases expert Dr. Anthony Fauci on Dec. 17 floated the idea of redefining what it means to be fully vaccinated in the United States.

Currently, individuals are considered fully vaccinated after taking their second dose of a two-dose series, such as the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine, or after a single-dose vaccine, such as the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

However, Fauci told CNBC’s "Squawk Box" last week that a redefinition of being fully vaccinated is "on the table." "There’s no doubt that optimum vaccination is with a booster," he said.

"Whether or not the CDC is going to change that, it certainly is on the table and open for discussion. I’m not sure exactly when that will happen. But I think people should not lose sight of the message that there’s no doubt if you want to be optimally protected, you should get your booster." ...
/ 2021 News, Daily News
Nearly $100 billion of COVID-relief funds have been fraudulently obtained in the US since the government rolled out the benefits during the pandemic, officials said.

The Secret Service revealed the massive figure in a Tuesday press release announcing the existence of new measures to capture cheats and seize the stolen funds.

The U.S. Secret Service has named Assistant Special Agent in Charge (ASAIC) Roy Dotson of the Jacksonville field office as the National Pandemic Fraud Recovery Coordinator. In this role, ASAIC Dotson will coordinate efforts across multiple ongoing Secret Service investigations into the fraudulent use of COVID-19 relief applications.

"The Secret Service has seen a huge uptick in electronic crime in furtherance of these fraud cases," Dotson continued. "Criminals will often ask potential victims to open an account and move money for them for some reason as part of a ruse." Fraudsters, for example, prey on people by engaging them online as part of a romance scam, phony job opportunity or other scheme, and then asking for financial favors. "Targeted individuals are often asked to open bank accounts and accept large sum deposits,” Dotson said. “As a result, people are becoming unwitting mules for stolen money."

While fraud related to personal protective equipment (PPE) was of primary concern to law enforcement, including the Secret Service, early in the pandemic, the release of federal funding through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act has attracted the attention of individuals and organized criminal networks worldwide. The exploitation of pandemic-related relief is an investigative priority for the Secret Service and its partners.

As part of his duties as National Pandemic Fraud Recovery Coordinator, ASAIC Dotson will coordinate with financial institutions and money services businesses, United States Attorney Offices, and other federal agencies regarding large-scale seizures of illicitly obtained pandemic relief funds. This includes unemployment insurance (UI), U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) loan and grant programs, and other benefit programs.

"The Secret Service currently has more than 900 active criminal investigations into fraud specific to pandemic-related relief funds," said Dotson. "That’s a combination of pandemic benefits and all the other benefits programs too. Every state has been hit, some harder than others. The Secret Service is hitting the ground running, trying to recover everything we can, including funds stolen from both federal and state programs."

To date, Secret Service investigations and investigative inquiries into UI and SBA loan fraud have resulted in the seizure of more than $1.2 billion and the return of more than $2.3 billion of fraudulently obtained funds via Automated Clearing House reversals.

These investigations have led to the arrest of 100 individuals responsible for UI and SBA loan fraud. The Secret Service continues to work closely with the U.S. Department of Labor and SBA Offices of Inspectors General (OIG), and the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee (PRAC) on identifying and preventing these crimes ...
/ 2021 News, Daily News
The Court of Appeal rejected the application of the "derivative injury rule" to limit the tort claim of the spouse of an injured worker who suffered an admitted workplace COVID injury, The spouse was infected when the worker returned home from work, and later died from the COVID infection. Thus the exclusive remedy provision does not protect employers from these related tort claims.

Matilde Ek, a worker at a See’s distribution center in Southern California, contracted COVID-19 and apparently infected her 72-year-old husband, Arturo, who died. Ek said she worked on the See’s packing line without proper social distancing or other protections even though some workers were coughing, sneezing and showing other signs of COVID-19 infections.

She and her daughters sued See’s, alleging that since her workplace lacked sufficient safeguards against infection, the company is liable for his death.

See’s acknowledged that Ek’s illness was job-related but argued that since it was, the company was protected from liability for her husband’s death under the "exclusive remedy" doctrine.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Daniel M. Crowley refused to throw out Ek’s lawsuit, agreeing with Ek’s attorney that her husband’s death was a separate event from her workplace infection.

And the Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court in the published case of See's Candies, Inc. v. Super. Ct. (2021).

Defendants argued plaintiffs’ claims are barred by the "derivative injury doctrine" (see Snyder v. Michael’s Stores, Inc. (1997) 16 Cal.4th 991, 1000 (Snyder)), under which "the WCA’s exclusivity provisions preempt not only those causes of action premised on a compensable workplace injury, but also those causes of action premised on injuries ' "collateral to or derivative of" ’ such an injury.' (King v. CompPartners, Inc. (2018) 5 Cal.5th 1039, 1051 (King).) Among other things, this doctrine preempts third party claims "based on the physical injury or disability of the spouse," such as loss of consortium or emotional distress. (Cole v. Fair Oaks Fire Protection Dist. (1987) 43 Cal.3d 148, 162-163.)

In rejecting this argument the Court of Appeal said that "Snyder approved of cases applying the doctrine to claims by family members for losses stemming from an employee’s disabling or lethal injury, such as wrongful death, loss of consortium, or emotional distress from witnessing a workplace accident. In contrast, the Supreme Court called into question a case applying the derivative injury doctrine outside these contexts based on causation alone."

However, this decision is just a small part of the case which has yet to be litigated. The Court of Appeal noted "we have no occasion to decide whether defendants owed Mr. Ek a duty of care or whether plaintiffs can demonstrate that Mr. or Mrs. Ek contracted COVID-19 because of any negligence in defendants’ workplace, as opposed to another source during the COVID-19 pandemic. The parties have not raised these issues, and we decline to address them sua sponte." ...
/ 2021 News, Daily News
Sheryl Wilson worked for Kohls Department Store as a retail sales clerk, when she sustained an admitted industrial injury to her lumbar spine, left ankle, and in the form of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) of the left ankle on September 20, 2016.

She had two surgeries to the left ankle resulting in atrophy of the left calf and thigh, and loss of motion of the ankle and subtalar joints.\

She had a history of taking a multitude of medications prior to her industrial injury. Dr. Gupta noted refills of hydrocodone in 2008. And refilled hydrocodone again in 2011, and continued with hydrocodone prescriptions in 2014. She refilled hydrocodone in 2015. Finally, two months prior to her industrial injury, she was prescribed Norco.

She was evaluated by an AME, Mark Anderson, M.D.,who authored nine reports in evidence and was deposed twice. Anuj Gupta, M.D., was selected as a QME for comment upon causation of CRPS. She also obtained reporting from vocational expert P. Steve Ramirez, who authored two reports in evidence. The primary issue for trial was applicant’s level of permanent disability.

The WCJ found that applicant did not sustain a complete loss of future earnings capacity as a result of her industrial injury and awarded her permanent partial disability of 78% after apportionment.

After a review of a comprehensive Report of the WCJ on Reconsideration, which it incorporated by reference, the WCAB affirmed his detailed analysis of the law, and legislative intent in the panel decision of Wilson v Kohl's Department Store.

The non-amenability to vocational rehabilitation must be due to industrial factors. (Contra Costa County v. Workers' Comp. Appeals Bd., (Dahl) (2015) 240 Cal. App. 4th 746.) Many of the prescriptions that the AME believe were impacting applicant’s ability to rehabilitate were being prescribed long before applicant’s industrial injury.

After an extremely comprehensive review of the statutes and case law, the WCJ opined, and the WCAB adopted the review as the correct interpretation of law regarding DFEC rebuttal for dates of injury on or after January 1, 2013 is as follows:

1. Applicant cannot rebut the permanent partial disability schedule using a DFEC analysis. (§ 4660.1(a).)
2. Applicant may continue to rebut the schedule to show complete loss of earning capacity, and thus, she is permanently totally disabled in accordance with the fact. (§§ 4660.1(g); 4662(b).)
3. Applicant may continue to obtain vocational expert consultations in all cases and may continue to recover the costs of such evaluations where the procurement of the report is reasonable. (§ 5703(j).)

A complete reading of this decision, and the analysis of the review by the WCJ would serve as a very valuable reiteration of the law of how to determine factors of permanent disability in a complex medical case ...
/ 2021 News, Daily News
The Supreme Court received at least 11 emergency applications on Monday challenging the federal mandate for businesses with over 100 employees to require Covid-19 vaccinations or weekly testing according to a report by Courthouse News.

Enforced through the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the mandate was reinstated on Friday when a Sixth Circuit panel overturned what had been pause on the nationwide rule imposed by a federal judge. It is set to take effect on January 4.

The groups challenging Biden’s mandate include conservative groups like the Heritage Foundation, 27 states, business associations like the National Federation of Independent Business and the Job Creators Network, BTS Holdings, religious groups like the Word of God Fellowship and the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, companies like Phillips Manufacturing and construction workers. Most of the groups are challenging OSHA’s authority to enforce the mandate while others are also alleging violations of the First Amendment and religious freedom.

Without a stay from the high court, the mandate would affect about 84 million workers and require unvaccinated employees to wear face masks and be subject to weekly testing for Covid-19.

Ohio is at the helm of the pack of 27 Republican-led states claiming that the mandate is unprecedented and that OSHA does not have the authority to enforce it because Covid-19 is not an occupational danger that the agency can regulate, the virus does not present a "grave" danger, and the mandate does not satisfy the emergency provision requirement.

The National Federation of Independent Business claims the mandate will cause "irreparable harm" on hundreds of thousands of businesses and will cause a devastating labor upheaval.

The religious organizations are challenging the mandate because it does not offer accommodations required by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993.

Some of the organizations - like BTS Holdings - say Congress did not grant OSHA the powers to authorize the mandate and if it did it would be violating the constitution.

Friday's majority opinion by U.S. Circuit Judge Julia Smith Gibbons said that the mandate was "not a novel expansion of OSHA’s power" and that the agency had the authority to regulate infectious diseases not unique to the workplace.

"Vaccination and medical examinations are both tools that OSHA historically employed to contain illness in the workplace," the Bush appointee wrote.

OSHA first announced the mandate in November. The Fifth Circuit had granted a stay to BTS Holdings in its challenge against the mandate, but the onslaught of challenges filed across the country triggered a lottery process and the cases were assigned to the Sixth Circuit for all further proceedings.

Monday's stay applications were submitted to Justice Brett Kavanaugh, per court rules, and a response from the Biden administration is due by Dec. 30.

The administration has other vaccine mandates that are being challenged in court, and the high court has seen multiple challenges on vaccine mandates come across their docket this year already. So far, the court has turned down relief for workers seeking religious exemptions. Last week the Fifth Circuit overturned an injunction on a vaccine mandate for health care workers in federally funded facilities ...
/ 2021 News, Daily News
On Monday, a Judge ruled that Los Angeles need not reinstate pay for firefighters who are awaiting termination proceedings for refusing to comply with the city's vaccine mandate.

"I don't want to minimize the harm to a firefighter put on unpaid leave," Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Michael Linfield said at hearing Monday. "It is certainly a severe harm. But it’s dwarfed by the death of a person due to Covid. We can reimburse someone for monetary losses caused by being put on unpaid leave. We cannot resurrect the dead."

CourtHouse news reports that the lawsuit, brought about by Firefighters4Freedom, a nonprofit representing 105 LA firefighters, is just one of many suits aimed at overturning various vaccine mandates wending through the courts. The firefighters union, UFLAC, has also sued, as have LA County firefighters and LA's police union. The Los Angeles Unified School District's vaccine mandate has also been challenged by parents and activists.

None of the lawsuits have succeeded in stopping the laws yet, although on Monday a judge struck down the San Diego Unified School district's vaccine mandate. San Diego County Superior Court Judge John Meyer found such a mandate to be the purview of the Legislature, not a school board.

Though the Firefighters4Freedom suit seeks to overturn the mandate, its motion for a preliminary injunction aimed lower: asking the court simply to restore pay for the 105 firefighters who have been placed on unpaid leave while they await termination hearings. Those firefighters have not requested a medical or personal belief exemption. Instead, they cite a right of medical freedom as the reason they refuse to be vaccinated against the novel coronavirus.

"We are not asking the city to stop enforcing this mandate," the firefighters' attorney Scott Street said. "We’re not asking for any firefighters to be put back on duty. All our clients are asking for today is, pay us while you try to fire us."

Appearing unmoved, Judge Linfield asked Street if doing so wouldn't encourage more firefighters to defy the vaccine mandate.

"They may do that," said Street. "These are firefighters - the people we ask to run into burning buildings. They are the first responders. They have served the city admirably during the pandemic. They would like to be on duty. What they really need is their livelihood, their paycheck. The thing they have been guaranteed under law. That’s the minimum they need."

Deputy City Attorney Jennifer Gregg said the "city lacks the funds to pay employees on leave while simultaneously paying overtime to cover the employees that are missing."

In his tentative ruling, Linfield took the plaintiffs to task for what he called "hyperbole" in their civil complaint, which included such statements as: "Though nobody knew it at the time, the Covid-19 pandemic would lead to the greatest restrictions on liberty in American history."

"This assertion by counsel is just plain wrong," Linfield wrote. "While Covid restrictions might impinge on the liberty of Americans, they pale in comparison to the enslavement of tens of millions of African Americans, the murder and forced relocation of millions of Native Americans, and the imprisonment of more than 115,000 Japanese Americans during World War II."

As to the preliminary injunction, the judge said he would take the matter under submission and issue a final ruling within 24 hours ...
/ 2021 News, Daily News
A former doctor and his company were found guilty by a federal jury of scheming to defraud private insurance companies and the Tricare health care program for military service members by fraudulently submitting an estimated $355 million in claims related to the 1-800-GET-THIN Lap-Band surgery business.

Julian Omidi, 53, of West Hollywood, and an Omidi-controlled Beverly Hills-based company, Surgery Center Management LLC (SCM), were found guilty of 28 counts of wire fraud and three counts of mail fraud. Omidi also was found guilty of two counts of making false statements relating to health care matters, one count of aggravated identity theft and two counts of money laundering. Omidi and SCM were found guilty of one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering.

According to evidence presented at his three-month trial, Omidi, a physician whose license was revoked in 2009, controlled, in part, the GET THIN network of entities, including SCM, that focused on the promotion and performance of Lap-Band weight-loss surgeries. Omidi established procedures requiring prospective Lap-Band patients - even those with insurance plans he knew would never cover Lap-Band surgery - to have at least one sleep study, and employees were incentivized with commissions to make sure the studies occurred.

Omidi used the sleep studies to find a reason - the "co-morbidity" of obstructive sleep apnea - that GET THIN would use to convince the patient’s insurance company to pre-approve the Lap-Band procedure.

After patients underwent sleep studies - irrespective of whether any doctor had ever determined the study was medically necessary - GET THIN employees, acting at Omidi’s direction, often falsified the results. Omidi then used the falsified sleep study results in support of GET THIN’s pre-authorization requests for Lap-Band surgery.

Relying on the false sleep studies - as well as other false information, including patients’ weights - insurance companies authorized payment for some of the proposed Lap-Band surgeries. GET THIN received an estimated $41 million for the Lap-Band procedures.

Even if the insurance company did not authorize the surgery, GET THIN still was able to submit bills for approximately $15,000 for each sleep study, receiving an estimated $27 million in payments for these claims. The insurance payments were deposited into bank accounts associated with the GET THIN entities.

The victim health care benefit programs include Tricare, Anthem Blue Cross, UnitedHealthcare, Aetna, Health Net, Operating Engineers Health and Welfare Trust Fund, and others.

Prosecutors estimate Omidi’s total fraudulent billings at approximately $355 million.

United States District Judge Dolly M. Gee has scheduled an April 6, 2022 sentencing hearing, at which time Omidi will face a statutory maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison for each of the mail fraud, wire fraud, and money laundering counts, as well as a mandatory consecutive two-year sentence for aggravated identity theft.

In 2014, the government seized more than $110 million in funds and securities from accounts held by individuals and entities involved in the criminal scheme, including Omidi. The government is seeking forfeiture of some or all those funds in the criminal case, and intends to pursue civil forfeiture of some or all of the assets.

The criminal case against corporate defendant Independent Medical Services Inc., another company controlled in part by Omidi, has been severed from this litigation and stayed. Co-defendant Dr. Mirali Zarrabi, 59, of Beverly Hills, was acquitted of all charges.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Office of Criminal Investigations; the FBI; the Defense Criminal Investigative Service; IRS Criminal Investigation; and the California Department of Insurance investigated this matter.

Assistant United States Attorneys Kristen A. Williams, Ali Moghaddas, David H. Chao of the Major Frauds Section, David C. Lachman of the General Crimes Section, and James E. Dochterman of the Asset Forfeiture Section are prosecuting this case ...
/ 2021 News, Daily News
The Internal Revenue Service announced that the standard mileage rate for business miles will increase to 58.5 cents per mile as of January 1, 2022, up 2.5 cents from the rate of 56.0 cents per mile for 2021.

As a result, the California Workers’ Compensation Institute (CWCI) notes that effective for travel on or after January 1, 2022, the rate that California workers’ compensation claims administrators pay injured workers for travel related to medical care or evaluation of their injuries will also increase to 58.5 cents per mile.

An updated free mileage calculator is available on for use on any smart phone.

The new workers’ compensation medical mileage rate will apply for 2022 travel dates, regardless of the date of injury on the claim, but for 2021 travel dates claims administrators should continue to pay 56.0 cents per mile.

California Labor Code §4600 (e)(2), working in conjunction with Government Code §19820 and Department of Personnel Administration (DPA) regulations, requires claims administrators to reimburse injured workers for such expenses at the rate adopted by the Director of the DPA for non-represented (excluded) state employees, which is tied to the IRS published mileage rate.

In its December 17 news release the IRS announced that as of January 1, 2022, the standard mileage rate will increase to 58.5 cents per business mile driven. The IRS bases the standard mileage rate on an annual study of the fixed and variable costs of operating an automobile, which includes the cost of gasoline and depreciation.

There have been multiple mileage rate changes over the past decade, so the California Division of Workers’ Compensation has posted downloadable mileage-expense forms on the forms section of its website which show applicable rates based on travel date.

A new form with the 2022 rate will be posted shortly but should not be used until reimbursements are made for 2022 travel. Given the upcoming holidays, however, claims organizations should alert their staff and programmers as soon as possible that the medical mileage rate will increase to 58.5 cents per mile for travel on or after January 1, 2022.
/ 2021 News, Daily News
The U.S. Supreme Court will hear a case involving a San Fernando Valley business that could impact the Private Attorney General Act, a law that went into effect in 2004 and which allows employees of a business to sue over labor law violations even if they were not impacted by the violations. At issue in the case is the validity in California of employer-employee arbitration agreements.

In the underlying case of Moriana v Viking River Cruises Inc. a company in Woodland Hills, Angie Moriana sued her former employer Viking River Cruises, Inc. seeking recovery of civil penalties under the Labor Code Private Attorneys General Act of 2004 (PAGA) (Lab. Code, § 2698 et seq.).

Viking moved to compel Moriana's claims into arbitration. The trial court denied Viking's motion and the 2nd district Court of Appeal affirmed in the unpublished opinion which will now be reviewed by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Viking argued that the United States Supreme Court's decision in Epic Systems Corp. v. Lewis (2018) overruled the California Supreme Court's decision in Iskanian v. CLS Transportation Los Angeles, LLC (2014) 59 Cal.4th 348, in which the California Supreme Court held "that an employee’s right to bring a PAGA action is unwaivable," and that "where . . . an employment agreement compels the waiver of representative claims under the PAGA, it is contrary to public policy and unenforceable as a matter of state law."

Epic Systems Corp. v. Lewis was one of three cases consolidated by the United States Supreme Court in 2017 that raised the issue of the Federal Arbitration Act’s preemptive effect over private employment arbitration agreements prohibiting class and collective actions.

Numerous California Courts of Appeal have rejected the contention that Iskanian is no longer good law in the wake of Epic. On federal questions, intermediate appellate courts in California must follow the decisions of the California Supreme Court, unless the United States Supreme Court has decided the same question differently. Thus the 2nd District Court of Appeal rejected Viking's arguments on forcing the case to arbitration, and followed Iskanian instead of Epic Systems.

The cruise line argued in its petition to the U.S. Supreme Court "whether the Federal Arbitration Act requires enforcement of a bilateral arbitration agreement providing that an employee cannot raise representative claims, including under PAGA." And that the California Supreme Court was wrong in the 2014 Iskanian case.

In an email to the members of the California Business and Industrial Alliance, the group’s founder and president, Tom Manzo, said that the implications of a Supreme Court decision in Viking’s favor cannot be understated.

"If PAGA cases are subject to arbitration, it offers a clear pathway for employers to obtain relief from frivolous PAGA lawsuits," wrote Manzo, who started the group, based in Sunland, in 2017 to specifically oppose the state law.

"In advance of the Supreme Court’s oral arguments next spring, we plan to submit a comprehensive amicus brief marshaling all of the data, stories and arguments that you - our members - have helped support these past few years," Manzo wrote in the email.

According to its website "The California Business and Industrial Alliance (CABIA) is the only trade group exclusively focused on fixing the Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA)." Now that the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to resolve the dispute between state and federal law, it is likely that CIABA will indeed achieve its mission.

The California Department of Industrial Relations maintains an online database on PAGA notices filed.
/ 2021 News, Daily News
Nearly six years after a violent van crash killed four young Fresno-area members of the California Conservation Corps, the agency has been found responsible for "serious and willful misconduct" by failing to heed its own safety protocols leading up to the collision.

The Fresno Bee reported on a ruling by workers’ compensation judge in Fresno, that stems from the fatal wreck on Feb. 2, 2016, when a van carrying corps members to a job site rolled through a stop sign near Reedley and into the path of an 80,000-pound tractor-trailer going at least 50 mph.

It was the worst day in the 45-year history of the conservation corps, which puts young adults to work on environmental projects throughout the state. Dead at the scene were Rhonda Shackelford, 20, and Justin Van Meter, 21, of Clovis; and Serena Guadarrama, 18, of Fresno. Ronnie Cruz, 19, of Fresno, suffered catastrophic brain and spinal injuries but lingered more than three years in a near-vegetative state before dying in July 2019. All were recent recruits, two of them so new to the corps that they had yet to receive their first paycheck.

The tragedy spawned a flurry of lawsuits and workers’ compensation claims that have plodded on for years, some still unresolved. The "serious and willful" ruling by Judge Geoffrey H. Sims of the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board in Fresno followed two days of hearings this year.

The van driver, Nathan Finnell, who escaped with moderate injuries, was 20 at the time of the crash and had recently been promoted to a supervisory position. As detailed in an investigative report by the news organization FairWarning, corps members had complained about Finnell driving recklessly and clowning around behind the wheel, including on the morning of the wreck, when a member told supervisors that Finnell, the day before, drove off while he was closing the van door, causing injury to his shoulder.

An accident investigation by the California Highway Patrol found that 11 of 15 safety belts in the van were inoperative or unavailable because the belts and clasps had slipped through cracks in the seats and were behind them on the floor.

In his ruling, Judge Sims cited Finnell’s unsafe driving, and the agency’s failure to enforce its own safety rules, which require that vehicles pass a visual inspection of tires, lights, seatbelts and other components before being driven. The policy states that if deficiencies are found, the vehicle is to be placed out of service until repairs are made. "Clearly, had Employer followed its own protocols," it "would have triggered the substitution of another vehicle," the WCJ wrote. "Sadly, it did not."

The case before Judge Sims highlighted an oddity, some would say an injustice, in California workers’ compensation law. When a worker killed on the job has no dependents, death benefits that would otherwise go to family members instead are claimed by the state. The Death Without Dependents Unit, a sub-agency within the California Department of Industrial Relations, puts the money in a trust fund for workers with preexisting disabilities who are later injured on the job.

As a result, prior to Sims’ ruling, $150,000 in death benefits for Guadarrama and Van Meter were claimed by the state. Rhonda Shackelford’s parents received $45,000 in benefits based on evidence they were partly dependent on their daughter’s help with rent and other bills.

Additional death benefits triggered by a ‘’serious and willful’’ ruling do go to families, even if they weren’t dependents of the deceased workers. Following Sims’ ruling last month the CCC agreed not to file an appeal in return for a 10% discount on the additional benefit owed the families. As a result, survivors of Guadarrama and VanMeter families will get $67,500 apiece, and the Shackelfords $22,050.

Ronnie Cruz received more than $2.8 million in workers’ compensation, nearly all of it to reimburse medical providers during the three-plus years he remained alive. As a result, with the ‘’serious and willful’’ finding $1,280,174 in additional benefits will go to his estate, less attorney’s fees ...
/ 2021 News, Daily News
Voice of OC is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit news source that has a focus on life in Orange County. One of its current projects is requesting information from the county regarding the worker's compensation claim costs for COVID claims filed by county employees. They just published an update summarizing current workers' compensation COVID claims frequency and costs.

Orange County sheriff staff are getting hit with COVID-19 illnesses at a much higher rate than other large county departments, and are by far the largest share of pandemic-related worker’s compensation costs the county has paid so far, according to county data obtained through a records request by Voice of OC.

Sheriff staff, who had the lowest self-reported vaccination rate - at 16% - among county employees as of the latest available data from August, are around 20% of the county government workforce. Yet they account for nearly half of the county worker’s compensation claims for COVID illnesses - $1.4 million of the $3 million total, and about 950 of the roughly 2,000 claims so far - according to county data provided this week.

Voice of OC followed up two weeks ago to request updated vaccination rate data, but the county has not provided it yet.

The next biggest department for COVID worker’s comp costs is the Social Services Agency, which has more employees than the Sheriff’s Department, but half as many Covid-related claims and costs. Many Social Services Agency employees work directly with the public and some visit houses to conduct wellness checks on children and seniors.

The high sheriff’s figures, which have privately drawn concern from county leaders, have prompted questions about what’s driving the department’s higher COVID rates and what can be done to better protect workers.

Sheriff officials didn’t have answers to questions Wednesday about whether it’s related to lower vaccination rates, the indoor work environment at jails - or both - and whether managers have analyzed the data to better protect workers’ health. Department spokeswoman Carrie Braun said she’d have a response after getting further clarification from county officials about the worker’s compensation data.

In a statement, she noted that both sworn and non-sworn sheriff staff have been serving in-person throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. "They have worked tirelessly to provide for the safety of Orange County residents both in the jail and on the streets. Unlike other types of jobs, law enforcement is not a public service that can be provided remotely," Braun wrote.

"The Department has implemented COVID-19 safety measures consistent with guidelines provided by public health officials for the health and safety of our 3,800 employees."

The sheriff’s deputies’ union’s president didn’t respond to a phone message for comment. The union previously pushed back against a state mandate requiring jailhouse deputies to be vaccinated.

No OC sheriff staff are reported to have died from COVID-19, though law enforcement officers in neighboring counties have died from the virus.

Among the County of Orange workplaces with active COVID outbreaks this summer were the Sheriff’s Department central jail and headquarters complex in Santa Ana, according to county data.

The latest-available vaccination data showed the Sheriff’s Department had the lowest self-reported vaccination rate among county departments, as outbreaks continued hitting county workplaces in August. At the time, just 16% of sheriff staff self-attested to being vaccinated, compared with 75% of Board of Supervisors staff and about 68% percent of the general population who were eligible for shots at the time, according to county data.

Since June, county data shows sheriff staff have filed an additional 264 Covid-related worker’s comp claims, totaling $367,000. In contrast, staff at the county Health Care Agency - which has about 80% as many employees as the Sheriff’s Department - filed just 15 new claims during the same period, totaling about $500 altogether, according to the county data ...
/ 2021 News, Daily News
The California Employment Development Department (EDD) detected and is quickly taking action to halt a recent move by organized criminal elements to file false disability insurance claims.

The new disability insurance identity theft scam involved suspected organized criminal elements filing false disability insurance claims by attempting to use stolen credentials of individuals and medical or health providers.
Medical and health providers certify the existence of a disability that an applicant reports when seeking disability insurance benefits from EDD.

Evidence of the scam included a recent increase in new online medical or health provider account EDD registrations and a rise in disability insurance claims.

"The Department saw a recent rise in new online medical and health provider account registrations and strongly suspects most of those registrations were fraudulent," said Ronald Washington, EDD’s Disability Insurance Deputy Director.

"We deployed additional safeguards that further protect providers and claimants from these scams."

The Department has suspended payments on certain claims until it can further verify information on that claim. EDD is also boosting its medical and health provider vetting process and halting payment on many new claims. These efforts help protect legitimate providers and claimants from further fraud. The filters will slow the process of registering new providers and may impact the time it takes for legitimate claimants to receive benefits. EDD will be contacting providers as soon as possible to complete the additional verification processes.

There is currently no evidence that California medical or health providers were knowingly involved in this latest scam attempt. EDD is expanding its fraud information sharing across state and federal agencies as well as impacted medical groups. California will continue to closely monitor claim activity and take actions to protect the integrity of state disability insurance funds.

EDD continues to urge the public to remain vigilant about protecting personal information when engaging in any online activities. Communication from EDD seeking further information to verify a claim are examples of anti-fraud efforts at work and to stop payment on suspicious claims.

Those who receive communications from EDD and suspect fraud, such as someone filing a claim or creating an account, may want to file a fraud report by visiting Ask EDD and selecting the “Report Fraud” category to complete the Fraud Reporting Form. Victims may also want to file an identity theft report with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Information about how to combat fraud and guard against identity theft is available on the EDD’s Help Fight Fraud webpage.

EDD has posted Frequently Asked Questions about the new identity theft scam on the Help Fight Fraud page, along with helpful information and resources to help assist those who may be victims of identity theft ...
/ 2021 News, Daily News