Wednesday, June 8, 2011, 10:02 PM - Understanding the CA WC systemCalifornia's maximum temporary total disability rate will rise in 2012.
Indexed to changes in the California state average weekly wage (SAWW), California's TTD rates are increased by changes in the SAWW.
Based on U.S. Labor Department data showing a 2.4% increase in the state average weekly wage ( for 12 months preceding March 31. 2011). the maximum TD rate will increase by 2.4%.
This means that the maximum TTD rate will probably be set at $1,010.50 per week (i.e the 2011 California TTD max rate of $986.86 x 1.024135). The minimum TD rate will increase to $151.47 per week.
These increases applies to injuries after January 1, 2012 and to situations where temporary disability is paid 2 years or more after the date of injury (under Labor Code 4661.5 and a 1984 case known as Hofmeister v. WCAB.
Also affected will be life pension payments and permanent total payments for cases affected by the COLA statute, applicable to post 1/1/03 injuries. Labor Code 4659(c) requires that for workers injured on or after 1/1/03, permanent total disability and life pension payments are increased on January 1,2004 and every January 1st thereafter based on changes in the California state average weekly wage.
Computation of the COLA is still an issue. California's Supreme Court recently held oral arguments in a case which will determine the start date for COLA calculations. In coming posts I will analyze that case, Baker v. WCAB (previously known as the XYZZ case or the Duncan v. WCAB case.
Readers need to remember that TD maximums aren't automatically payable. TTD is paid at 2/3 of the average weekly wage, but only up to the maximum TTD rate. A worker whose earnings do not support maximum TTD will be paid a lesser TTD rate.
Here is a link to the underlying Department of Labor 2010 wage data:
http://ows.doleta.gov/unemploy/content/ ... 2010_1.pdf
And here is a link to 2011 wage data:
http://ows.doleta.gov/unemploy/content/ ... 2011_1.pdf
Sunday, June 5, 2011, 09:30 PM - Understanding the CA WC systemAn L.A. Times article caught my eye recently, "Illegal Vending: Unlicensed Businesses Flourishing in L.A. Area".
The article, by Alexandra Schmidt, details the growing number of front-yard household supply businesses, driveway taquerias, home-based car washes and other examples of people selling services and goods out of their neighborhoods.
Schmidt notes that most of these businesses are unlicensed and many violate zoning restrictions. And they don't pay taxes.
Schmidt's article focuses on some examples in predominantly Hispanic neighborhoods of East L.A. But it's likely that the same pattern is emerging in other areas with other ethnic groups in the state.
Although Schmidt's article didn't focus on it, it's almost certain that these small enterprises aren't carrying required workers' comp coverage. Yes, some are sole proprietorships or mom and pop vending and service efforts. But the ones who do have "employees" are unlikely to be carrying workers' comp.
As the economy has gotten tougher, people take risks, bending the legal rules. Permits, zoning, taxes, workers' comp are all legal niceities in such a world.
That's understandable, as poor people round the world resort to selling things to make ends meet.
That was evident to me in while in Rome several weeks ago. Some of the most spectacularly beautiful and popular piazzas such as Piazza Navone
and the area surrounding the Spanish Steps have legions of vendors trying to sell roses or simple toys. Many of the vendors look vaguely North African, possibly Libyan.
I may have been one of the few trinket buyers at a piazza in Rome's Travastere district, across the Tiber. Never hurts to have a pair of royal blue glow-in-the dark Mickey Mouse ears.
As with the East L.A. vendors spreading their wares on corners, these sellers are not tethered to legal rules.
What's more disturbing for the workers' comp world, however, is the continuing problem of employer workers' comp fraud.
Within the last month we've seen the following:
-An Orange County couple, James and Dorothy Klinger, charged with fraud for failing to report $3 million in payroll to SCIF
-the arrest of Emmett T. Kennedy, owner of Los Angeles based
WWC Window Cleaning, on charges of underreporting payroll to save on workers' comp premiums
-a no contest plea by Grant Lemeur of West Sacramento, owner of an auto detailing business, Dream Car Solutions. Lemeur had been charged with forcing an employee to use private medical insurance for a work injury
-an arrest in the case of Melinda Furnas of Colton, Ca. Furnas is alleged to have attempted to dissuade a worker at Clinical Laboratory of San Bernardino from filing for workers comp
-an arrest of a Shasta County couple, Valery and Earl Thompson, for alleged premium fraud. The Thompsons, owners of Russell/Thompson Inc., are alleged to have failed to report $900,000 of payroll to SCIF.
So there you have it. From Orange County to Shasta County.
Examples of employer workers' comp fraud.
It's an issue that needs to be front and center when a new AD is appointed.
Thursday, June 2, 2011, 10:34 PM - Political developmentsGetting away for a while is a good tonic for keeping perspective on things.
I've just returned from Sardinia.
One of the first calls I took was from a workers' comp client who is freaked about his future.
Before his industrial injury, his occupation was very physical. Now, after his injury, physically demanding jobs are out. With little education, he faces a steep hill to climb.
We talked a bit. He's discouraged. It's difficult for him to see any hopeful economic future. His workers' comp settlement will not come close to
compensating his true economic losses.
In his California Central Valley county, unemployment is over 12%. He has no family safety net, and no savings. There is no retraining program available to him. His house mortgage is "under water". He has no health insurance any more.
Meanwhile, commodity costs are up. Food prices rise. Gas prices rise.
Medical costs-if he gets sick-rise.
His world is the world that concerns Wal-Mart executives. A world where Wal-Mart shoppers "have no money", leading to slower sales at the retail giant.
He's not paying attention to the debate over whether there will be a vote to increase the national debt ceiling. Or whether there will be Q3, so-called "quantitative easing", i.e. printing money.
He's not concerned about bond yield spreads, or whether Greece is forced by bondholders to abandon the Eurozone in favor of a return to the drachma, or how a strong or weak dollar might affect him personally.
He wouldn't know George Soros from Pimco.
But it turns out he's got a lot of company around the world. In Spain, unemployment is above 20%. The mayor of one Spanish town has suggested that the drug trade is an option for the unemployed youth of his region.
In Greece, the public is being warned that a further bailout by Euro authorities may include tax collection by non-Greek Eurozone designees
Like a swirling tornado, the negativity threatens to suck the energy right out of the building.
My client's economic future is bleak. Let's not sugarcoat it. There is no politically significant or credible approach being employed to remedy the situation.
It's a situation shared by many an unemployed injured worker around the world.
Tuesday, May 31, 2011, 10:38 PM - Political developmentsYou paid more in taxes last year than General Electric paid.
They paid nothing.
In 2010, on $5.1 billion profits form the U.S., G.E. paid nothing:
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/25/busin ... 25tax.html
Even if that was somewhat skewed by big losses at G.E. Capital, the revelation that one of the nation's largest companies pays nothing (and whose CEO Jeffrey Immelt is Obama's new joblessness guru) has ignited a minor political firestorm.
Did you catch last week's 60 Minutes episode on the overseas flight of American companies to countries with lower tax rates?
That's a good place to start to understand the economic challenges we face.
Should Congress declare tax holidays with reduced tax rates to lure capital back here? And would jobs really come back?
The 60 MInutes piece features an interview with Cisco's John Chambers.
You've got to admire how forthright Chambers is. He doesn't sugar coat it.
Cisco has 40 billion parked overseas.
Wednesday, May 25, 2011, 01:46 AM - Understanding the CA WC systemYou are at dinner, your Silver Oak Cabernet sitting beside your appetizer plate. It's your anniversary, and you and your wife are dressed for the swanky seaside venue.
Diners are ushered to the adjacent table. As a diner takes off her overcoat, one of the coat arms swings toward your table, grazing your wine glass, causing it to tumble and spill all over your wife’s white linen dress.
Steam blows out of your wife's ears. This was the special dress she bought on Rodeo Drive.
Your wife snarls at the adjacent couple, challenging them as rude and careless. You've seen the couple before; probably at the local schools fundraiser, chatting with one of the town gossips.
The couple, their noses in the air, refuse to acknowledge responsibility. Under their breath you hear one of them mutter "bitch". Stepping up the interchange, the husband says it's your fault, you caused it. He notes that you placed the wine glass six inches from the outer right side of your plate.
Your retort is that it was still eight inches from the side of the table.
It's an unhappy meal. Who wants to eat halibut with macadamia nut crust under such hostile circumstances?
You return home. With your wife, you engage in a philosophical excercise.
Was it a causative factor that you chose a wine which comes in stemware which is easier to tip over? A scotch and soda glass would have been unlikely to have tipped.
Was the spill (and the stain on the dress) caused by the restaurant’s placement of tables? By the failure of the maitre’d to ask for coats at the entry?
Are you yourself a contributing cause because you placed it too close to your wife so that it spills in her direction?
And whatever the cause of the spill itself, what about the stain?
Is the stain on the dress also partially caused by the fact the dress was linen, rather than fashioned from Goretex?
Is the extent of the stain damage partly caused by the fact that the dress was not black or maroon rather than white? After all, a darker color would better mask the stain.
And is the extent of the stain damage partially caused by the fact that the restaurant had no red wine removal chemicals on hand?
At the end of the night, steam is still coming from your wife's ears. You're in danger of being sent to the guest bedroom on your anniversary.
"These philosophical distinctions are crap", she screams. "Those jerks...they should pay the total cost of an equivalent new dress", she says as she heads to the computer to print out forms to file in small claims court.