Saturday, August 25, 2007, 10:06 PM - Political developmentsSuppose you are a grocery store manager. In addition to your regular salary you participate in a compensation scheme that rewards you based on the store's profit. Among items that affect the store's profit is workers' compensation costs.
An employee reports a claim to you. Would you be inclined to discourage the worker from filing the claim? Would you suggest the employee use group health benefits and apply for state disability instead of filing a comp claim?
Readers of the blog may remember that recently this very situation arose in Roseville at Bel-Air Market, a Raley's subsidiary. The store manager Nicole Leddy and assistant manager Amy Looper have been charged with workers' comp fraud in Placer County. You can access that post ("Don't Mess With Our BBQ") by clicking here:
http://workerscompzone.com/index.php?m= ... 597825e701
But is it legal for an employer to deduct workers' comp costs from store profit for purposes of computing entitlement to profit-based bonuses? This was the issue in the August 23, 2007, decision of the California Supreme Court in the case of Prachaisoradej v. Ralphs Grocery Co.
The court's majority, prevailing in a 4-3 decision, said yes, the practice is legal. Justices Baxter, Chin, George and Corrigan approved of the practice. Justices Kennard, Werdegar and Moreno dissented, arguing that the practice of deducting comp costs was illegal. Their dissent was eloquent, and you can read it along with the majority opinion by clicking here:
http://www.courtinfo.ca.gov/opinions/do ... 128576.PDF
Tone deaf to the realities of the workplace, the California Supreme Court issued its decision in Prachaisoradej just several weeks after the fraud indictments of the Bel Air Market managers. How ironic.
But there may be a silver lining if workers begin to report employer coercion to local district attorneys. One presumes that Ralphs Markets would be concerned if its managers fraudulently discouraged workers from filing claims in hopes of obtaining better bonuses. Ralphs Markets may have won this case, but the Bel Air Market indictments serve as a warning to the grocery industry and other industries utilizing these bonus arrangements.
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Friday, August 24, 2007, 07:42 AM - Political developmentsA California coalition of small business owners-calling itself Small Business for Affordable Healthcare-has announced support for the concept of mandated employer funding for health care coverage.
The group released a survey yesterday that claims over half of California small business owners would favor paying to a statewide purchasing pool to acquire affordable health coverage for their employees.
The conventional wisdom has been that small employers are a monolith that opposes any attempt to require employers to provide health care coverage. Several California employer groups have been very active in lobbying for workers' comp reform and against health care reform that contains mandated costs for employees. The California Chamber of Commerce and the National Federation of Independent Business come to mind.
There are, of course, several health care reform proposals alive in the legislature (Schwarzenegger's plan, the Perata-Nunez plan which is AB 8, and the Sheila Kuehl "single payer" plan). Schawarzenegger's plan would require employers to pay 4% of payroll into a state fund. AB 8 would require employers to pay 7.5% of payroll.
The Small Business for Affordable Health Care coalition joins a coalition of several large employers-Safeway and Pacific Gas & Electric among them-in pushing for reform this year.
You can read the small business coalition's report by clicking here:
Wednesday, August 22, 2007, 10:39 PM - Political developmentsThe California Division of Workers Compensation is proposing to adopt guidelines for treatment of chronic pain. The guidelines are largely based on the "Official Disability Guidelines," known as the ODG guidelines.
By clicking the following link you can read the proposed treatment guidelines and participate in an online forum to comment on the proposed guidelines:
http://www.dir.ca.gov/dwc/DWCWCABForum/ ... ;RegID=212
The online public forum on the guidelines closes on September 4. So far, comment from many doctors specializing in chronic pain treatment is positive. Check out the comments from many of California's leading pain management specialists. But you do not have to be a doctor to add your comments to the public forum.
In choosing the ODG guidelines, the DWC has for the first time rejected ACOEM as a basis for official treatment standards. Clearly ACOEM has been an inadequate standard for dealing with chronic pain.
But remember that this is the comment phase. The final version could be different, particularly if major system stakeholders object to this version.
Wednesday, August 22, 2007, 12:36 PM - Political developmentsI was always a big sucker for baseball and football cards. One of the worst things my mother ever did was to throw out my collection while I was off at college. Little did she know they'd eventually be worth a small fortune.
Someday on eBay perhaps you'll be able to find Poizner cards.
Poizner cards? What?#! Cards of California's Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner? The high tech millionaire who may be the great Republican hope to succeed Schwarzenegger as governor in 2010?
Yep. Poizner cards have surfaced. Four of them, dropped off in California Republican legislators' Capitol offices early this week.
The Sacramento Bee notes that one features Poizner's face in a Che Guevara style uniform and beret, along with a hammer and sickle. Another card trumpeted "Reject the conservative Republican agenda" and "support socialized insurance."
Other cards said "Make millions, then become a man of the people" and "believe that BIG GOVERNMENT is your friend."
A performance art project? Dirty tricks project of potential political opponents? Off the wall effort by some lone conservative political junkie worried that Poizner will drift toward the middle so eschewed by the
California Flash Report crowd? Sympathizer's ploy to stir up publicity in contrast to the Senate GOP minority holding up the state budget? Whatever the answer, it makes for a fun parlor game.
To learn more about Poizner's stance on workers' comp so far, you can click here:
http://www.workerscompzone.com/index.ph ... 4f787d6811
Tuesday, August 21, 2007, 05:47 PM - Political developmentsWhat took seven weeks and made California's governor look like a hostage to the far right of his party? The California budget, of course.
But the two have finally tango-ed.
This afternoon Senate Minority leader Dick Ackerman essentially caved, joining Senator Abel Maldonado of Santa Maria in voting for the budget which in large measure is similar to that proposed by the titular head of their own party (there are some significant changes that were extracted by the GOP Senate minority, however, and you can see a summary by clicking here:
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.c ... =printable
The gloating among the shrink-government-until-we-can drown-it-in-a-bathtub folks at the California Flash Report is probably coming to a close. But it remains to be seen whether Schwarzenegger will veer back closer to members of his own party or turn away from them. And will there be residual anger in the Capitol or a new gloss of "post-partisanship" on legislative business in River City? Go figure.
The feedback from unhappy state contractors with stalled projects and from nursing home and medical facilities operators who had to borrow money to meet payroll may have been a factor in bringing this charade to a close.
And now it's on to substantive business. Health care reform. Term limits reform. Water storage project issues.
And workers' comp bills. Until the legislative session ends in mid-September I'll be resuming more commentary on those bills, many of which were parked during the budget debate.
Still, it's unlikely that the Governor will buck the Chamber of Commerce business interests he has tied himself to during his tenure.