Tuesday, December 2, 2008, 09:43 PM - Political developmentsIt's rare to see California workers' comp in the national media spotlight.
But it's happening now, as the media focuses on the "hate-crime defense" being mounted in a death case involving the murder of Taneka Talley, a salesclerk at the Dollar Tree Store in Fairfield . (Disclosure: Moira Stagliano, also at Boxer & Gerson, represents the Talley family in the case).
The Gray & Prouty defense attorney has taken the position that Talley's stabbing was "purely racially motivated. As such, it is our belief that our denial in this matter is proper."
Whatever the merits of Dollar Tree's position, the denial of death benefits based on a hate-crime defense has turned into a public relations nightmare for Dollar Tree and its comp carrier, Specialty Risk Services.
The story is all over the blogosphere.
It's a story with ugly racial overtones. A story that doesn't reflect well on corporate America or the insurance industry.
Tommy Joe Thompson, charged with the crime, has not yet been tried and thus has not testified.
But a number of the facts in the case are already clear.
Talley had no prior relationship with the assailant. There is no indication that Talley would have been in any danger from the assailant had she not been at work at Dollar Tree that day. Being at the job was what put Ms. Talley in harm's way. There is no indication that any personal animus led to the assailant to enter the store seeking Ms. Talley specifically.
Here are links to some of the press accounts on the case:
from ABC news:
from Channel 7
http://abclocal.go.com/kgo/story?sectio ... id=6515974
from the San Francisco Chronicle:
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.c ... =printable
There's also a good discussion on the 12/1/08 edition of workcompcentral.com.
As noted by attorney Linda Atcherley, all workers have some personal characteristic-race, sex, religion etc. Atcherley noted that "If it's because of some immutable characteristic that you have as a human being, as a worker, when you came in the door, that you cannot get workers' compensation benefits because of the lunatics in this world...Who will go to work in the morning?".
Has workers' comp devolved to the point that we will allow denial of benefits to workers injured by random violent attacks at the workplace?
Probably not. But if the courts do not put the kabosh on this "hate crimes defense", the California legislature will be called to do so.
Meanwhile, Boxer & Gerson is proud of Moira Stagliano's principled stand on behalf of Ms. Talley's family, including Talley's 10 year old son.
Ms. Stagliano is scheduled to appear on "Fox and Friends" this Thursday
as the Fox network show covers the issue.
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Sunday, November 30, 2008, 10:22 PM - Political developmentsWhether you've been fearlessly hunting Black Friday bargains or hunkered down by the TV trying to understand what terror group was behind Mumbai's spectacular, workerscompzone has continued to follow some stories of interest.
Don Perata's reign at the California Senate is over. Darrell Steinberg now ascends to the Senate's top spot. But look for him to remain friendly to the interests of disabled workers, as was Perata.
Perata's farewell message is here:
http://www.californiaprogressreport.com ... s_far.html
Perata moved workers' comp bills aimed at tempering SB 899, but was never able to get the governor to agree to dilute his signature legislative victory.
The University of California will apparently cover funding for the coming year for UC Berkeley and UCLA labor institute programs, despite the fact that funding was nixed by the Governor. How all of this will play out in the overall scheme of likely shrinking higher education budgets is still to be hammered out.
The legislature will have to deal with the ballooning budget deficit soon. Otherwise, California is headed off a cliff. There has been some talk that in exchange for support for some higher taxes, Republicans would like to see relaxation of rules on employee meals and rest breaks. The following memo from Angela Bradstreet, California Labor Commissioner, gives some background on that controversy:
http://www.dir.ca.gov/dlse/mealandrest/ ... Report.pdf
Democrats picked up one more Assembly seat last week. The formerly
Republican Sacramento area assembly seat now goes to Democrat Alyson Huber. Meanwhile, Republican Tony Strickland apparently held the Ventura area California Senate seat for the Republicans. Overall, Democrats did pick up seats but not enough to make a big difference on any workers' comp issues.
Thursday, November 27, 2008, 03:17 PM - Political developmentsHappy Thanksgiving to my readers. Here's hoping you are having time with loved ones or things that bring you joy.
For many folks-even affluent ones- it's been a stressful year. We've witnessed the unraveling of our economy in a way that may take years to get back on track.
California working folks have seen legislative efforts for healthcare reform come to naught. Proposed improvements in the comp system have been vetoed or administratively delayed. California's budget deficit looms over the California comp system, which though "user funded", may be affected by budget solutions eventually adopted.
But here are a few things to be thankful for on this special day:
-Despite the challenges of EAMS and the complexities of the 2003/2004 comp reforms, California workers' comp judges and WCAB staff continue to function in the system with grace under difficult odds. As with any large enterprise, there are exceptions, but in my experience the WCJ corps and support staffs have shown incredible committment to maintaining a functioning comp system.
The judges and staff deserve much more appreciation than they receive. Many of the workers' comp judges make less money than they did make or could make in private practice. But almost all of them have a great loyalty to the system. So here's a toast to the independent WCAB
-also worthy of thanks is the workers comp press. The press covering workers' comp has for years included the distinguished California Workers Comp Reporter and the Appeals Board Reporter. Over the last few years they were joined by workcompcentral.com and the workers' comp site on Lexis.com, as well as by the Workers' Comp Executive and by this blog. Each of these publications has a bit of a different slant, but
as a group it has to be said that much more information is now available about California workers' comp for those who want to follow the issues......
-also deserving of thanks are the efforts of the think tanks. I don't always agree with conclusions of their studies, but efforts by UC Berkeley faculty, RAND researchers and others (many of which were commissioned by CHSWC) continue to enliven the debate about the future direction of workers' comp benefits in this state....
-thanks also to CSIMS, the California Society of Industrial Medicine. CSIMS has for years promoted continuing education and professionalism for many of the better QMES and treating doctors in the California system. Their efforts continue to contribute to better functioning in a system that treats and evaluates disabled workers.....
-thanks also the educators: Art Johnson and his crew of voluteers who arrange seminars sponsored by CAAA and my fellow committee members on the workers' comp executive committee of the California State Bar. The workers' comp committee, led by outgoing chair Hon. Colleen Casey and incoming chair Sara Ponzio, has continued to offer excellent continuing education seminars on timely comp issues.
Again, have a great holiday. And may we look back next year on this and see this as a time when the USA and California reached for creative solutions to our problems.
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Tuesday, November 25, 2008, 08:02 AM - Political developmentsWant your chance to formulate a NATIONAL workers' comp law?
According to the screaming headline on today's Drudge Report, you may get your chance.
Since the mid 1800s some Northern Californians and Southern Oregonians have pushed the idea of a state, to be named either Shasta or Jefferson.
But perhaps they should be thinking bigger. Get your resume ready now for the post of insurance czar for the country of Jefferson. You can help formulate the new workers' comp law there. Better watch out, though. Those Oregonians may try to import their law, a law many California workers won't like.......
Marijuana lung grower's disease will be a covered claim.
While we're at it, we'll hire Jack Bauer as Secretary of Defense.
I've never made a habit of getting my information from Moscow's Izvestia, but that's the source of today's Drudge headline, a prediction by a Russian professor of increasing turmoil and the breakup of the U.S. into regional states that would link the Pacific West together. Here's the link:
We're in a historical moment where crackpot ideas, though still highly implausible, have a certain fascination.
Who would have seen Britain, riding high on the world applecart, alnost on the verge of bankruptcy?
http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/ambrose_ev ... g_bankrupt
And in a genetically homogeneous country mainly known to many of us as Bjork's homeland, riots?
http://www.france24.com/en/20081123-pro ... is-iceland
Stay tuned. In my next post I'll comment on an ongoing flap involving
comp coverage of death claims due to hate crime murder.
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Saturday, November 22, 2008, 09:45 PM - Political developmentsAs a kid I had a fascination with auto marques (and a helluva Dinky toy collection). I swooned over the Avanti. As a college student, my girlfriend's father treated me to rides in his Alvis.
The DeSotos, Edsels and Oldsmobile are long gone. American car culture became quaint.
Ford's huge plant in Milpitas Ca. (near San Jose) was converted to a mega-shopping mall, selling clothing, toys & electronics mostly made in Asia. Other California assembly plants were closed. The GM plant in Fremont became "New United Motor", a Toyota-GM venture turning out Toyota trucks. I represent a lot of those workers.
Foreign manufacturers set up non-union plants in Tennessee, Alabama & Georgia. Pay at those plants is much lower. Plants are subsidized by tax breaks.
Detroit auto workers, once strong, now have their backs to the wall. Chances are good that by the end of the year one or more of Detroit's Big 3 will collapse.
Will this be another nail in the coffin of the labor movement in this country? The United Auto Workers and the International Association of Machinists would both be effectively crippled. The message would be that union-scale benefits are not sustainable in competitive industries.
Obama wants to save the UAW. But he may not be able to do that. Coming right as Obama assumes control, once can't help but think back to how Reagan's firing of the air traffic controllers set a tone for labor relations for years.
This is a workers' comp column. But if there are no workers there is no workers' comp.
What should happen? This week's pleas by Detroit execs fell flat. Without more viable business plans, Congress has little incentive or political cover to do a bailout or even a bridge loan.
Personally, as a taxpayer, I can't get enthused about a bailout or bridge loan without seeing a better roadmap that includes specifics of sacrifices to be made by all Detroit stakeholders (management, suppliers, dealers, and yes, union members and retirees).
So what should happen? Is "prepackaged bankruptcy" (where stakeholders agree on a resolution in advance) a possibility? Apparently this has been discussed by some Obama stafffers. Bankruptcy?
In another industry or at another time these resolutions might work. But in a deep, deep recession, with teetering banks, who is going to lend to Detroit to pull it out of bankruptcy? And who is buying cars? And why you buy a car from a company in bankruptcy if the company and its dealers might not be around to support the car's service?
What's the answer? Take a look at the answer suggested by New York Times columnist Joe Nocera:
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/22/busin ... nted=print
The ball is in Obama's court.
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