Wolf, Baldwin & Associates, P.C.

Philadelphia Family Law and Workers' Compensation Law Blog

PTA employee claims boss's treatment led to heart attack

A 30-year-veteran of the Pennsylvania Transit Authority (PTA) is taking his employer to federal court for alleged abuse by a boss. According to reports, the $150,000 lawsuit claims that a worker's boss created a stressful work environment where he was continually bullied, which ultimately led to a heart attack in 2017. The man, who is of Indian descent, also claims that his boss discriminated against him because of his race.

The employee joined the PTA's Business Division in May of 2016 as a disadvantaged business enterprise manager. He reported to the disadvantaged business enterprise director. The suit claims that the director's aggressive style included loud outbursts. For example, when the employee suggested hiring a data analyst, the boss's alleged response was to scream at the employee so aggressively that the employee feared that he would be physically attacked.

Making the holiday party safe for all

One longstanding tradition for many businesses is the holiday party. Some are large events involving staff and clients. Others are smaller staff-only affairs that are more like a cocktail party. Whatever the format, an unfortunate part of the tradition may be binge drinking by staff and management, which can lead to awkward moments or more serious legal issues.

The rise of the #MeToo movement has forced some employers to revise their guidelines governing appropriate behavior in the workplace. These updates should also carry over to the holiday party, which is a work-sanctioned event in which employers should be concerned about intoxicated employees injuring themselves, fellow workers or others; they might wonder if the party is worth that risk. Discontinuing the party may lead to fall in morale, particularly during what may be a busy time of year. Holding the party as a "dry" event is an option, but some may feel that this implies that they cannot be trusted to behave when alcohol is served. Many smart employers are already aware of these safety concerns and liability issues and are reevaluating their options.

Lax restaurant safety protocol can lead to worker injuries

Restaurant workers do very challenging work that can come with serious risks. For many of these workers, making minimum wage or just above is the norm. Even when they are working at a low-cost chain restaurant, all restaurant workers deserve to have a safe environment.

There are four types of injuries that are most common in this industry. All employers should ensure that they have put safeguards in place to help keep workers from suffering any of the following:

  • Musculoskeletal injuries: Sprains and strains are common due to overexertion, slips or trips, overreaching or moving in an unnatural way. Often, these require you to rest the affected area, which can be hard at work.
  • Lacerations: Glass, knives and kitchen equipment can lead to cuts or punctures. Minor injuries should be disinfected and covered. More serious injuries might require you to go to the hospital to get stitches and antibiotics. There is a risk of infection if the object you were cut by came into contact with things like raw meat or if it was a dirty dish.
  • Eye injuries: Chemicals that splash around and other liquids that are common in this industry can hit the eye. If you are working with something that might splatter, wearing safety goggles is a good idea. Some eye injuries will require you to flush the eye out, and you might need to see an eye doctor.
  • Burns: There are many things that can burn restaurant workers, including stoves, fryers and hot liquids. Around 12,000 cases of burns in the restaurant industry are reported annually, but this is likely on the lower end since minor injuries may not be reported. Some minor burns can be treated on-site but more serious ones require emergency medical care.

Insurers' rewards for tracking health goals comes with strings

It is much easier for others to track what we do and say in the digital age. Whether it is a GPS route to Bucks County or a parent monitoring her child's social media accounts, technology records it. Insurance carriers and employers are getting into the act by offering up to a $2,000 discount in healthcare premiums to employees who wear fitness tracking devices like Fitbit to document achieving certain health goals by measuring heart rate, sleep habits and blood pressure. Common goals include 10,000 steps a day.

The idea of encouraging exercise through a discount would seem to be a good use for this type of technology. Millions agree and embrace the concept, but others are not so sure. According to a recent story by NPR, critics question how documenting health goals lessens the chances of health care spending and fear that the data can be subverted to other purposes.

All accidents should be reported to your employer

Workers who suffer injuries while they are working should be able to turn to workers' compensation for benefits. This is a special insurance that employers are required by law to purchase to protect themselves from having to pay out-of-pocket when a worker is hurt at work. The benefit to workers is that the insurance will cover their medical bills related to the incident. The workers' comp insurance will also provide income benefits for missed wages if the wage loss is related to the work injury.

We understand that you might not have an idea about what the system might be able to do for you. Trying to determine how this insurance can help you can be maddening because of the complex laws and policies surrounding it. Even lawyers who don't practice in the workers' compensation field are wise not to dabble in this area of law. Our lawyers provide personal service to help you find out what benefits you should receive. We can help you from the initial filing through the final outcome of the case.

Seasonal workers have a right to safe work conditions

Many workers take on a second job or work one temporarily during the holiday season here in Southeastern Pennsylvania. Despite the temporary nature of holiday work, employers are still held to certain responsibilities for worker safety. According to OSHA, employers and staffing agencies need to outline their respective responsibilities to comply with all applicable OSHA standards in the employment contract. This ensures that the employer complies with all applicable guidelines, and it avoids later confusion about employer obligations.

Employer and agency are both responsible

State introduces new opioid prescribing guidelines

The opioid epidemic is an economic and health crisis here in Pennsylvania. Now the Wolf Administration has become involved by introducing new guidelines for prescribing the drugs to injured workers on workers' compensation. The idea is to prevent workers with chronic pain or acute pain due to injury from becoming addicted to powerful drugs such as Vicodin or OxyContin.

According to the administration, Pennsylvania had 174,216 workers' compensation claims in 2017. The commonwealth also has the third highest rate of workers who become addicted to these painkillers. These numbers contribute to over 4,642 deaths due to opioid overdoses. Unfortunately, these numbers continue to soar upward.

Workers' comp versus personal injury

There are several key differences between personal injury suits and workers' compensation claims. The main distinction is that a party must be at fault if there is to be personal injury claim, such as a driver who causes a vehicle accident or a faulty product. A workers' compensation claim, on the other hand, is not fault based but it must happen in the course of doing work. Since there does  not have to be anyone at fault, the injured person does not have to prove that an employer or co-worker was negligent to receive benefits.

Other Notable Differences

The Top 10 Safety Violations of 2018

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has just announced its list of the most frequent safety violations found in the workplace. While the list is preliminary, the numbers at this point will likely reflect the final list. The news was announced with some fanfare by Deputy Director of OSHA's Directorate of Enforcement Programs on the floor of the 2018 NSC Congress & Expo, which is the largest annual gathering of safety professionals in the world.

The Top 10

OSHA fines farm for death of employee struck by lightning

Employees have a right to a safe workplace whether they are working at a construction site, in an office or elsewhere. This includes at a farm picking vegetables in Florida. Therefore, it was no surprise that Occupational Health and Safety Agency (OSHA) levied a fine of $12,934, which is the maximum, after a 53-year-old mother of five and grandmother of 12 was fatally struck by lightning last May while working in a field as a thunderstorm raged. She had worked for there for 15 years, first as a picker and then keeping count of harvest yields. According to local news reports, two others were injured from the strike as well.

The employer was deemed negligent

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