Archive for February, 2018

Recent Case Endangers Contractors In Massachusetts

Massachusetts workers' compensationIn January, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court was tasked with answering the question of how the rising number of independent contractors are to be treated when it comes to workers’ compensation. The case of Ives Camargo v. Publishers Circulation Fulfillment had been found in a lower court generally in favor of the company, but an appeal was requested by both parties over details in how the ruling impacted them.

What’s At Stake

According to Jobs for the Future, a nonprofit operating in favor of working people at high risk of exploitation, the number of independent contractors in the United States has been increasing nearly every year since the late 1990s. Aside from one dip in employment that affected both employees and contractors in 2010, the number of contractors has continued to rise even when the number of employees was falling or remaining stagnant. There are benefits to this shift of employment status.

For contractors, this arrangement offers greater freedom in how, when, and where their work is performed. For employers, independent contractors provide needed or peripheral services with little obligation placed on the company. That benefit to companies is also reflected in one of the major drawbacks to contractors: Companies are not held to the same standards in their treatment of contractors as they are when dealing with employees. This means, for instance, that employers are not under obligation to cover workers’ compensation benefits for independent contractors.

What rights do independent contractors have?

Jobs for the Future argues for greater protections of independent contractors. They note a struggle in various cities to expand the rights of contractors, including a law in Seattle that is under a lawsuit and has been at least temporarily suspended by the courts. The Massachusetts court, in Camargo v. PCF, ended up ruling that Camargo should be considered an independent contractor and therefore is not entitled to compensation for the injuries she received while performing her duties to the company. While they cited other cases with similar employer/worker arrangements, this case establishes precedent for the specific matter of workers’ compensation, and it is a dangerous one to set.

Those who carry out the work of these companies deserve the basic protections that workers in America enjoy and should be able to hold their employers accountable for dangers that arise as part of their duties. We fight for workers who must battle their employers for their rights and protections. If you have a workers’ compensation claim, do not hesitate to call us and find out how we can help you.

Workplace Injuries and Illnesses on the Decline

Rhode Island workers' compensationThe Bureau of Labor Statistics has released data on workplace injuries and illnesses for 2016. These results continued a downward trend in overall reports that began in 2004, only interrupted in 2012 when the overall numbers did not change. While this information is highly encouraging on the surface, a deeper study shows that there is actually very little, if any, change in significant sets of available data.

Workplace Injury and Illness Rates

The Bureau of Labor Statistics report tracks five types of workplace injuries and illnesses among private employers. Two of those five showed a decrease, including the overall number, leaving the other three unchanged. Those other three, however, included cases with job transfer or restriction, which have remained the same for six years in a row. Cases with at least one day of work lost, however, have only held a value of 0.9 per 100 full-time worker equivalents for two years in a row. The combined dataset of just those two values also remained unchanged this year. In fact, all the change seen on the graph is directly the result of a slight decrease in other recordable cases. On the positive side, these numbers, taken together and compared to changes in public employment numbers, resulted in a reduction of total actual injuries and illnesses. In 2015, there were 3.66 million workplace injuries and illnesses reported, while 2016 saw 3.53 million.

The administrator of the Occupational Health and Safety Administration from December 2010 through January 2017, David Michaels, expressed concern to Bloomberg Environment. He stated that, “Whether it is 3 million, 4 million, or 5 million, it is unacceptable.” He also noted that BLS has done research into the actual accuracy of their numbers, and found a problem. Namely, when compared to workers’ compensation claims and emergency room reports, employers appear to be downplaying the number of workplace injuries and illnesses they actually encounter per year.

While there is a lot of room for improvement still, we can celebrate declining numbers of workplace injuries and illnesses overall. As long as there are still workplace accidents, the victims of those accidents need the help of professionals who understand the responsibility of employers to maintain safe working conditions and care about getting you the results you deserve.

In the event of a workplace injury or illness, contact an experienced workers’ compensation attorney at The Law Offices of Deborah G. Kohl and find out what we can do for you.