Big Brother Is Getting Aggressive

In a recent release, the Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission announced its new enforcement approach to get more efficient usage of its resources and to build on its present system to remedy discrimination.

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In a recent release, the Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced its new enforcement approach to get more efficient usage of its resources and to build on its present system to remedy discrimination.

This is a four year plan which was approved by a 4-1 vote and begins this coming month. They are calling this a "framework for achieving the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's mission to stop and remedy unlawful employment discrimination, so that the nation might see the commission's vision of justice and equality in the workplace."

Here is the scary part. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's planned outcomes include developing significant partnerships with organizations that represent vulnerable workers (my emphasis) and/or underserved communities, and using technology "to streamline, standardize and expedite the charge process across its field offices." This will include all levels of government, and if I read it properly, labor unions.

And California Is Already Implementing Their Plan
The Department of Industrial Relations (DIR) — which includes the Division of Workers Comp (DWC) — has beaten the feds to the punch. They are already increasing staff to better serve employers, injured workers and other stake holders in the workers' compensation community. This is from Rosa Moran, the new Administrative Director (AD) of the Division of Workers Comp. But of greater import is her message to the "bad actors" out there. They are on notice that the various branches under the Department of Industrial Relations, as well as other independent branches, e.g. the Department of Insurance, are now actively sharing data and will be targeting the worst of the lot first with enforcement actions.

She presented the opening speech at the Division of Workers Comp's annual education conference attended by over 900 participants. "We have people sharing data in the state with agencies including the Employment Development Department, the Division of Workers Comp, the Division of Occupational Safety and Health, and the California Occupational Safety and Health Administration, to name but a few." They have also included the Board of Equalization and the Labor Commission. She went on to say, "If you are a bad employer — and there are many more good employers — but if you are a bad employer, you tend to be bad all around. You're not just cheating on your workers' comp, you're probably cheating on your payroll, you're probably not asking for documentation from your workers. By sharing that data, it's amazing how we can target a small group of people instead of bothering the employers who are actually trying to follow the rules."

This whole process is "about targeted enforcement. It's not about going around randomly to different companies. We can use the data that we have — and we have good data now — and we can use that to look for the bad actors and go after them and support the good employers."

What is even more encouraging to me with this new administration is the Department of Industrial Relations. Christine Baker, the new Director, really wants our input and has scheduled six forums around the state and I hear more are being added. These are designed to solicit real problems and hopefully, real solutions.

I am already signed up to speak about a subject near and dear to my heart which is Continuous Trauma (CT) claims that are growing at a ridiculous rate due to the current state of the economy. These are what I lovingly call the "wearing out" disease wherein you can work for an employer for one day, one week, one month, one year or your whole career. The law simply states that if you can show as little as one percent of loss of function due to the job, you are entitled to money. I have always maintained that I hire the whole package and when I do that, I also am hiring the package the skills come in.

I am not sure how much success I will have with this one. I propose that the legislature do away with this type of claim as we are only one of six states in the nation that allow for continuous trauma claims. In the alternative, I will propose that at least the entry standard for this type of claim be changed to one similar to what is required for a psych or stress claim. That standard is that "an employee shall demonstrate by a preponderance of the evidence that actual events of employment were the predominant as to all causes combined," and not that they simply worked there.

This article is an excerpt from the March 2012 edition of From The Hotline published by Stuart Baron & Associates and Workers' Compensation Claims Control. It is used with permission under the copyright of Stuart Baron & Associates.

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