An Illinois state employee “was dismissed in 2011 from her $115,000 per year job as an arbitrator for the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission after a series of stories in the News-Democrat concerning more than $10 million paid to prison guards who complained that turning keys and operating locks caused them to be injured.” The investigation indicated that the arbitrator tried to hide from the press a disability application by a former state trooper convicted of causing highway deaths, and allegedly used her position in an unsuccessful attempt to pressure state officials to speed up her own claim, commenting that she had ‘two mortgages’ to pay.” After her departure from the arbitrator job she “found work training others for the very job from which she was fired,” and now is endeavoring to collect a “pending $25,000 settlement for a disability primarily attributed to typing,” which the state is resisting. [Belleville, Ill., News-Democrat]
Don’t take my word for it, take New York Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s:
Mr. Cuomo conceded that the scaffold law was among the “infuriating” things about doing business in New York, but couldn’t be changed because of the strength of its supporters, particularly the state trial lawyers association.
“The trial lawyers are the single most powerful political force in Albany,” he said. “That’s the short answer. It’s also the long answer.”
As Andrew Hawkins explains at Crain’s New York Business, which interviewed Cuomo, the scaffold law is New York’s alone-in-the-country legal regime ascribing 100% liability for gravity-related workplace injuries to businesses found to have contributed any fault, even if the predominant cause was a worker’s drunkenness or decision to violate safety rules. Because awards are high, some estimate that the law will contribute $200 million to construction costs at the Tappan Zee Bridge rebuilding project alone compared with a law more typical of what is found in other states. The law has been under vigorous attack for some time by a New York business coalition, to no avail.
“A government worker injured during motel sex on a business trip is not entitled to workers’ compensation, Australia’s highest court has ruled.” [Debra Cassens Weiss, ABA Journal, earlier on Australian workers' comp]
“A former UC Davis police officer whose pepper-spraying of protesters gained worldwide notice thanks to a viral video has been awarded more than $38,000 in workers’ compensation from the university for suffering he experienced after the incident.” [Joe Garofoli, San Francisco Chronicle]
More from Lowering the Bar:
Here are some additional facts that are remarkable.
- Pike was on paid leave during the university’s investigation, which for some reason took eight months.
- The investigation found not only that Pike didn’t need to use the spray, but that he used a spray not sanctioned by the department and he used it from an unsafe distance. Seems serious and willful to me.
- Pike was being paid — please be seated — at least $119,000 per year (another report says $121,680) plus benefits, to be a campus policeman in Davis, California.
- Though Pike was fired, he will still get his pension.
- The students he sprayed sued UC Davis for civil-rights violations. The university settled with them for $1 million (plus an apology). Under the settlement, the plaintiffs will each receive, at most, $30,000.
Yes, the man who assaulted the plaintiffs will be getting $8,000 more than any plaintiff will get, as a result of his claim that he was acting within the course of his employment by assaulting them and became emotionally disabled as a result of being accused of assaulting them; he is also allowed to keep a pension that is likely based to some degree on the $119,000 per year the state was paying him to be the kind of officer who pepper-sprays non-violent protesters in the face.
Dividing 11-5: “Plaintiffs who failed in their state worker’s compensation claim cannot sue their employers and their medical experts under federal civil racketeering laws, the en banc 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled.” [Jackson et al. v. Sedgwick Claims Management et al., PDF; Miller Canfield; Business Insurance; Steven Schwinn, Constitutional Law Prof Blog]
“A former University of California, Davis police officer who was fired after pepper spraying a group of students staging a protest in 2011, and whose actions went viral on the internet, is seeking workers’ compensation settlement, claiming the incident left him psychologically injured.” [ABC News]
“Oh, come on, now, WRAL. No one’s really going to believe the claimant in the bogus workers’ comp case with the game show angle is named ‘Wrench Cashwell’. You’re going to have to come up with something better than that.” [Fayetteville, N.C.]
Worker’s comp is intended to provide relatively liberal coverage in some ways — that goes with the territory of a “no-fault” compensation scheme — but a few of these outcomes might still raise an eyebrow, particularly when it comes to generous definitions of what’s “work-related.” [Cracked] More: Coyote (“Our problem tends to be that we get a whole heck of a lot of “injuries” in the 3-4 hours between when we fire someone and when they leave the property.”)