According to OSHA, every New Jersey employer should have a plan in place to prevent workplace violence. Even more important, there should be a plan to address violence if it does occur.
On February 13, in New York, a therapist was hacked to death by a man with a meat cleaver. Kathryn Faughey, described as a dedicated therapist, was attacked in her office. A male colleague, Dr. Kent Shinback, was injured trying to save her.
While this tragic even occurred in New York, no state is immune from violence in the workplace.
The New York assailant was apparently related to a former patient of Dr. Shinback’s. The man, who has been apprehended by police, says that he planned to attack Shinback but decided to rob Faughey’s purse, sitting in her empty office, while he was waiting. When Faughey returned unexpectedly, the man attacked her.
Three bloody knives were left in the room.
Police say that Faughey put up a “fierce struggle” leaving blood on the floor and walls.
The following day, in a frightening incident this month, an armed man terrorized employees at a Kmart store in Whatcom County, Washington. The man stole a gun from the retailer, then ran through the store screaming and knocking over employees on February 14. The man is described as a white male in his mid-twenties.
The man held a knife to the store manager’s throat before smashing a display case to steal a gun and ammo.
Outside the store, the man confronted a police officer, but stopped short of aiming the gun at anyone. The man threatened to kill himself if apprehended.
While there is no conclusive evidence yet, it appears that the man may have been under the influence of drugs, alcohol or both.
People who witnessed the incident are asked to contact the Bellingham Police Department. Police are concerned that an accomplice in the incident may still be at large.
When employers think of the potential for violence in the workplace, they usually focus on late-night robberies of convenience stores, not mid-morning robberies of suburban discount stores.
In the early 1990s, over 200 people were murdered in the workplace. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, that number dropped to 94 in 2006. Violence in the workplace in Ohio and across the nation is a concern for Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), particularly homicides. Though the number of people killed has dropped over the years, it is still a major factor.
OSHA urges all employers to establish a policy of zero tolerance toward violence on the job. Safety programs and violence prevention programs should be set up and provided in writing to all employees. Workers should also understand how to prevent violence, and how to react in violent scenarios.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) provides videos and downloads on preventing workplace violence.
The statistics regarding workplace violence are staggering. Over 2 million Americans are victimized every year. All occupations and social levels are included. Blue collar workers and professionals are each as likely to be involved.
To help prevent workplace violence, OSHA recommends that all companies install video surveillance, alarm systems and extra lighting. All workers should be issued an I. D. badge to limit access, along with cell phones and hand-held alarms. For those workers handling a lot of cash, especially at night, companies should provide a drop safe.
For their safety, all employees who work away from an office should provide their employer with their work plan, and check in during the day. Plus, companies should have a policy where a worker clearly facing a dangerous situation can refuse that situation.
It’s important for Nevada employers to be aware of changes to the FMLA regulations.
On April 11, 2008, employers will face several changes due to new FMLA (Family and Medical Leave Act) regulations.
The U. S. Department of Labor proposed these changes on February 11, 2008. Until the changes go into effect employers have a chance to review them and to make comments.
To post comments, employers can simply click this link and type in the keywords “Family and Medical Leave Act” (complete with quotes). Employers should understand, however, that their comments will be viewable by the public.
The use of paid time off (PTO) while on FMLA leave is one of the major changes detailed among the new regulations. FMLA leave is unpaid leave, and employers are required only to provide up to 12 weeks and protect the employee’s job. To continue receiving paychecks, a worker can currently use accrued sick time while on FMLA leave.
The new regulations will allow employees to use accrued sick time, accrued vacation time and accrued personal leave.
For instance, Bob requires heart surgery and will take 12 weeks of FMLA leave for surgery and recovery. His accrued PTO comes to 5 weeks of vacation, 3 weeks of personal and 2 weeks of sick leave. Under the new regulations, he can use all 10 weeks of his PTO while on FMLA leave. The remaining two weeks will be unpaid leave. Bob has effectively substituted paid leave for FMLA leave, which is termed “substitution of paid leave.”
Prior to the new regulations, Bob could only use the accrued sick leave, and would then be on unpaid FMLA leave for the remainder of his time off.
The new regulations will also change how FMLA leave is charged to employee absences. Currently, a worker on FMLA isn’t considered “absent”. Employers and coworkers complained about this policy, because workers who’d been gone for 12 weeks were receiving “perfect attendance” awards, including bonuses.
The new regulations state that FMLA leave will be counted toward a worker’s absences just like any other leave. Employees who take FMLA, then, will no longer be eligible for attendance awards.
More Nevada FMLA Changes
Victoria Lipnic of the U.S. Department of Labor recently commented on the proposed changes to the FMLA (Family and Medical Leave Act). “It’s time to update these regulations — to reflect court decisions, clear up ambiguities and address issues that weren’t contemplated when the regulations were first issued in 1995.”
The Labor Department proposed several changes on February 11, 2008, including the definition of how often an employee on FMLA needs to see a healthcare provider, permission for employers to disqualify employees on FMLA from “Perfect Attendance Awards” and amendments to the medical certification process.
These proposed changes are scheduled to go into effect on April 11, 2008. Until that time, employers have the opportunity to review and comment on the changes.
Ms. Lipnic described the new proposal. “This proposal is the result of a thoughtful, careful process that included a Request for Information with 15,000 public comments in 2006, many conversations with stakeholders, and the department’s experience in administering and enforcing the law.”
In addition to the amendments listed, several changes target the issue of “serious medical condition” and how that condition is certified by medical personnel.
FMLA allows workers to take 12 weeks of unpaid leave per 12 month period to care for themselves or for a parent, child or spouse with a “serious medical condition.” To prevent abuse of the leave, the U. S. Department of Labor permits companies to require the worker’s healthcare professional to certify the “serious medical condition”.
In the new regulations, six of the definitions of “serious medical condition” have been retained. Two terms have received further clarification.
For instance, one definition of “serious medical condition” requires the worker to be incapacitated for three consecutive calendar days and visit the healthcare provider twice. Yet, no parameters were defined for those two visits. Did they need to be two visits per week, per month, or even per year?
The U.S. Department of Labor in the new regulations will amend the rule to require the two visits to occur within 30 days of the period of incapacity.
In 2006, Governor Rod Blagojevich signed a law to increase the Illinois state minimum wage, adding 25 cents each year from 2007-2010 to attain an hourly wage of $8.25 per hour.
On July 1, 2008, the second in the series of increases will take place, raising the Illinois minimum wage from $7.50 to $7.75 per hour.
Also effective on July 1, 2008, is an increase in the minimum for tipped workers to $4.65 per hour. During the first 90 days of employment employees can be paid a training wage of $7.25 per hour.
Employers are legally permitted to pay workers under the age of 18 a lower wage. Youths, under the current statute, can earn $7.00 per hour, but on July 1, 2008, they must be paid $7.25. For tipped workers under the age of 18, the hourly rate is $4.35.
According to the Illinois Department of Labor (IDOL) over 650,000 workers in Illinois will be affected by these increases.
In 2007, the Governor said, “A person who works 40 hours a week should earn enough to care for their family and afford basic necessities. I’m proud that in Illinois, we’ve kept our promise to help working people and make their lives easier after years of neglect at the federal level. It will be a little easier for thousands of Illinois families to pay their bills, put food on the table or buy clothes for their kids.”
This series of increases to the Illinois minimum wage is actually the second time Governor Blagojevich has upped the state minimum rate. In 2003, he signed a law increasing the minimum from $5.15 per hour to $5.50 per hour. In 2004, the minimum rose another dollar to $6.50
Over four years, the Illinois minimum wage has increased $2.60 per hour.
Beatrice Jackson, President of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) praised the increase. “For thousands of working families who live on the brink of poverty, the increase in Illinois’ minimum wage will help workers afford basic necessities that so many of us take for granted like food, clothing, housing and education.”
Illinois Minimum Wage Penalties
Illinois law SB 2339 strengthened the Illinois Minimum Wage Law and the Wage Payment and Collection Act, giving the Illinois Department of Labor (IDOL) even greater power to enforce state minimum wage laws.
Employers are required by law to pay employees at least twice per month within two weeks of the end of pay period. Terminated employees must receive their wages by the next scheduled payday.
Prior to SB 2339, the IDOL had no sanctions against employers who delayed or withheld a worker’s salary, even after the IDOL investigation discovered the wrongdoing. In several cases of private lawsuits under the Minimum Wage Act, courts ruled the neither the employees, nor the IDOL could collect penalties.
The current law gives the Director of Labor the authority to subpoena the books, payroll records and other evidence from a company being investigated. If the employer’s actions of withholding or delaying payment are found to be repeated, intentional or completely without regard to the law, IDOL can asses up to 20% as a penalty.
SB 2339 also allows workers who have recovered back pay in a private lawsuit to collect 2% penalties per month on those earnings.
For companies that ignore the demand to pay employees their earned wages, the IDOL can assess a penalty of 1% penalty per calendar day.
SB 2339 was sponsored by two Chicago Democrats, State Senator Miguel del Valle and State Representative William Delgado.
Representative Delgado made the following comments, “I would like to thank Governor Blagojevich for signing this legislation, and for his consistency in helping working families get ahead. Thanks to laws like this, Illinois is a leader when it comes to helping working men and women seek employment with decent wages.”
IDOL Director Art Ludwig said, “Unlawful employers take advantage of workers by holding back wages, thinking that there will be no consequences. The Department will use these new enforcement powers to aggressively pursue uncooperative, unresponsive and unlawful [employers] to ensure [that] workers receive the wages they’ve earned. We remain committed to protecting the rights and wages of workers in Illinois.”
Cold weather can create hazards such as frostbite and hypothermia for employees who work outside, especially in windy and wet conditions and for those who spend extensive time in freezers.
Wyoming employers need to be aware of these dangers and establish protocols for working safely in cold temperatures.
To help protect employees against these hazards, OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) suggests several measures.
First, employees need to wear appropriate clothing. OSHA recommends workers wear at least 3 layers. Cotton should be worn closest to the body, followed by a middle layer of wool or down, which retain their insulating properties even when wet.
To help break the wind, the outer layer should be made of nylon or Gortex.
Clothing should be loose to provide ventilation. Footwear should be insulated and/or waterproof. Heads should always be covered. The body can lose up to 40 degrees of heat if the head is exposed to the elements.
Alcohol and caffeine should be avoided, as they can interfere with the body’s ability to warm itself. Employees should drink plenty of fluids and eat warm, high-calorie food like pasta. Workers also need to take several breaks during the shift in either heated shelters or warm vehicles.
While working, employees need to be aware of how their body responds to the cold. They also need to understand that smoking cigarettes and taking certain prescription medicines can reduce their ability to stay warm. Cold weather exposure can lead to cold stress. Employees should work in pairs to watch each other for symptoms, which include disorientation, irrational behavior and confusion.
If a worker becomes uncomfortable or exhibits symptoms of cold stress, he or she should stop working immediately and move to a warm area. Wet clothes should be exchanged for dry ones. In fact, each employee should keep a change of clothes in a warm area, just in case his or her work clothes get wet.
Wyoming Cold Stress
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is reminding Wyoming businesses, along with companies across the nation, that exposure to cold weather in the workplace can cause cold stress, frostbite and hypothermia.
Recent winter storms left part of the Midwest without power for nearly a month. As they began to recover another major storm hit. Workers employed outside in these conditions are particularly susceptible to cold-related illnesses. With winter deeply upon the nation, though, almost any worker can suffer cold-weather hazards.
According to OSHA, even temperatures as warm as 50 degrees can be dangerous. The body can get too cold, and become unable to warm itself. When that occurs, the employee experiences cold stress, which is a less serious form of hypothermia, an illness that can lead to death.
When the outdoor temperature drops, the body exerts more energy to maintain body heat. The internal organs are given priority, which draws blood away from the limbs. Hands, feet, fingers, toes, ears and the nose then are particularly at risk for frostbite.
Though it’s winter, cold stress can happen even at milder temperatures. Wet and windy conditions can sap heat from the body, especially if any part of the worker’s body is submerged under water. Plus, some workers are at a higher risk for cold stress than others. The bodies of older persons are less efficient at heating themselves. Also, some medications can interfere with the body’s thermometer. Any employees on sedatives, anti-depressants or tranquilizers should understand they could be more susceptible to cold stress than those not on medications.
To prevent the risk of injury and cold-related illness, workers can engage in a few safety measures. First, dress appropriately for the weather, preferably in layers, so if a worker becomes wet, that layer can be removed. Second, the employee should take frequent breaks in a warm area out of the wind, and drink warm beverages such as broth. Do not drink coffee. Caffeine diminishes the body’s ability to warm up. Alcohol has the same effect, so both should be avoided.
New FMLA (Family and Medical Leave Act) regulations that will affect every Missouri employer were proposed by the U. S. Department of Labor on February 11, 2008. The new regulations go into effect on April 11, 2008, which gives employers several weeks to review the changes.
After they review the new regulations, employers can post comments on a website. Simply click this link and type in “Family and Medical Leave Act” in quotes. All comments posted to this site are viewable by the public.
On of the major changes is the policy regarding using paid time off while on FMLA leave.
Currently, Missouri employees can utilize accrued sick time while on FMLA leave. The new regulations will allow employees to not only use accrued sick time, but personal leave and vacation leave, too. To use paid time off (PTO), though, the worker must meet all requirements for taking leave. The term for this is “substitution of paid leave”.
Consider Mary, who will be taking FMLA after the birth of her baby. She currently has 2 weeks of sick leave, 5 weeks of vacation time and 3 weeks of personal leave. Under the new regulations FMLA, Mary will be able to utilize all 10 weeks of her PTO. Once that leave is exhausted, she is still eligible for 2 weeks of unpaid leave. Under this plan, Mary has substituted PTO for a portion of unpaid FMLA.
Under the previous policy, Mary would only have been able to use the 2 weeks of sick leave, requiring 10 additional weeks of unpaid leave.
Another change to the FMLA, though minor, stands to make a lot of employers and workers happy. Previously, FMLA was not counted toward an employee’s absences. Supervisors and coworkers alike considered this unfair as some of these employees gained “perfect attendance” awards and bonuses–even after being away from work for 12 weeks.
Under the new policies, FMLA leave will count toward a worker’s absences just like any other leave, thereby disqualifying those workers from perfect attendance” accolades.
More Missouri FMLA Changes
On or about April 11, 2008, several changes to the FMLA (Family and Medical Leave Act) will go into effect. The U. S. Department of Labor proposed these changes on February 11, 2008 and is providing the interim weeks as an opportunity for employers to comment on the changes.
Victoria Lipnic of the U. S. Department of Labor stated “It’s time to update these regulations — to reflect court decisions, clear up ambiguities and address issues that weren’t contemplated when the regulations were first issued in 1995.”
The issues being amended include the “Ragsdale” decision on employer penalties, the substitution of paid leave if the worker meets requirements and adjustment of the process for “fitness-for-duty” certification.
Ms. Lipnic further stated, “This proposal is the result of a thoughtful, careful process that included a Request for Information with 15,000 public comments in 2006, many conversations with stakeholders, and the department’s experience in administering and enforcing the law.”
The concept of “serious health condition” for an employee is a main focus of the new FMLA regulations.
The purpose of FMLA is to provide employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for their own “serious medical condition” or for that of a child, parent or spouse. To obtain that leave, companies normally require medical certification of the “serious medical condition” by a healthcare provider. The U. S. Department of Labor permits this practice to help prevent abuse of the leave.
The rules regarding FMLA leave provide several different acceptable definitions of “serious medical condition”. For example, one definition states “two visits to a health care provider” and 3 consecutive calendar days of incapacity, qualifies as “serious medical condition”.
The new regulations retain six definitions, plus provide a clarification of the rather vague “two visits to a health care provider”. Before the proposed amendments, no time frame was given for these two visits. One court, (the Tenth Circuit Court) ruled that the visits had to occur within the incapacitation period.
With the new regulations, the U. S. Department of Labor will set the time frame as within 30 days of the period of incapacity.