Oregon Employer Council – State Conference for Business

rebecca watkinsEmployers, HR managers, & Business Owners – The Oregon Employer Council is holding its annual State Conference for Business on May 6th & 7th on the Oregon Coast (Salishan). This will include keynote speakers such as the NOAA, which has its Marine Operations Center-Pacific in Newport, exhibit booths for businesses throughout Oregon, and breakout sessions on wide-ranging topics from employer immunity to workplace culture to legislative updates. Approved for 21.25 HCRI credits. Go to this link to view the agenda or register. http://www.oregon.gov/EMPLOY/OEC/Pages/index.aspx I will be presenting on: Employer Immunity: When it Applies and Practices that Jeopardize it. I hope to see you there. Contact me with any questions at: rwatkins@sbhlegal.com  

Some Common Sense from The Oregon Court of Appeals!

brian perko Employers have reason to celebrate following the April 17, 2013 decision from the Court of Appeals in Pamela Hamilton v. SAIF. In this course and scope case, the Court ruled that an injury sustained when a worker fainted and fell in the course of her employment was not compensable. Claimant worked as a cook/cashier and was standing in the employer’s kitchen when she fainted and fell, striking her face on a brick floor and sustaining facial and dental damage. SAIF denied the claim. At hearing, claimant conceded the fainting incident and resultant fall… Continue reading

New Portland City Ordinance Requires Mandatory Sick Leave

lee ann loweToday the City of Portland passed a citywide ordinance which will take effect January 1, 2014 requiring all Portland businesses to provide sick leave to employees. A similar ordinance was instituted in Seattle last year. Under the new Portland ordinance, which applies to all businesses within Portland city limits, businesses with six or more employees will be required to provide employees up to forty hours of paid sick leave per year. Businesses with five or less employees must allow employees to take up to forty hours of unpaid sick leave per year. “Employee” under this ordinance is any individual who has worked at least 240 hours a year within the city limits. Portland employees will… Continue reading

Drivers Selling Employer’s Products are “Subject Workers.”

lance johnsonThe Court of Appeals decided RJ Enterprises LLC of Oregon v. Department of Consumer and Business Services, February 27, 2013. The employer sought review of a Department of Consumer and Business Services (DCBS) order upholding audit billings for workers’ compensation premiums for truck drivers. It argued the drivers that delivered its products were independent contractors, as specified in the contract. The Court disagreed. The employer is a frozen meat distributing company which uses truck-drivers to deliver its products. Although the drivers make their own schedules and delivery routes, they lease their trucks and are paid on a commission basis from the employer. SAIF determined the drivers are “subject workers” not independent contractors. An ALJ… Continue reading

Case Alert: Penalties at Claim Closure

sarah ewing In the most recent workers’ compensation case from the Court of Appeals, Walker v. Providence Health System, the court addressed penalties assessed relating to claim closure. The facts and procedural status of this claim have been over-simplified for this summary. The employer noticed an IME to determine if claimant had any permanent impairment due to her accepted mental health conditions; she did not attend. At the employer’s request WCD issued a suspension order effective until such time as she submits to the designated exam. At the request of claimant’s attorney, she submitted to closing exam by her treating psychiatrist; the report was issued September 29, 2009. The next day, claimant requested claim closure based on the report. The… Continue reading

Longshore Act Update

norman coleAs head of the SBH Longshore practice area, I publish a quarterly summary of recent LHWCA decisions (Benefits Review Board, Courts of Appeal, Supreme Court, and occasionally an ALJ decision). The most recent edition is available on our website, sbhlegal.com. One of the most significant decisions in the last few months probably is the 9th Circuit’s decision in Price v. SSA, which held interest on past due compensation should be based on the one year T-bill rate, but it should be compounded annually, rather than paid as simple interest. When interest is due on unpaid weekly payments, more interest is due on the first week past due than on the last week past due. There is… Continue reading

Board’s Interpretation of a Medical Opinion Must Be Reasonable

lauren odaIn a recent decision, Armenta v. PCC Structural, Inc. (A141790), the Oregon Court of Appeals issued an unfavorable opinion regarding the Board’s ability to disregard an expert’s medical opinion when it does not address the subject in dispute. Claimant sought review of the Board’s Order upholding the employer’s denial of occupational disease claims for cervical radiculopathy and lumbar radiculopathy. Claimant offered Dr. Gritzka’s report as rebuttal evidence. Claimant alleged the Board erred in disregarding Dr. Gritzka’s opinion as to causation of cervical and lumbar radiculopathy. The Board determined that Dr. Gritzka’s report did not address the conditions at issue, cervical and lumbar radiculopathy, and therefore did not consider it in making their compensability decision. The Court… Continue reading

Washington Court of Appeals Addresses Burdens of Proof in Occupational Disease Cases

lee ann lowePotter v. Department of Labor and Industries, a decision issued yesterday by the Division One Court of Appeals, is a good reminder that building strong medical evidence based on the applicable legal standards can be critical to a case. In June 2007 Ms. Potter’s employer moved into newly remodeled offices. In the first few weeks in her new office she noticed a strong chemical odor and a metallic taste in her mouth. She eventually started having a recurring bloody nose and intensifying feelings of disorientation and fatigue. By September 2007 she was working entirely from home. All the tests performed by her doctor were normal, but he suspected the chemicals involved in the remodel were… Continue reading

Oregon Court of Appeals Issues Favorable New Course and Scope Decision

Jamie CarltonIn a recent decision, Schultz v. SAIF Corp., A148840, the Court held that even where a worker is primarily motivated to attend a social event with a supervisor for work related reasons, injuries sustained from voluntary intoxication are not compensable. In this case, claimant testified she accompanied her supervisor to a bar for drinks one night after work. He had asked her (and others) out numerous times previously but she had declined all prior invitations and therefore felt obligated to accept in this instance. Claimant wanted to be seen as a “team player.” While at the bar, claimant drank to excess and drove herself home. En route, she entered the freeway going the wrong direction… Continue reading

A Slim Connection Can Still be a Proximate Cause in Washington

lee ann loweYesterday, the Court of Appeals, Division 1, released its opinion in Dep’t of Labor and Indus. v. Shirley. Claimant’s low back claim was closed in 2005 with no PPD award. At the time of claim closure he was only taking ibuprofen and no physician was prescribing opioid medications. He never filed an application to reopen his claim. In 2007 he died after ingesting multiple prescription medications with alcohol. Some of the prescription medications in his system were for low back pain although none were prescribed to him at the time of claim closure. After his death his wife filed for survivor benefits, which the Department denied, and she appealed. On appeal,… Continue reading