Week of September 11 - September 15, 2017             
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Welcome to your weekly WCI Newsletter. We have selected the top stories that appeared on our website this week to help you stay up to date on what is happening in the world of workers' compensation and insurance. Enjoy.
Employers and Workers: Artificially Lowering Workplace Injury Statistics?

By Jim Thompson

Officially speaking, there were nearly 3 million workplace injuries in the United States in 2015, according to the latest data year from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics' (BLS) annual Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses (SOII).

But those numbers are widely acknowledged, even by the BLS, to be inaccurate. The BLS notes on its own website that the bureau and its research partners "have conducted multiple studies which indicate that SOII failed to capture some cases..." But, the BLS assessment goes on to note, the agency and its partners "could not determine the magnitude or leading cause of an undercount."

If the BLS is at a loss for explaining workplace injury "undercount," a number of studies and workplace safety experts have developed data and conclusions indicating three dynamics that can explain why workplace injuries and illnesses almost certainly are substantially higher than indicated in the SOII. Read more.
Comp and Cannabis: Access to Medical Marijuana in GA and the 'Gaping Hole' Issue of How to Obtain It

By Dara Barney

Georgia State Representative Allen Peake gets pot delivered to his office. Okay, he is a registered card carrier for medical marijuana, and it is cannabinoid (CBD) oil at less than five percent THC or Tetrahydrocannabinol, which very low on the potency scale, but users attest it maintains healing qualities.

Why does he get CBD oil delivered to his office? Back in 2015, he helped pass  HB 1 in the state, allowing properly registered users to intake this oil and only this oil if they have certain ailments. Recently, the bill was expanded to include autism, AIDs, turrets syndrome, Alzheimer's and people in hospice care, to name a few. But there is one problem.

"We have a gaping hole in the air. Where do you access this product?" he told recently. You can't grow it, and you can't cross state lines to get it. Also there isn't anyone currently in the state who manufactures that specific kind of oil. Read more.
FL 'Underground Economy' Strengthened When Illegal Immigrants Are Hurt at Work

By Phil Yacuboski

In South Florida, you'll find nearly a half-million illegal immigrants, according to data compiled by the Pew Research Center. In Miami, there are roughly 55,000 alone and the area ranks fifth in the nation when it comes to illegal immigrant populations, with many of them from Cuba. The high numbers of undocumented workers have made workers' compensation cases difficult, according to those familiar with the process.

"In many cases, it's the workers' compensation insurance companies who are bullying the employees when they find out they are not lawfully in the country or they have immigration issues," said Donald Day, a Naples, FL criminal defense lawyer. In 2014, Day represented many of the employees in the Oakes Farm case, where employees were arrested in a crackdown by Florida officials accused of using fake or stolen social security numbers to obtain a job and in many cases, workers' compensation benefits. "The employers want to avoid these comp cases as much as possible because their premiums go up."

In 2003, Florida made it a crime to file a workers' comp claim using false identification. Read more.
Tesla Faces Scrutiny: NLRB Alleges Union Busting; Employees Allege Discrimination, Abuse

By Liz Carey

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has issued a complaint against new age car company Tesla, alleging it threatened or intimidated employees from unionizing. 

And other employees at the plant, through a New York-based attorney, have alleged that the company engages in discrimination, workplace abuse and fraudulent accounting practices.

As previously reported in, workers at Tesla's Fremont, CA plant wanted to join the United Auto Workers (UAW) union, and asked the company to create a plan to cover "employee safety and information on pay and promotion." Starting pay at the auto factory is said to be $18 per hour, far below the national average for auto workers. Read more.
Grad Students Gain Support for Unionization

By Liz Carey

Graduate students at Ohio University hope they can rally together to become a unionized organization.  

The group will meet today (Wednesday, Sept. 6) to encourage graduate students to become part of their Graduate Employee Organization, that focuses on providing better working conditions and benefits for the students.

Unionization of graduate students is a trend that has progressed across the country since August 2016 when the National Labor Relations Board ruled in a 3-1 decision that graduate students at private institutions are considered employees, which would give them collective bargaining rights. The decision propelled students at universities like The University of Chicago, Duke University, Yale University, Cornell University and Harvard University to begin forming unions. Read more.
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