Ridge & Downes - Law Firm

  • Safety Is No Accident

    safetyisnoaccidentOn December 30, 2013, a BNSF train derailment caused 476,000 gallons of crude oil to spill and ignite near the town of Casselton, North Dakota. There were no fatalities or serious injuries but 1,500 people were evacuated from their homes.

    Recently the National Transporatation Safety Board determined that the cause of the derailment was due to a broken axle to one of the tanker cars. NTSB investigators found a void in the middle of the axle which was used previously on another railcar. As a result of this investigation, the NTSB now requires more stringent testing of these secondhand-use railcars such as the railcar involved in this derailment. Safety is no accident.

    Source





  • Whistleblower Retaliation

    whistleblowerIn the continuing crusade of Designated Legal Counsel like Ridge & Downes to protect workers’ rights, today we address the “culture of retaliation” on the Railroad. The Federal Railroad Safety Act (FRSA) protects workers who report workplace safety concerns and workplace injuries.

    In 2011, the U.S. Department of Labor ordered Union Pacific Railroad Co., headquartered in Omaha, to pay a total of $400,000 in punitive damages, $90,315 in compensatory damages, $34,900 in attorney fees and more than $90,000 in back wages to three employees.1 Investigations by OSHA determined that the company violated the whistleblower protection provisions of the Federal Railroad Safety Act by terminating two employees and suspending one in retaliation for reporting workplace safety concerns and a work-related injury.

    “Workers have the right to report work-related injuries and safety concerns without fear of retaliation,” said Assistant Secretary for OSHA Dr. David Michaels. “Union Pacific Railroad has created a climate of fear instead of a climate of safety. The company must take immediate steps to change this unacceptable pattern of retaliation.” Since 2001, the Omaha-based railway, which operates in 23 states, has faced more than 200 whistleblower complaints nationwide, the Labor Department said.2

    In addition to requiring payments be made to the affected employees, the department has ordered Union Pacific Railroad to provide training on whistleblower rights to its managers, supervisors and employees, and to notify employees of their rights to be able to file complaints without fear of retaliation under the FRSA.

    OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of the FRSA and 20 other statutes protecting employees who report violations of various airline, commercial motor carrier, consumer product, environmental, financial reform, food safety, health care reform, nuclear, pipeline, public transportation agency, railroad, maritime and securities laws. Under these laws enacted by Congress, employers are prohibited from retaliating against employees who raise various protected concerns or provide protected information to the employer or to the government.  

    Ridge & Downes represents the rights of workers who have had their whistleblower protection violated by railroads and other employers. Give us a call for a free legal consultation.

     



  • NCCI Recommends Premium Rate Reduction

    The National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI) has recommended an insurance rate reduction of 12.9% for Illinois employers. This recommendation reflects the massive reduction in costs of providing workers’ compensation coverage since the 2011 Amendments to the Workers’ Compensation Act. Now we will wait to see if insurance companies will follow the direction of the NCCI and pass these savings along to Illinois businesses or keep premiums artificially inflated.

    Reflecting on the NCCI’s recommendation and the 2011 Amendments to the Workers’ Compensation Act, Rep. Jay Hoffman (D-Swansea) stated “Democrats and Republicans want to see lower costs for employers and cuts to waste and fraud in the system. The recommendation of significant cost reductions for Illinois employers shows that the reforms put in place in 2011 are doing just that, while still protecting the health and security of workers injured on the job through no fault of their own.”

    The savings in workers’ compensation costs derive from an 30% cut in payment to medical providers for services rendered to injured workers, decreasing awards to injured workers that compensate them for their permanent disability, capping awards for work-related carpal tunnel syndrome and limiting the length of time a person may receive an award for wage differential benefits, among other limitations. These cuts have resulted in savings of well over 750 million dollars, yet the insurance carriers have pocketed these savings as profit instead of passing the savings along to businesses and consumers in the form of rate reductions.

    In 2015 House Democrats voted to pass HB 1287. This bill would direct a state commission to analyze workers’ compensation insurance rates and determine why the savings are not being passed on to employers. Inexplicably, this sensible legislation was opposed by the House Republicans and Gov. Rauner.

    In discussing this House Bill, Rep. Hoffman noted that the legislation “would make sure our reforms are benefiting employers, not enriching insurance companies.” He went on to say, “I hope that politicians who have championed cuts that would hurt middle class families will fight just as hard to ensure employers get the savings they are owed from big insurance companies.”

    We agree with Rep. Hoffman and applaud the work that he and his fellow Representatives are doing to protect workers’ rights while making sure that cost savings are passed along to Illinois businesses in the form of premium reductions. Is the Governor’s agenda to help Illinois’ businesses or just to limit benefits to injured workers and hurt middle class families?

    Source: State Rep. Jay Hoffman's Office







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