What duties does your business owe to the employee of a customer or vendor? This may not be a question many companies have considered. They have contractual relationships with their customers and vendors that spell out the duties each owes to the other. Furthermore, that contract may require that each party obtain workers compensation insurance specifically to recompense any employee injured on the job.
The opioid epidemic, besides its unfathomable human costs, has had large economic costs for businesses and governments who must manage workers compensation costs. Opioid prescriptions in the wake of workplace injuries have been linked to higher workers compensation payouts and longer layoffs before injured employees return to work. Facing the bill for these costs, government, citizens, and private entities have filed a veritable avalanche of lawsuits against pharmaceutical companies for their manufacture and marketing of opioid based painkillers.
As various parts of the United States federal government move to address the growing opioid crisis, the Department of Transportation has updated its drug testing policies to include a stronger focus on testing for painkillers. Published on November 13, 2017, the new policy went into effect on January 1, 2018. It brings the Department of Transportation’s drug testing rules into harmony with new rules issued by the Department of Health and Human Services. The new rules will apply to employers regulated by the Department of Transportation, including the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. That means trucking companies will fall under the purview of this rule change when it comes to pre-employment and post-accident drug testing.
In June of 2017, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court overturned a long-standing worker’s compensation law on what seemed like a technicality to many legal outsiders. The decision had the potential to overturn an important part of disability determinations aimed at keeping costs for employers reasonable and will lead to higher insurance premiums for Pennsylvania employers.
As you have been advised over the course of the year,OSHA’s Final Rule to “Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses” (aka the E-Recordkeeping Rule) requires employers of certain sizes that fall into certain categories to proactively submit electronic injury and illnesses data to OSHA through its new web portal. The new rule dramatically changes the responsibilities and impacts of OSHA’s long-standing injury and illness recordkeeping program.
To combat the growing epidemic of opioid abuse, the Center for Disease Control issued guidelines aimed at limiting the prescription of opioids in ways that might lead to ongoing addiction. Studies have shown that approximately 75% of new heroin users stated that they started their addiction with prescription opioids. Via various methods; obtained themselves with a prescription or from someone else. State governments and the insurance industry have been heavily involved in trying to reduce opioid prescriptions as a way of combating the epidemic, while also aiming to lower the costs of workers compensation claims which can increase exponentially when pain leads to addiction.
Opioid prescriptions and opioid abuse have the potential to substantially increase workers’ compensation costs for companies. Opioids lead to addictions and can increase the amount of time an employee cannot work.
The United States as a whole has a significant problem with prescription medication. Estimates are that Americans consume seventy five percent of the world’s prescription drugs. A large part of these prescription drugs focus on chronic pain management. Doctors in the 1980s began prescribing opioids for those patients suffering from chronic pain under a mistaken assumption that prescription opioids had little potential for addiction or abuse.
Slip and fall torts can pose a major liability to many businesses. While these accidents may seem harmless, several recent lawsuits have seen damages paid out in the tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars. Lost wages and allegations of permanent disability can increase the value of a claim. Slip and fall accidents put businesses in a difficult position, as even where the business may feel it acted appropriately, the cost of ongoing litigation can make contesting a lawsuit a money-losing proposition.
Waivers of subrogation present interesting issues in most contracts, but they can pose particular problems within the context of worker’s compensation. Companies who are not careful with how they manage their contracts can find themselves between a rock and a hard place, with the rock being their own employees and the hard place being companies who contract for their services.