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April 2013:



April 2013
In This Issue
One Injury Raises Your Ex Mod
Employee Meal Period-Rest Break Rules
Workers Compensation Reform
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Dear Pat,
One Injury Raises Your Ex Mod
The 2013 changes in the California workers' compensation experience modification (Ex Mod) process is severely hurting small employers - who may have may have reported only 1 work injury.

A single claim can push an employer's experience mod up by 15-25%, or more. Now that the first $7,000 of each claim is used in the "primary" loss portion of the Ex Mod, up from just $2,000 in past years, a single work injury can increase future workers' compensation premiums by 3-4 times the dollar cost of the claim, according to UC Berkeley researcher Frank Neuhasuer.

Ex Mods reported in 2013 are showing this impact. The increases are so high that the Workers' Comp Insurance Rating Bureau has met recently to consider limiting the impact of one claim. Unfortunately, what appears to be multiple claims really is just an attorney for an injured worker taking advantage of filing two different claims, one for a "specific' injury such as an injured shoulder, and a second claim for "cumulative trauma" over the work life of the employee. In truth, these are not two claims, but rather the lawyer's effort to magnify injuries to obtain more money for himself and the worker.

SOLUTION: Employers need to consider "post-offer pre-employment physical exams", immediate and thorough accident investigations, and full cooperation with their workers' compensation claims personnel.
Employee Meal Period - Rest Break Rules
You may have assumed that the 2012 California Supreme Court decision about meal periods and rest breaks settled all the legal problems for employers.

A recent Federal court case involving these issues continues to demonstrate that good time records are important, even for employer who has the correct policies. In this case, DeLeon v. Time Warner, time records showing missed or late meal periods. But the records, themselves, don't determine whether a meal period violation has occurred.

As long as meal periods are properly scheduled and employees are relieved of duty (i.e., not pressured to stay on duty) during the scheduled meal periods, if an employee chooses to delay or perform work during the scheduled meal period, no violation has occurred, even though employees must be paid for all hours they are "suffered or permitted" to work during such meal periods.

In California, employees need only be authorized and permitted to take their rest periods. If an employee prefers to continue working - the employer has not pressured the employee - there is no violation.

ASK THESE TWO QUESTIONS: #1- What do your policies say? And #2- What do your time records indicate? (Do hourly or non-exempt" employees record their meal periods on their time records as non-working time)?
Workers Compensation Reform
The California Legislature passed SB 863 in September of last year, with most of the provisions taking effect January 2013. "Permanent Disability" benefits were increased by 40% at a cost to employers of over $1.2 billion in new or added costs per year.

There were a number of other changes, some good for employers, others very technical. One of the most effective tools employers were given to save money to offset the cost increases of the law are "return to work" programs. This means it pays for every injured worker, who is not in the hospital, to be back on the job doing something within the limits of their ability, the day after their injury. It might be better to call this a "stay at work" rather than a "return to work" policy.

California employers can save over $400 M a year in workers' comp costs by using this "stay at work" approach. But the savings are even larger in future premiums! When an injured worker is off duty due to a work injury, and he qualifies for "temporary disability benefits" under a workers' compensation policy, he receives 2/3rds of his pre-injury wage.

BUT, this same temporary disability benefit costs almost all employers 2 times or more the lost wages - because these claim costs are used to set their "experience modification, not for one, but for 3 years in a row!. So the employee loses money by being off work and his employer pays more than twice as much as if the worker were to come back - even if the worker was just putting in time.

But of course a good return to work program is much more effective than wasting an employee's time. All companies have some unfinished work. Such activities are always a place to look for "modified work" within the physical limits of a recovering employee.

Don Dressler Consulting and CalWorkSafety.com focused on safety-related HR issues. HR-related matters, Cal/OSHA Safety guidelines. If you have any questions or would like additional information, please email us or visit our website.
Sincerely,

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Don Dressler Consulting & Cal Work Safety
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(C) 2013 :: Don Dressler Consulting :: Cal Work Safety
Ph: 949-533-3742 :: websites: www.dondressler.com

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