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Recent fines and awards

Florida businesses cited for health violations involving hair products containing formaldehyde

Two Florida manufacturers and two Florida-based distributors of hair products containing formaldehyde were cited for 16 health violations involving alleged failures to protect their employees from possible formaldehyde exposure and to communicate with the products' users, such as salons and stylists, about the hazards of formaldehyde exposure. Proposed penalties for the companies total $49,200.

MA metal fabrication plant faces $175,500 in penalties

Spincraft, a metal fabrication plant in North Billerica, MA has been cited for 38 alleged violations following an inspection after a worker sustained serious eye and facial injuries when the grinding wheel of the portable grinder he was operating ruptured and kicked back in his face. The plant faces a total of $175,500 in proposed penalties.

Wisconsin brewery cited for ammonia exposure

City Brewing Co. LLC. La Crosse, WI has been cited for 16 serious safety violations, including a failure to comply with the requirements of OSHA's process safety management standard, which resulted in the exposure of workers to ammonia during maintenance of pipelines. The company faces $108,000 in proposed fines.

MA adhesive company fined $917,000 after explosion injures workers

OSHA fined Bostik Inc. $917,000 for violating safety standards that led to a March explosion at the company's Middleton, MA, plant in which four workers were injured. Bostik was cited for 50 violations of workplace safety and health standards, including nine willful violations for serious deficiencies in the company's process safety management program.

Failure to train workers and provide machine guarding costly to WI employer

Marshfield Door Systems Inc. was cited with one repeat and two alleged serious violations after a worker's hand was trapped in an ingoing nip point on a conveyor belt line resulting in contusions, abrasions, and friction burns. The repeat violation was failure to train workers in lockout/tagout procedures and the serious violations were failing to inspect energy control procedures within the past year and to install guarding to protect workers from an exposed nip point on the conveyor. Proposed penalties total $46,200.

TX contractor cited for exposing workers to scaffolding hazards

Roma Construction was cited with six safety violations after an inspection of the company's work site on Wild Basin in San Antonio found employees exposed to scaffolding hazards while applying stucco to the exterior of a home. Proposed penalties total $50,820.

Rite Aid of New York faces more than $121,000 in fines for hazards at Brooklyn store

An inspection of the retail chain's store in Brooklyn identified several hazardous conditions including an emergency exit blocked by garbage and debris, merchandise stacked in an unsafe manner, electrical panels blocked by cardboard and totes containing merchandise, an ungrounded electric power strip and employees exposed to an electrical hazard while stacking stock. Rite Aid faces a total of $121,100 in proposed fines.

Legal Corner

National Labor Relations Board (NLRB)

Firing employees for Facebook posts violated NLRB

A NLRB administrative law judge has found that a Buffalo nonprofit organization unlawfully discharged five employees after they posted comments on Facebook concerning working conditions, including workload and staffing issues (Hispanics United of Buffalo Inc., NLRB ALJ, No. 3-CA-27872, Sept. 2, 2011 (released Sept. 6, 2011)).

This is the first NLRB decision regarding social media websites that didn't target the organization's social media policy itself, as well as the first social media case that involves a nonunionized workplace.

Memorandum on social media cases

The NLRB issued a 24-page memorandum summarizing the facts and holdings in each of its social media-related cases in the past year. The memorandum provides important insight for employers looking to implement an effective policy without subjecting themselves to undue legal risk.

Confidentiality provision in employment agreement overly broad

Many employers have employees sign confidentiality agreements aimed at prohibiting disclosure of confidential business information to third parties. In NLRB v. Northeastern Land Services Ltd., 2011 U.S. App. LEXIS 12678 (1st Cir. June 22, 2011), the First Circuit enforced an NLRB order finding the confidentiality provision, which prohibited the employee from discussing the terms of his employment, as well as his compensation with "other parties," was overly broad and a per se violation of Section 8(a)(1) of the NLRA. Section 8(a) (1), which bars employers from interfering with employees' right to discuss the terms and conditions of their employment with others.

Workers' Comp court cases

Liquor store manager robbed at gunpoint not due Workers' Comp for 'psychic injury' - PA

In reversing a previous finding by the state's Workers' Compensation Appeal Board PA Liquor Control Board vs. Workers' Compensation Appeal Board (Gregory Kochanowicz) the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania ruled that a liquor store manager, prodded at gunpoint and bound to a chair by a masked robber, is not entitled to Workers' Compensation benefits for a "psychic" injury. In Pennsylvania, claimants alleging a psychic injury must prove that they were exposed to abnormal working conditions. The appellate court, however, ruled that the liquor store manager should have expected to be a potential robbery victim based on statistics presented by the employer and recent robberies.

Man who contracted asbestosis not entitled to Workers' Comp because did not lose wages - South Carolina

Overturning a S.C. Workers' Compensation Commission decision that had awarded $119,000 to a former Westinghouse employee, the state high court found that there was no question that the employee suffers from an occupational disease, but it also ruled that pulmonary diseases are compensable only under a section of state law that requires proof of lost wages.

California Supreme Court denies review of Workers' Comp case

The California Supreme Court on Aug. 24 declined to review a controversial ruling that gives doctors leeway in determining Workers' Compensation disability ratings. The ruling involved the case of State Compensation Insurance Fund v. Workers' Compensation Appeals Board, also known as Almaraz.

Employer and insurer must pay for spinal implant hardware - Minnesota

The finding in Ronald E. Troyer vs. Vertlu Management Co., Kok & Lundberg Funeral Homes and State Auto Insurance Co. addresses a dispute resulting from the charges for a spinal cord stimulator. In court, the insurer asserted that it did not make full payment to eliminate the price markup for the implant hardware; however, the Minnesota Supreme Court said that, although it was sympathetic to arguments =the disparity between the cost and the price charged was excessive, the question of whether the price paid for the implant hardware was reasonable was not before the court.

Business owner saves by dividing business into two parts - Mississippi

A worker who was employed by two related businesses that were separated to save on Workers' Comp costs - one cut and trimmed trees and the other performed stump and debris removal services - was not engaged in dual employment at the time he fell from a tree, agreed a Mississippi appellate court as it affirmed a decision of the state's Workers' Compensation Commission. Accordingly, the injured worker's average weekly wage was based only on his earnings with the tree trimming business, saving the employer a considerable sum. The appellate court found sufficient evidence to support the Commission's finding that the two businesses were separate, including documenting the work that each component business performed, paying the laborers separately from two accounts, securing Workers' Compensation insurance from two separate carriers, and otherwise operating the businesses in a straight-forward manner.