WorkComp Advisory
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Things you should know

Executive order compels federal contractors to participate in E-Verify
On June 6, 2008, President Bush issued Executive Order No. 12989 that will require all federal contractors to check the work eligibility status through E-Verify of all new and current hires working on a federal contract.

FLSA Amendment increases penalties for child labor violations
The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) amended Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), effective May 21, 2008, increasing the penalties when youth working in violation of the law are injured or die on the job.

Section 302 of GINA raises the maximum penalty to $50,000 for each violation with the possibility of up to $100,000 in penalties for cases where the employer’s violation is repeated or is a willful violation. The increased penalties apply to death or serious injury to children that occur after May 21, 2008.

Employers bear the burden of proving layoffs do not discriminate against older workers
In a June 19, 2008 ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court placed the burden of production and persuasion on employers in age discrimination disparate impact claims.

According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), “the high court acknowledged that its decision would make it harder and costlier for employers to defend themselves from ADEA claims. But it said that this was a concern for the business community to raise with Congress, rather than in arguments before the Supreme Court, which must interpret the law ‘the way Congress wrote it’ (Meacham v. Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory, No. 06-1505).”

Study links pesticides and diabetes
Exposure to chlorinated pesticides may lead to an increased risk of diabetes, according to a study of 30,000 pesticide applicators – mostly non-Hispanic white males -conducted by researchers at the National Institutes of Health. The strongest relationship was found with trichlorfon – a chemical previously used in bug abatement and now used in turf applications. Infrequent users increased their risk of diabetes by 85 percent, and those who used it more than 10 times experienced a 250 percent increase in diabetes incidence.

Working overtime can cause anxiety and depression, especially among lower skilled workers
A study published in the June 2008, Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, of 10,000 Norwegian workers found that both men and women who work extra hours are more likely to suffer anxiety or depression. Overall anxiety and depression was more prevalent among workers with low skill levels and low incomes.

Construction deaths in Las Vegas and other major cities prompt review of OSHA
A U.S. House of Representatives committee is focusing on OSHA, noting that the agency does not dedicate sufficient resources to inspect most job sites, nor does it have the political will to hold employers accountable when they put employees at risk. Some members have called for increased fines and an easier appeal process for workers.

Georgia and Florida Workplace Weapons Laws to take effect July 1, 2008

In Georgia, HB 89, prohibits most public and private employers in the state from enforcing a "no weapons" policy in their workplaces by searching a private vehicle of employees unless that employee grants permission to do so or if it is determined that a serious threat to human life exists.

In addition, the new law prohibits an employer from conditioning employment on an individual's agreement not to bring weapons onto company property, including publicly accessed parking areas. The law does include language that could hold employers harmless of any liability resulting from a civil or criminal act involving such a weapon.

In Florida, HB 503, The Preservation & Protection of the Right to Keep & Bear Arms in Motor Vehicles Act of 2008 with few exemptions, will allow employees and visitors to bring firearms to work as long as they have a state-issued concealed firearms permit and the firearm is kept in a locked car.

The Florida Retail Federation and the Florida Chamber of Commerce have filed suit in federal court challenging the new law. The lawsuit claims that the law conflicts with the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA), which requires employers to provide a working environment free from hazards likely to cause serious harm. The suit also asserts that the law unconstitutionally violates private property rights. There has been no ruling as of the publication date.