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things you should know

Resource for cell phone and texting state laws

As more and more attention is focused on the dangers of cell phone use and texting and driving, there is increased legislative activity. Understanding the laws in the states in which your employees work or travel through during the course of business is critical. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety maintains updated charts of cell phone and text messaging laws. Find maps and charts with details of state laws.


Wintertime means more disability claims related to depression and respiratory illnesses

A new study by The Hartford analyzed more than one million short-term disability claims over the past five years and found that disabling illnesses and accidents peak after the winter holidays and are related to depression, respiratory illnesses and injuries.

Overall, accident-related disability claims peak in the summertime. However, there’s another secondary spike in January of accident-related claims for workers in the Northeast and Midwest where inclement weather comes into play.

Glenn Shapiro, vice president for claims in the company’s group benefits division suggests:

Don’t let stress drain employees' productivity. Encourage workers to stay active even during this frigid time of year and to make use of an employee assistance program (EAP), if available.

Avoid confusion about absences. Ensure that your team is familiar with key company policies on topics such as storm closings and telecommuting.


6th Annual Workplace Class Action Report released

Seyfarth Shaw’s 6th Annual Workplace Class Action Litigation Report, a reference guide explaining the latest trends in complex employment litigation was released in January. According to the report, the number of workplace class actions filed against employers and the monetary risk they pose to companies has increased exponentially over the past six years.

Among the key findings are:

Increase in the number of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) collective action and the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) class-action filings seeking recovery for unpaid wages and 401(k) losses. As layoffs increased, displaced workers also filed more age discrimination and Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification lawsuits. Even more litigation is expected in 2010, as businesses continue to retool their operations.

Wage and hour litigation continued to outpace all other types of workplace class actions.

The change in presidential administrations created heightened workplace litigation exposures for employers.

The Class Action Fairness Act of 2005 (CAFA) continued to have significant effects on workplace litigation, and most significantly on wage and hour class actions filed in state court.

Class-action plaintiffs' lawyers are a tight-knit community, which fosters quick evolution in case theories, and, in turn, impacts defense litigation strategies.

The financial stakes in workplace class-action litigation increased in 2009. Plaintiffs' lawyers have continued to push the envelope in crafting damages theories to expand the size of classes and the scope of recoveries. This trend is also unlikely to abate in 2010.

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OSHA releases respirator, facemask guidance videos

OSHA has released two new videos to help provide health care workers with training and guidance on respirator safety.

One video reviews the differences between respirators and facemasks. The former is designed to reduce exposure to airborne contaminants of various sizes and must be fit tested; the latter is a loose-fitting disposable mask that helps stop large droplets from being spread by workers wearing them.

The second video covers respirator safety including how to put on and take off a respirator, and how to perform a user seal check.

*Both videos are available in English and Spanish.


Model COBRA Subsidy Extension Notices Now Available

On Jan. 14, 2010, the Department of Labor's Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) added to its COBRA web site updated model notices for the extension provisions of the federal COBRA subsidy.