Employer must face discrimination claim in medical marijuana case

Employer must face discrimination claim in medical marijuana case

A company that fired a worker who tested positive for marijuana even though she was authorized to use it by her physician must face a claim of handicap discrimination, the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled Monday.

Cristina Barbuto accepted an entry level position at Advantage Sales and Marketing in the summer of 2014. Ms. Barbuto, who was authorized by her physician to use marijuana to stimulate her appetite and help with symptoms of Crohn’s disease, told Advantage she would test positive for marijuana on drug screens. A supervisor told Ms. Barbuto her medicinal use of marijuana “should not be a problem,” which he later confirmed after consulting with others at the company, according to court documents in Cristina Barbuto vs. Advantage Sales and Marketing L.L.C.

 

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Opioids are Just One Pharmaceutical Issue Facing Workers Comp Programs

Opioids are Just One Pharmaceutical Issue Facing Workers’ Comp Programs

By Jim Thompson

Sarasota, FL (WorkersCompensation.com) – Opioids, the class of powerful pain-relieving drugs including oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine and morphine, have dominated headlines in recent years as the United States has seen a rapid increase in problems associated with both their prescription and non-prescription use.

There are, however, other significant pharmaceutical issues in workers’ compensation that have been getting far less attention than opioids.

First, a look at how the opioid issue developed:

It was within the workers’ compensation arena that the problem of opioid addiction began to surface, according to Joe Paduda, president of CompPharma. CompPharma works with pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) within workers’ compensation programs to find cost-effective solutions to pharmaceutical issues.

Paduda told WorkersCompensation.com that problems with opioid use — specifically, that the drugs had become at least as much of a medical issue as the underlying injury — were first noticed within workers’ compensation programs more than a decade ago.

In the years since, Paduda said, workers’ compensation programs have come to rely on PBMs to alert claims handlers to opioid issues. In addition, Paduda said, PBMs have set up formularies — lists of approved medications — that provide alternatives to opioids. Read more

Workers’ Compensation: 10 more issues to watch for 2017

Workers’ Compensation: 10 more issues to watch for 2017

The first Out Front Ideas with Kimberly and Mark webinar of 2017 provided our thoughts on the 20 Workers’ Compensation Issues to Watch in 2017.

In early January we discussed what we consider as the first 10 issues that workers’ comp professionals need to be aware of in the coming year. What follows is a summary of the remaining 10 issues we talked about:

11. Impaired workforce

After the November elections, eight states and the District of Columbia allow for recreational use of marijuana. This means around one in five people live in a state where recreational marijuana is now legal.

For employers, this means the reality that a percentage of your workforce is likely impaired. Years ago many employers stopped doing pre-employment drug testing because they couldn’t get enough applicants to pass to fill their jobs. New OSHA regulations from 2016 seek to significantly limit the use of post-injury drug testing, which further inhibits employers looking to maintain a drug-free workplace policy.

Related: Seeing marijuana through the haze of myths

The answers to this issue are challenging. Drug testing for marijuana always focused on whether the drug was present in the system because it was illegal. It can be detected in the system 30 days after use, but showing presence of the drug doesn’t show impairment. This is an area in which the science needs to catch up with social reality. We need an established standard for what constitutes impairment when it comes to marijuana.

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Colorado’s largest workers-comp insurer is paying $50 million dividend

Pinnacol Assurance, Colorado’s largest workers compensation insurer, will pay a dividend of $50 million this year, returning an average of $941 per company to the roughly 53,000 businesses that earned it.

This will be the second straight year that Pinnacol, which writes policies for nearly 60 percent of the state’s businesses, is issuing a dividend, and the amount is about $30 million higher than what it gave back to clients in 2016.

Dividend checks are calculated based on the policy holders’ size and performance, and about 6 percent of Pinnacol clients did not meet the minimum qualifications to earn a payout. Read more

Court Calls Workers’ Comp Penalties Against Nonemployers ‘Absurd’

A company cannot be penalized for failing to comply with the Workers’ Compensation Act if it is not later defined as the claimant’s employer, a split Commonwealth Court panel has ruled in an issue of first impression.

A three-judge panel of the court held in Ayerplace Enterprises v. Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board (Royal) that, although Ayerplace Enterprises failed to make certain workers’ compensation payments after the company was initially determined to be an employer, Ayerplace could not be penalized under the Workers’ Compensation Act for the delay, since it was later determined on appeal not to be the claimant’s employer.

The decision reversed a ruling from a workers’ compensation judge and appeal board, which held that success on the merits of the employment issue did not excuse the company’s initial violation of the act.

According to Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson, the only way for penalties to be assessed is for the company to be an employer, and therefore subject to the act.

“It is axiomatic that penalties for noncompliance with the act may only be imposed on litigants that are subject to the act, and more specifically, subject to the penalty provision,” Simpson said. “To construe the act otherwise would lead to an absurd result, like that here, where a litigant that is neither an insurer nor employer under the act, and has no liability for benefits, is required to pay penalties.”

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How Technology Is Changing Workers’ Compensation

New technologies are improving workers’ compensation programs in everything from communications and training to health care delivery and claims, according to experts.

Tom Ryan, market research leader for Marsh’s Workers Compensation Center of Excellence, speaking during a recent Marsh broadcast, identified several areas of workers’ compensation that can benefit from technology:

  • In communications with employees. Information critical to prevent injuries and claim updates can be provided to employees via smartphone mobile applications.
  • In sharing workforce training via an employer’s intranet or through smartphone applications.
  • In delivering care to injured workers through telemedicine and via mobile apps that can direct injured workers to preferred medical providers.
  • In managing claims by providing customizable email alerts, such as notifications when prescriptions are ready.

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What Influential Factors Paint the Workers’ Compensation Landscape?

What Influential Factors Paint the Workers’ Compensation Landscape?

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(WorkersCompensation.com) – Wage replacement and medical benefits are not what they used to be.

Lawyers, doctors and insurance experts agree, that not only have workers’ compensation guidelines changed over the last decade, but some of the modifications have even changed the face of the industry.

Even though workers’ compensation is somewhat simple, set up with both medical and financial benefits, “over all the states, the workers’ comp environment comes under different rules and regulations and that is why it has become more challenging over the last ten years,” according to Ed Gillman, president of Gillman Insurance Problem Solver out of Alpharetta, GA.

Esquire Nathan Woody, partner at Corales & Woody, LLC, out of Decatur, GA confirms Gillman’s point, using the “Peach State” as an example. “In the past in Georgia, there used to be a 400-week cap on disability payments for standard claims, and medical coverage was still considered for the life of the injury,” Woody said.

But not since the opioid epidemic, which has contributed to longer term workers’ compensation claims. Sometimes, even after a decade-long treatment for non-catastrophic work injuries, some claimants were trying to take advantage of the system. “Some of the medical costs were seemingly unending. In 2013, Georgia amended the law to a 400-week cap for disability payments and medical benefits.”

 

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Workers’ Compensation: 10 more issues to watch for 2017

Of the many employee-related issues facing companies, workers compensation costs and getting injured workers back to work are near the top of the list.

The first Out Front Ideas with Kimberly and Mark webinar of 2017 provided our thoughts on the 20 Workers’ Compensation Issues to Watch in 2017.

In early January we discussed what we consider as the first 10 issues that workers’ comp professionals need to be aware of in the coming year. What follows is a summary of the remaining 10 issues we talked about:

11. Impaired workforce

After the November elections, eight states and the District of Columbia allow for recreational use of marijuana. This means around one in five people live in a state where recreational marijuana is now legal.

For employers, this means the reality that a percentage of your workforce is likely impaired. Years ago many employers stopped doing pre-employment drug testing because they couldn’t get enough applicants to pass to fill their jobs. New OSHA regulations from 2016 seek to significantly limit the use of post-injury drug testing, which further inhibits employers looking to maintain a drug-free workplace policy.

The answers to this issue are challenging. Drug testing for marijuana always focused on whether the drug was present in the system because it was illegal. It can be detected in the system 30 days after use, but showing presence of the drug doesn’t show impairment. This is an area in which the science needs to catch up with social reality. We need an established standard for what constitutes impairment when it comes to marijuana. Read more

Workers’ Compensation: 10 issues to watch for 2017

The first Out Front Ideas with Kimberly and Mark webinar of 2017 provided our thoughts on the 20 Workers’ Compensation Issues to Watch in 2017. What follows is a summary of the initial 10 issues discussed:

1. Election impact

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) under President Obama felt state workers’ compensation systems needed reform, and they were prepared to recommend minimum benefit standards to the states. President Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Labor, Andrew Puzder, has been a vocal opponent of many federal labor regulations. For now, any talk of the federal government getting involved in state workers’ compensation issues seems to be on hold.

2. Health care reform

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