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New Jersey Employment Law Blog

Medical Malpractice Caps and Vulnerable Victims

New Jersey Medical Malpractice Attorney Discusses Medical Malpractice Caps and Vulnerable Victims

I've always said that damages caps don't work. In every state in which medical malpractice "damages caps" have been tried, they've failed to resolve the fictional "medical malpractice insurance crisis." Obviously, you can't fix something that doesn't exist. The crisis has been fomented by greedy medical malpractice insurance companies that see a way to exploit Americans' fears of not having "adequate medical care" by blaming the victims and their attorneys rather than the bad doctors, nurses and hospitals that deserve the focus.

As bad as that's been, and as bad as it's going to get with a much "redder" Congress, it's important to recognize that individuals attempting to validate their medical malpractice rights through a lawsuit already face a tilted playing field and road blocks on their journey to justice. Nowadays, with the effort by medical malpractice insurance companies to lie to the public and lie to legislators, and given that these efforts are, in part, working, finding an attorney able to litigate a medical malpractice claim for a deserving victim is getting harder than ever.

New Jersey Law Support Claims For Unpaid Overtime

A U.S. District Judge in Newark has ruled that the New Jersey Wage and Hour Law does support private causes of action in situations where employers improperly withhold overtime pay. The law has been used in previous cases to justify awards for unpaid overtime. It's a quirk of the way law works that those awards could come before the case deciding that the right to those awards actually exists. Timing issues aside, it is a win for workers who are routinely denied proper overtime pay by unscrupulous employers.

The underlying dispute that gave rise to this case is a classic example of how employers try to dodge their responsibilities. The plaintiffs are a group of underwriters who worked for a mortgage company. The company classified them as exempt from overtime pay. Companies do this for obvious reasons. When you can coerce workers to put in longer weeks (in fear for their jobs) while not actually paying them for the additional time, you can increase profits dramatically. Of course, the workers did not meet the requirements for exempt workers and were thus owed overtime for any hours above 40 per week. 

Memorial Day Weekend Travel Safety

Every holiday weekend means an increase in traffic and the burdens that come along with it. This Memorial Day weekend will likely see an increase in car accidents due to congestion, visitors and the unsafe behaviors that attend many holidays. After a very difficult winter, many people will be looking to head to the beach to finally enjoy the return of warmer weather. If you are among the people traveling this weekend, please be careful. Holidays are no excuse to drive drunk, drive while distracted or generally engage in dangerous behavior.

According to AAA estimates, nearly one million people will travel 50 miles or more this weekend in New Jersey alone. That is the highest figure recorded since 2005. The vast majority of those travelers will go by car and will travel on the major highways around the State. Roughly 8 million drivers are expected on the Garden State Parkway with another 3.8 million using the New Jersey Turnpike. That many cars will inevitably lead to car accidents. 

New Jersey Civil and Employment Rights Trial Lawyer Discusses Priest Supporting LGBTQI Advocacy Group

Just when we're starting to really turn the corner on LGBTQI issues, now a Priest is being fired for supporting an LGBTQI advocacy group.

But how can this be? Doesn't the Catholic religion preach that marriage should be between a man and a woman ONLY? Sure, we love the "sinners." We "pray" for the sinners. Maybe nutjob parents try to cure the "sinners" with "conversion therapy." But support them? A Priest!?

Yet, here we are. A priest openly supported an LGBTQI advocacy group on social media. Good job, padre. Maybe you'll start a trend, other religions will follow suit, and we finish turning this corner and get on to other important human business. 

New Jersey Employment and Civil Rights Trial Lawyer Discusses: "Are You Really an Independent Contractor?"

Employers play a lot of games in order to avoid paying overtime wages. One of the more recent and "trendy" schemes used by employers in order to avoid paying workers the overtime to which they are otherwise entitled under the law, is to tell those workers that they are "independent contractors." Your employer may tell you that you must be paid on a 1099 basis, even if you used to be paid on a W-2 basis. Your employer may even make you sign a "contract" in which you "agree" that you are an independent contractor. The contract might even state that you understand that you are not entitled to overtime. The mere fact, however, that an employer issues a 1099 to you instead of a W-2 and calls you an independent contractor instead of an employee, does not decide, legally, the issue.

In New Jersey, it is not the label that your employer places upon you, or the choice that the employer makes, with or without your consent, on how to report your income to the IRS that determines whether or not you are correctly or appropriately considered an independent contractor. Instead, in New Jersey, we look to the reality of your relationship to your employer to decide whether or not you are an employee or an independent contractor and, from there, to determine whether or not you are entitled to receive time and a half for the hours that you work over 40 in a week. 

Progress On The Bullying Front

The U.S. Department of Education released the results of a 2013 survey on bullying. The results represent an improvement from 2011, but show that bullying is still a significant problem. In 2013, 22 percent of students aged 12-18 reported that they were bullied. In 2011, the number was 28 percent. The survey is conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics and has been taken periodically since 2005. The percentage reporting bullying in 2013 was the lowest yet recorded

The fact that more than one out of every five students experienced bullying in 2013 is sad. The story was worse for female students, 24 percent reported being the victims of bullying. Bullying came in a number of forms, including traditional bullying behavior in bathrooms, locker rooms, buses and hallways and the latest forms of bullying through text messages and social media. 

The Employer/Employee Balance In Franchise Businesses

Few things terrify most businesses as the possibility that they might have to treat their employees with even the tiniest degree of respect. They wage a never-ending battle to deny workers a decent wage, overtime, a safe workplace and any rights that a human being should expect. A recent decision regarding McDonald's employees put a scare into franchise businesses everywhere when the parent company, McDonald's was held to be a joint employer along with the franchisees that own and operate the individual locations. The holding opened up the possibility that these workers could more easily form unions and work together to push for decent treatment. A follow up ruling has given franchising businesses more wiggle room to protect these businesses from responsibility for unfair labor practices.

The question revolves around who actually employs a worker at a franchise business. Most fast food restaurants are operated as franchises. The franchising company requires individual stores to be operated with certain standards, but does not control every aspect of how the business is run. The National Labor Relations Board has now taken the position that the degree of control exercised by the franchising company may determine whether the employees are jointly employed or employed solely by the franchisee. 

Advancing Pregnancy Rights

In a win for pregnancy rights, the United States Supreme Court recently considered whether employers must provide light duty to pregnant employees who require the same. In Young v. UPS, the plaintiff was a female part-time driver whose duties included picking up and delivering packages. Her doctor instructed that she should not lift more than twenty pounds during the first twenty weeks of her pregnancy or lift ten pounds thereafter. UPS required its drivers to lift up to seventy pounds. UPS had a light duty position which was available to persons hurt on the job or who were disabled under federal law. Having determined that she did not meet either of those criteria, UPS forced Ms. Young out of work and she lost her medical coverage.

The distinction that Ms. Young was not "disabled" may be surprising but there are a series of opinions which hold that pregnancy is not a form of disability within the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"). The question before the Supreme Court was whether the Pregnancy Discrimination Act ("PDA") also required accommodation. The claim in this matter was premised upon the PDA's second clause which states that employers must treat "women affected by pregnancy... the same for all employment-related purposes... as other persons not so affected but similar in their ability or inability to work." 

Proper Car Seat Installation

If you've never installed a child's car seat, you might think the process is difficult to screw up. You'd be wrong. Installation errors in child restraint systems are a very common. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, three-quarters of children ride in car seats that either don't fit them or that are installed incorrectly. There are actually quite a few ways that a car seat can be installed incorrectly. Factor in the fact that cars are not all set up the same way for car seats and it is clear why installation is not so simple.

There is an event in Jersey City tomorrow from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. where experts will be available to help with car seat installation and to answer questions about car seat safety. The event is being put on by the Jersey City Medical Center-Barnabas and the NHTSA. Technicians will be on hand at the Target Shopping Center at 100 14th Street. Many such events are held all across the country to help people overcome the difficulties with child restraint systems. 

Learning About The Dangers Of Aggressive Driving

Learning the rules of the road is one part of new driver education that is relatively straightforward. Learning how to physically operate a vehicle in various circumstances - parallel parking, three-point turns, and the like - requires a little practice, but is still more or less a simple matter. Developing and maintaining the proper mentality for safe driving is both more difficult and more important. A new law will hopefully help new applicants for New Jersey drivers' licenses consider the dangers of aggressive driving.

Depending on your temperament, aggressive driving might not be something you would ever engage in. That is clearly not the case for everyone, however, as frequent drivers know very well. Aggressive driving, rising to the level of road rage, is not so rare as to be surprising. Violent confrontations are not common, but behaviors such as tailgating and speeding in response to a real or perceived slight are seen regularly. 

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