Arias to Speak to Jury Deciding Whether She Lives or Dies

CNN; May 21, 2013

(CNN) -- Whether Jodi Arias lives or dies is now in the hands of a jury. She will address its members directly Tuesday morning. Arias said earlier this month that she would rather die than endure a lifetime behind bars.

When jurors found her guilty of first-degree murder earlier this month, they said that Arias was "exceptionally cruel" when she murdered her ex-boyfriend Travis Alexander in 2008. Arias stabbed Alexander 29 times, slit his neck from ear to ear and shot him in the face.

During the trial, Arias, 32, claimed she killed him in self-defense after he attacked her.

The penalty phase of the trial took a sudden break Monday, when the judge said that proceedings could not continue and that Arias would make the statement to the jury.

The adjournment followed Judge Sherry Stephens' dismissal of a defense motion for a mistrial and ended a session, in which the defense called no witnesses on Arias' behalf.

Also denied was a second request by Arias' lawyers to withdraw from the case.

The jury, which is tasked with deciding if Arias will receive the death penalty, will hear her statement at 9:30 a.m. (12:30 p.m. ET) Tuesday. Arias, who testified for 18 days during the trial, will not be cross-examined after her statement.

To read the complete article, please click here:

https://www.cnn.com/2013/05/21/justice/arizona-jodi-arias-trial/index.html?hpt=hp_t3

Lawyers Can Seek Fees Even if Vaccine Injury Claims Were Too Late

Thomson Reuters; May 21, 2013

(Reuters) - Lawyers who file claims on behalf of clients alleging injury from a vaccine may recover their legal fees even if the claim is dismissed as untimely, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Monday.

The high court found Dr. Melissa Cloer, who says she developed multiple sclerosis from three Hepatitis-B vaccines, can seek attorneys' fees under the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, even though she filed her claims too late to recover payment for her alleged injuries.

Congress established the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program in 1986 in an effort to provide a cost-effective process for resolving vaccine-injury claims outside of tort litigation and to ensure a stable market supply of vaccines. Successful claims are paid out of a federal trust fund that comes from a tax levied on every dose of vaccine.

After receiving three Hepatitis-B vaccinations between 1996 and 1997, Cloer developed a tingling and numbness in one arm. The numbness gradually spread, and she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2003. The next year, Cloer learned about a link between the vaccine and multiple sclerosis, leading her to file a claim with the U.S. Court of Federal Claims in 2005.

To read the complete article, please click here:

https://newsandinsight.thomsonreuters.com/Legal/News/2013/05_-_May/Lawyers_can_seek_fees_even_if_vaccine_injury_claims_were_too_late/

Cell Phone Radiation Leads to New Concerns

NewsInferno; May 20, 2013

While study results have been mixed over the issue of cell phones and the radiation they emit and the dangers they present, some credible experts are taking another look at the ubiquitous devices.

A nurse at the brain injury unit of a physical rehabilitation hospital told CBS58 News that in the past year she has seen more brain tumor injuries in younger patients. A Milwaukee attorney told CBS58 that his now-deceased friend “developed brain cancer on the side of his head where he typically used the cell phone.”

“There is some data that suggests it might be a carcinogen. The bulk of the data says it’s almost certainly not,” Dr. John Moulder, professor of radiation oncology and director of radiation biology at the college, told CBS58 when questioned about such anecdotal information. Not everyone agrees.

The World Health Organization (WHHO) re-classified cell phone radiation as a “possible carcinogen similar to car exhaust” and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) just announced that it is analyzing external studies as part of its decision to adjust limits on the amount of radiation cell phones are permitted to emit, according to CBS58.

The WHO also called for more research on the devices, which have grown to 5 billion in use as of 2012. Also, the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) decision to classify cell phone radiation as possibly carcinogenic to humans was based on a review of hundreds of human and animal studies, including the 2010 INTERPHONE study. In fact, INTERPHONE found that the heaviest cell phone users experienced a 40 percent increased risk for gliomas, the most common type of brain tumor.

In Europe and other foreign countries, a cell phone-cancer link is more widely accepted. Last year, Health Canada proposed guidelines for limited cell phone use and encouraged Canadians to reduce cell phone talk times and to communicate by text messaging or with a hands-free device whenever possible. Other countries have already implemented this tactic, and, in Russia, officials issued a recommendation that children under 18 completely avoid using the devices. The United Kingdom, Israel, Belgium, Germany, India, and Finland have urged their citizens to be very cautious when it comes to their children’s use of cell phones; France issued a number of recommendations that include selling devices that limit head exposure to EMF, banning ads promoting devices to children under the age of 14, banning cell phone use to children during teaching activities in certain locations and for certain grades, and indicating the SAR (specific absorption rate) clearly on the device, among others.

There is widespread agreement that it could take decades for cancer to appear, the CBS58 report indicated. “Most carcinogens take a long time to cause cancer, by a long time, meaning decades, not years,” Dr. Moulder told CBS58. This is significant because cell phones have not been broadly used for decades, especially by younger people, and United States scientists have had to rely on animal studies. Much of that literature was developed by scientists working for the cell phone industry.

What is known about cell phones is that the devices do produce energy that manifests in heat. Experts fear that this heat, which can be experienced when the device is held to the ear, changes brain cell activity, a point of concern raised in some studies.

Among the recommendations made regarding cell phone use are that either an ear piece or speaker phone capability be used and if the phone must be directly used, to hold it away from the head, especially before the call connects; to text, not call; avoid using the phone when there is a weak signal; never carry a cell phone in a pocket or wear the device on a belt loop; and never give a cell phone to young children, said CBS58

https://www.newsinferno.com/?p=44155

 

When Are Legal Fees Voluntary?

Forbes; May 21, 2013

According to many self-made millionaires, the times legal fees are voluntary – or quasi-voluntary – are ALL THE TIME. The general process is that lawyers do legal work and they send a bill. Sometimes they get a retainer – partial payment. It’s also likely the lawyers, depending on the nature of the work, provided estimates (which are rarely on target).

The trend for the self-made millionaires who get these bills is to then start negotiations. When the negotiations end (usually quickly), the lawyers are usually but not always paid. And, when they’re paid it’s typical for them to be compensated less than what they asked for.

It’s almost habitual for large corporations to question legal bills and drive them down. The wealthy are also very intent on paying for value as opposed to what many lawyers deem their services to be worth.

There are a number of exceptions where the affluent are highly motivated to pay full freight. Criminal defense, for example, is a perfect example of times self-made millionaires are not prone to question their attorney bills. However, even here once the matter is resolved, the very wealthy will likely evaluate their lawyer’s advice and may very well not pay their last bills. Consider the following logic: if the problem has gone away why pay, and if the case goes against them, the lawyers don’t deserve payment.

For a plethora of reasons, it’s usually not in the best interest of lawyers to sue their clients – especially their wealthy clients – over bills. Writing off the differences is sometimes the wisest course of action.

A large part of the problem lies with the lawyers themselves. In many ways, when it comes to billing and getting paid, they’re their own worst enemies. Many lawyers fail to recognize that as professionals, they’re highly fungible… they’re commodities. This is not to say that some lawyers aren’t better than others, for that certainly is the case. It’s just that a preponderance of lawyers, while maybe technically quite proficient, are real bad business people. Real bad. But, this isn’t always the case.

To read the complete article, please click here:

https://www.forbes.com/sites/russalanprince/2013/05/21/when-are-legal-fees-voluntary/

Nurses Allege Violations of California’s Labor Laws


Lawyersandsettlements.com; May 20, 2013

Bellflower, CA: On the list of violations of California labor law, failure to pay employees has to be high. After all, pay is one of the main reasons - if not the only reason - most people go to work. And pay - regular pay, not even overtime pay - is a basic right of employees under California state labor laws and federal labor laws. So when employees are not paid for their work, or when their pay is unreasonably delayed, many turn to a California labor lawsuit to get the money owed to them.

According to ABS-CBN News (5/17/13), nurses at Bellflower Medical Center in California allege they have had their pay days moved around and have been given paychecks that bounced when they cashed them. One employee says that since January 11, multiple checks have bounced, sometimes repeatedly, leaving employees without pay owed them for hours worked.

The same medical center was reportedly involved in a settlement with the federal government, after it was accused of fraudulently charging Medicare for fake procedures. Meanwhile, the California Department of Labor Relations fined the medical center $7 million for paying employees late and bouncing checks.

According to a news release from the California Department of Labor Relations (online at dir.ca.gov; 3/14/13), Pacific Health Corporation was cited $524,300 for late payments to employees and for bouncing checks. The company, which owns four medical centers in California, including Bellflower, was also cited more than $6.5 million for not providing complete and accurate itemized wage statements to employees.

“Employers have an obligation to pay workers the wages they’ve earned,” said California Department of Industrial Relations Director Christine Baker. “Forcing employees to wait for payment, or depriving them of promised benefits, are illegal acts and cause unacceptable hardship.”

The news release notes that Bellflower Medical Center was told that it would face further civil penalties if it continued to violate labor laws. In February 2013, the department received reports of delayed wages and insufficient funds for checks. On investigation, the department allegedly also found employee benefits were deducted from paychecks but not paid, resulting in coverage being canceled.

As a result, the department fined Bellflower $7 million.

https://www.lawyersandsettlements.com/articles/california_labor_law/california-labor-law-lawsuit-48-18733.html#.UZp2Q_XRZfw

 

‘We Can Light Our Water on Fire,’ says Fracking Victim


Lawyersandsettlements.com; May 19, 2013

Carroll County, OH: Joe and Dawn live in a part of Ohio that has seen a boom in the gas, oil and shale industry. And with it has come a fracking problem, to the point where they can light on fire water from their well. Because of fracking, their once artisan spring water is contaminated with methane gas.

The oil and gas industry was already here when Joe and Dawn bought their 4-acre property 18 months ago, but so was their clean water. “We bought the property knowing we had fresh well water, supposedly fed by artisan springs,” Joe says. “Our whole property is surrounded by gas wells, storage tanks, a pipe line, the works.” Of course, Joe and Dawn knew the structures were here and they knew there was some gas activity before buying, but not to this extent.

“If we look out our front door, there is a storage tank facility to the right, in the woods,” says Joe, “and straight across the street from us there is a well with a working pump in the middle of a field. There is also a transmission shed at the front of our property. But within the past year, this booming industry now has helicopters overhead, gas trucks up and down our street and there is hydraulic fracking everywhere.”

Joe says the Ohio Department of Natural Resources ran tests on their well water a few months ago and confirmed it does indeed contain methane gas. “They told us that you can light the water on fire when the water spits - because methane gas gets in the line, it causes the water to spit a pretty big fire ball. Naturally, we can’t use the water for consumption anymore.

“The oil and gas officials are finding very little leakage in our well at the top but we have a 285-ft. well and the methane is seeping in at the bottom, so the pressure of the water doesn’t allow it to escape out the top: there is nowhere for it to go except through our pumps when we turn on the faucet. And when it compresses in the hot water tank, it starts spitting out of the tap.”

Joe and Dawn are also concerned about their health. “Everyone living here has breathing issues,” says Dawn. “My migraine headaches have intensified and now I have arthritic problems, like I’ve aged 10 years since moving here. We’ve been bathing in methane!”

Joe and Dawn called some of the gas companies to determine whether there were any problems on their end. Negative. They sent letters to state representatives but haven’t got a word back. The Department of Natural Resources told the oil and gas companies to check everything within a one-mile radius of their house, but they are only able to check on the surface.

“They don’t have a clue what is going on underneath,” Joe explains. “The Department told us to install some kind of aeration system to the tune of about $6,000 and put in carbon monoxide and methane detectors. Meanwhile, we have to truck in water for cooking and drinking. Luckily, a few family members who live close by have city water - we fill 20-gallon jugs every few days.”

Joe says they have read a few articles where people had similar methane gas issues and they had to drill new wells. Joe has tried to contact his neighbors, but at this point he doesn’t know if they have similar problems. (A few years ago a community in New York banded together and filed a fracking lawsuit.)

“If our well wasn’t so deep, it probably wouldn’t be so bad,” Joe adds. And because of the methane gas, we cannot treat the well, so bacteria is now growing in it. Around these parts, the average well depth is 120 ft. We have been given an estimate of $6,500 to drill a well of that depth, money we don’t have. I would like to see the gas companies paying for this. In the end, all that really matters is that my family has fresh water.”

https://www.lawyersandsettlements.com/articles/hydraulic-fracturing-water-contamination-epa-fracking-hydrofracking/interview-hydraulic-fracturing-water-contamination-4-18735.html#.UZpzufXRZfw

 

Florida Nursing Home Faces Sanctions Over Client Treatment

NewsInferno; May 16, 2013

A Florida nursing home is facing a fine and state-mandated probation for failing to report allegations of abuse and to implement procedures to prevent abuse.

Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration has determined that three of 60 clients at Silvercrest Manor Nursing Home in Crestview were not “free of verbal or physical abuse,” according to nwfdailynews.com, an online newspaper. According to the proposed settlement agreement filed on May 10, staff members were made aware of “intentional rudeness, refusal of care and services, and rough physical treatment of residents,” but failed to take appropriate action.

The abuses were noted during an inspection of Silvercrest Manor in late 2012, nwfdailynews.com reports. State officials found one Class 1 violation and one Class 2 violation. A Class 1 violation—the more serious of the two—“is certainly cause for an immediate fine or consequence of some sort,” said Carol Gormley, a senior policy adviser to state Senate President Don Gaetz.

Silvercrest Manor denied the state’s allegations. Spokesman Al Hudson said that Silvercrest Manor, “through its dedicated associates, continues its mission of providing high quality and compassionate care to its residents.” According to Hudson, no staff members have been reprimanded, nwfdailynews.com reports.

Brian Lee, executive director of the advocacy group Families for Better Care, said he was struck by the “failure of the nursing home to take action when made aware of abuse.”

The nursing home has 30 days to appeal the findings, nwfdailynews.com reports, The fine for the violations is $13,500. Pending approval of the sanctions, Silvercrest Manor could be put on the state’s nursing home watch list. One in five Florida nursing homes is on this list, Lee said.

https://www.newsinferno.com/?p=44075

 

A Rare Peek into a Justice Department Leak Probe

Washington Post; May 19, 2013

When the Justice Department began investigating possible leaks of classified information about North Korea in 2009, investigators did more than obtain telephone records of a working journalist suspected of receiving the secret material.

They used security badge access records to track the reporter’s comings and goings from the State Department, according to a newly obtained court affidavit. They traced the timing of his calls with a State Department security adviser suspected of sharing the classified report. They obtained a search warrant for the reporter’s personal e-mails.

The case of Stephen Jin-Woo Kim, the government adviser, and James Rosen, the chief Washington correspondent for Fox News, bears striking similarities to a sweeping leaks investigation disclosed last week in which federal investigators obtained records over two months of more than 20 telephone lines assigned to the Associated Press.

At a time when President Obama’s administration is under renewed scrutiny for an unprecedented number of leak investigations, the Kim case provides a rare glimpse into the inner workings of one such probe.

Court documents in the Kim case reveal how deeply investigators explored the private communications of a working journalist — and raise the question of how often journalists have been investigated as closely as Rosen was in 2010. The case also raises new concerns among critics of government secrecy about the possible stifling effect of these investigations on a critical element of press freedom: the exchange of information between reporters and their sources.

To read the complete article, please click here:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/a-rare-peek-into-a-justice-department-leak-probe/2013/05/19/0bc473de-be5e-11e2-97d4-a479289a31f9_story.html

Car Thief Caught in McDonald’s Drive-Thru after Placing Order with Owner

Autoblog; May 20, 2013

If you're going to drive a stolen car in a town of roughly 77,000 people – about the same size as Scranton, Pennsylvania or Ogden, Utah – you want to be very careful about where you drive that stolen car to eat. That's the lesson Katherine York of Kennewick, Washington learned when she was arrested for being in possession of a stolen Toyota 4Runner that also happened to have a bunch of stolen clothes from JC Penney and Sears in it.

Virginia Maiden woke up Tuesday, May 14 to find her 1995 4Runner – that she thought she forgot to lock – swiped from her apartment building. At 3 PM that afternoon, while working her shift at the drive-thru at McDonald's that day, she saw her truck in line. York hadn't even gone far – the McDonald's is not even five miles from Maiden's apartment. Maiden called the police, they showed up just as York was leaving, and York made another vehicle switch, this time into a black-and-white for a trip to the Benton County jail. They don't have McDonald's there, but she won't have so far to go to eat.

https://www.autoblog.com/2013/05/20/car-thief-caught-in-mcdonalds-drive-thru-after-placing-order-wi/

Texas Lawyer Mo Aziz Has Been Selected For Inclusion On The 2013 Texas Rising Stars Listing

Houston attorney Mo Aziz, a partner with Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Sorrels, Agosto & Friend, has been recognized as a top Texas lawyer through inclusion on the Texas Rising Stars Listing consistently since 2008.

 

(Houston, TX) Houston litigator Mo Aziz of Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Sorrels, Agosto & Friend, for the sixth consecutive year, has been selected for inclusion in the 2013 Texas Rising Stars list. This listing of top up-and-coming attorneys in Texas is published annually in Texas Monthly by Super Lawyers and includes no more than 2.5 percent of Texas lawyers under 40 or who have been in practice for 10 years or less.

 

Known as an aggressive, tireless lawyer, Mr. Aziz’s attention to detail and legal knowledge has helped him obtain jury verdicts and settlements that have exceeded $100 million on behalf of clients throughout Texas. Attorney Aziz is Board Certified in Personal Injury Trial Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and is committed to providing quality legal representation to individuals and families who have been seriously injured.

 

Mr. Aziz has served on the Plaintiff’s Steering Committee for two tragic Texas bus accidents. In the first, he successfully advocated for those who survived, and for the families of those who did not survive, a Hurricane Rita evacuation disaster. Twenty-three elderly nursing home residents were fatally injured when their motorcoach caught fire while trying to evacuate Bellaire, Texas before Rita hit land. In the second, Attorney Aziz was instrumental in reaching a settlement related to serious injuries that resulted from a single bus rollover crash in Victoria, Texas.

 

More recently, Houston attorney Mo Aziz has committed to helping a Waco man injured in the recent West, Texas explosion. Mr. Aziz’s client was left permanently blind after the fertilizer plant burst into flames, leveling the town, injuring more than 200 people, and claiming the lives of several first responders.

 

Mr. Aziz joined the South Texas law firm of Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Sorrels, Agosto & Friend, in 2006 and became a partner in 2012. The firm proudly congratulates Attorney Aziz on his sixth consecutive year of being named to the Texas Rising Stars listing. The annual recognition, as published by Super Lawyers, has been well-earned and well-deserved by Mr. Aziz.

 

Founded in 1951, Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Sorrels, Agosto & Friend is one of the oldest and most well-respected law firms in Houston, Texas. The firm has helped thousands of injured clients in cases involving motor vehicle and trucking accidents, workplace injuries, defective products, medical malpractice, aviation crashes, oil and gas explosions, and other personal injury accidents. To learn more about Houston lawyer Mo Aziz or to contact any of the personal injury attorneys at Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Sorrels, Agosto & Friend call 713-587-9668 or contact us online.

George Zimmerman’s Lawyer Challenges Use of Voice Experts at Trial

Thomson Reuters; May 7, 2013

ORLANDO, Fla., (Reuters) - A lawyer for a Florida man charged in the shooting death of unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin is asking a judge to bar voice-recognition experts from testifying at his murder trial on grounds their techniques are not scientifically valid.

Prosecutors are expected to call audio experts to testify in the trial of George Zimmerman to analyze a 911 call made during the night when Martin was shot and killed. Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch captain, goes on trial June 10 on charges of second-degree murder.

One potential piece of evidence is expected to be a 911 call in which screams for help can be heard in the background during an altercation between Zimmerman and Martin before the shooting.

Zimmerman's family and supporters claim the voice is his, while Martin's parents insist the voice belongs to their son.

Last year, an FBI expert said a voice analysis of the call was inconclusive.

In a written motion made public on Monday, Mark O'Mara, Zimmerman's lawyer, argued against allowing voice analysts to testify.

"Scientific evidence presented to the court must be interpreted by the court as "generally accepted" by a meaningful segment of the scientific community in the particular field in which it belongs," O'Mara wrote.

O'Mara, who could not immediately be reached for comment, also wrote that the testimony could confuse the jury.

Ben Crump, lawyer for Trayvon Martin's parents, told Reuters the evidence is "absolutely" important for jurors to hear.

"The defense is concerned with the expert testimony because it supports what most have concluded, that Trayvon was screaming for help," Crump said.

Prosecutors say Zimmerman profiled and confronted Martin despite a police dispatcher telling him not to pursue the 17-year-old. Zimmerman, 29, has said the two fought and that he shot Martin because he feared for his life.

To read the complete story, please click here:

https://newsandinsight.thomsonreuters.com/Legal/News/2013/05_-_May/George_Zimmerman_s_lawyer_challenges_use_of_voice_experts_at_trial/

Man Charged with Posing as Lawyer, Collecting Fees

Thomson Reuters; May 6, 2013

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The New York attorney general's office on Monday unsealed an indictment against a man who allegedly posed as an attorney and bilked clients out of tens of thousands of dollars.

Michael Schorr, 72, was accused in a 35-count indictment filed in Manhattan Supreme Court of charges including grand larceny, scheme to defraud and practicing as an attorney without being admitted to the state bar or registering.

He was arraigned Monday before Acting Supreme Court Justice Charles Solomon and was held without bail, prosecutors said in a press release. An attorney representing Schorr could not be immediately reached for comment.

Prosecutors said Schorr solicited and represented clients in proceedings in federal immigration court and other courts in New York and New Jersey. He forged court documents saying he was a licensed attorney in good standing, and used registration numbers belonging to other attorneys, prosecutors said.

Schorr collected tens of thousands of dollars in fees for his work, prosecutors said. But as a result of his poor legal advice, many of the cases in which he appeared as counsel will have to be reopened, according to the indictment.

"By repeatedly making false representations to judges about his status and soliciting clients into believing he could help them during their critical immigration proceedings, this man was committing a brazen fraud while jeopardizing the livelihoods of his victims during a particularly vulnerable point," New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said in a statement.

Schorr faces up to seven years in prison if he is convicted, according to the New York attorney general's office.

https://newsandinsight.thomsonreuters.com/Legal/News/2013/05_-_May/Man_charged_with_posing_as_a_lawyer,_collecting_fees/

Rail Antitrust Case Features Rare Corporate Class Action Plaintiffs

Thomson Reuters; May 7, 2013

(Reuters) - The U.S. class action system often unites major corporations in opposition to what they view as its excesses. But an antitrust case against the four largest railroad companies pits major businesses on both sides.

A three-judge panel at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit heard arguments on Friday over a district court judge's decision in June to allow the case to move forward as a class action.

If affirmed, the class would include some 30,000 shippers seeking billions of dollars for alleged overcharges for a period from July 1, 2003, to Dec. 31, 2008, through the imposition of a uniform fuel surcharge.

The defendants are well-known large companies: BNSF Railway Company, CSX Transportation Inc, Norfolk Southern Railway Company and Union Pacific Corporation.

But the group of eight named lead plaintiffs also includes a major company: Olin Corp, a chlorine and sodium hydroxide manufacturer based in Clayton, Missouri, near St. Louis, with shares traded on the New York Stock Exchange.

The other seven named plaintiffs are also companies but less well known and not publicly traded: Carter Distributing Company, Dakota Granite Company, Donnelly Commodities Incorporated, Dust Pro, Inc., Nyrstar Taylor Chemicals, Strates Shows Inc and US Magnesium.

Public companies such as Olin rarely serve as named plaintiffs in class action cases. When major corporations file antitrust lawsuits, they typically file them individually rather than as class actions.

But the railroad case is so massive and complicated that a class action was the best way to bring legal action, said lawyers for the plaintiffs.

"The named plaintiffs, including a large company like Olin, reflect the broad interests of rail shippers in this case," Stephen Neuwirth of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said on Monday.

To read the complete article, please click here:

https://newsandinsight.thomsonreuters.com/Legal/News/2013/05_-_May/Rail_antitrust_case_features_rare_corporate_class_action_plaintiffs/

Off-the-Clock Work Alleged at Waste Management, Inc.

Lawyersandsettlements.com; May 5, 2013

Houston, TX: On the surface, an unpaid wages lawsuit would suggest that work is performed without receiving compensation. But there is a grey area. Were an employee be required to don and then doff cumbersome uniforms or protective gear prior to starting work, one would assume the donning of protective gear required by the employer would be met with compensation, as it is a requirement of the job.

Not always.

And if an employer docks a worker for punching in late to start the day, or returning from a lunch break late, the penalty could be interpreted as off-the-clock work.

The latter was highlighted in the presence of a television camera crew for the reality TV series Undercover Boss in 2010. The premiere episode of the series featured Waste Management Inc., a goliath amongst the waste management industry with 42,800 employees and total equity of $6.591 billion (2010 figures).

And yet - as the television show documented - if you were a minute late clocking in after a lunch break, you were docked two minutes pay. Essentially, that minute a worker is docked is a minute’s worth of work the employer is not paying for. In essence, it becomes off-the-clock work.

The Chief Operating Officer (COO) for Waste Management at the time, Lawrence (Larry) O’Donnell III, while posing undercover as a general laborer, was shown on camera to view the docked pay rule as unfair and repealed the penalty sometime after the CBS series debuted February 7, 2010, following the Super Bowl. O’Donnell was depicted as making other changes to the firm.

However O’Donnell is no longer at Waste Management, leaving the firm on July 1, 2010 - five months after O’Donnell’s appearance on Undercover Boss aired - and barely one month after, it should be noted, Waste Management settled an unpaid overtime lawsuit in Massachusetts.

And according to various complaints boards, there are still issues at Waste Management that employees are not happy about.

One individual posting to ComplaintsBoard.com, a widely used consumer website, noted in a 2011 post that he had worked at Waste Management for a period of 11 years, describing the most recent three years as a nightmare. The post author referenced working off the clock daily, and “I’m still thinking about a lawsuit.”

A woman who posted on June 20, 2011, noted that her husband was a current employee of Waste Management Inc. in Bridgeport, West Virginia, at the time she posted to the board, “but is quitting soon.” She noted her husband leaves for work at 4:00 a.m. and doesn’t arrive back home until 8:00 or 9:00 p.m. It is not clear if the worker was receiving overtime and therefore might consider an unpaid wages lawsuit. The worker, according to his wife, was missing out on vacation time because, she alleged, Waste Management had insufficient employees to keep up with the workload.

That complaint - i.e., the long hours of work - appears to be a common theme with Waste Management current and former workers who’ve left reviews on the employment website, Glassdoor.com (see chart above of current and former employee reviews found at Glassdoor.com, 5/3/13).

While working long hours in and of itself does not necessarily translate to an overtime pay violation, the tenor of one WM employee’s comments seems to raise the question as to what’s expected of WM drivers, and the extent to which they’re compensated for what’s expected of them.

The WM driver, who’s based in Henderson, Colorado, left a comment on March 29, 2013, about having to attend safety meetings before each shift which, while understandably important, he says could be lengthy, and drivers are then expected to “make up the time.” His comment reads:

“They also hold safety meetings before each shift which at first I thought was great; many times you feel as though it is to express that ‘We are watching your every move out there’ and ‘You are all not meeting the quotas,’ meaning you are not working hard enough or fast enough!! And should these meeting put you behind because they run long that is your problem to make up the time somehow and their trucks break down on a constant basis, and you are also required to still figure out to make up your route should this happen, If you can’t, a supervisor will show up asking what the problem was, and why didn’t you get the route done...”

While the driver does not indicate whether or not he was compensated with overtime pay - or docked any pay if work was not completed - the insinuation is clear: the onus in on the worker to get the work done regardless of what management may require over and above completion of the garbage pickup route.

https://www.lawyersandsettlements.com/articles/unpaid-wages/unpaid-wages-lawsuit-claim-3-18680.html#.UYkAUPXRZfw

 

New York Fracking Ban Upheld by Appeals Court

NewsInferno; May 3, 2013

An appeals court ruling will allow New York municipalities to ban hydraulic fracturing—fracking—with the use of local zoning laws.

The four-judge appellate division ruled unanimously that state mining and drilling laws do not supercede local governmental authority to control land use, said The Associated Press (AP). More than 50 municipalities in the state have banned gas drilling in recent years and more than 100 have put moratoriums in place against drilling activities, the AP noted.

New York remains undecided as to how to proceed with a five-year-old moratorium on fracking. State health commissioner Nirav Shah said no schedule is in place for completion of a public health fracking analysis for Governor Andrew Cuomo, who will be making the fracking decision. “The real solution to this problem is for the state to ban fracking, but until that happens, local governments have a responsibility to protect their citizens from the oil and gas industry,” said Kelly Branigan, a founding member of Middlefield Neighbors, the group which organized around the fracking ban, said the AP.

Fracking drilling involves injecting massive amounts of water, sand, a drill, and a mix of more than 600 chemicals underground via a concrete well that extends to an underground bed of shale rock. When this combination reaches the rock, it is blasted apart and natural gas is released and supposed to be returned to the surface and captured.

Fracking critics have long argued that fracking devastates the environment and contaminates groundwater and underground water aquifers; this contaminates nearby and widespread fresh water supplies. Either through the fault of shoddy wells, poorly trained well workers, or through a questionable drilling process altogether, natural gas and the contents of the drilling fluid may be released underground through cracks in the wells or the fractures created by the drilling. This, many area residents closest to wells believe, has led to a contamination of their private water supplies, in some cases rendering water completely contaminated.

We also previously wrote that environmental researchers said they discovered greenhouse gases at excessive levels near Australia’s largest coal seam gas field, which is associated with fracking. The discovery prompted calls to stop expansion of fracking there until researchers can understand if the practice is contributing to climate change. The report revealed methane, carbon dioxide, and other compounds at an excess of three times normal background levels.

One of the more dangerous fracking issues may be that from silica sand, which is used in the millions of pounds at fracking sites in the United States, In fact, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) believes silica sand becoming airborne is putting thousands of well workers and those living downwind of an active well at serious risk of health problems. At least 4 million pounds of silica sand are used at a typical, active fracking well. Ingesting too much silica sand can lead to silicosis, a dangerous and irreversible health complication that is marked by breathing trouble. The disease gets progressively worse and only preventative measures can be taken to avoid it altogether.

Meanwhile, New York sits atop a piece of the massive Marcellus shale formation that’s thought to contain billions of dollars in natural gas reserves. As gas drilling has expanded and thousands of wells have been opened in just the last few years surrounding areas, residents from New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Maryland, West Virginia, and New Jersey have raised concerns over the safety of fracking drilling.

While some believe fracking is an answer to a downturned economy and energy independence, more believe the drilling is putting the fresh water supplies for millions of people at risk. The risk is greater for those living closest to the drilling boom.

In this case, although industry strongly disagrees with the appellate court’s ruling, the town of Dryden said it was pleased. “The people who live here and know the town best should be the ones deciding how our land is used, not some executive in a corporate office park thousands of miles away,” Dryden Supervisor Mary Ann Sumner said in a statement, according to the AP.

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