Save Our Grandparents!|New Legislation Introduced To Reform Hiring Practices In Nursing Homes

A new piece of legislation before Congress would expand nursing homes’ ability to perform detailed background checks on potential employees. The passing of the legislation could improve hiring practices in nursing homes in an effort to reduce elder abuse.

The initiative — known as the Promote Responsible Oversight & Targeted Employee Background Check Transparency for Seniors (PROTECTS) Act — would increase access to the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB) for Medicare and Medicaid providers, a system that allows firms to perform background checks on potential employees. There have been several studies that find that states who spend more on background checks for front-line workers have a higher quality of care.

Provided by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the database verifies that potential hires do not have a history of malpractice. Families need to trust that when a loved one is living in a long-term care facility, they will be safe and cared for. Unfortunately, there have been far too many reports of abuse in these facilities.

Many states already require applicants for nursing home jobs to undergo a criminal background check, including Florida. For example, Todd Barket applied for a job as a certified nursing assistant in a Florida nursing home in late 2018. As a result of a new background check requirement for nursing home employees, he was arrested when his fingerprints linked him to a decades-old murder. After his fingerprints were processed, they matched prints entered as evidence in the killing of a 68-year-old woman in in Delray Beach, Florida in 1998.

Authorities apprehended Barket at his home, charged him with murder, thus reigniting a case that had been cold for many years. Florida is one of 26 states and the District of Columbia that now require criminal background checks for potential employees. This requirement stemmed from the National Background Check Program which was authorized by the 2012 Affordable Care Act.

The PROTECTS Act could potentially discourage current employees from attempting patient neglect and abuse, while also discouraging prospective employees with criminal records from applying to nursing home jobs. Additionally, the Act may encourage nursing homes to be more vigilant in their human resource practices. If you think you or a loved one is a victim of elder abuse, contact Forester Haynie at www.foresthaynie.com or give us a call at 214-210-2100.

If you think you or a loved one is a victim of elder abuse, contact Forester Haynie at www.foresthaynie.com or give us a call at 214-210-2100.



Cover-Ups, Cover-Ups Everywhere|A Look Into The Boy Scouts Of America

Ironically enough, the institution that vowed to teach young boys good manners, outdoor survival skills, and a sense of right wrong is now facing an alarmingly high number of sex abuse allegations. The Boy Scouts of America are being accused of conspiring to keep incidents of sexual assault a secret and protecting pedophiles.

The organization not only failed the boys and men who were taken advantaged of, but also the country. Because the Boys Scouts are a federally chartered non-profit, they are required to provide annual reports to Congress. Yet, the organization failed to include information about abuse accusations despite being busy kicking out child molesters left and right.

Unfortunately, this isn’t a recent epidemic. In 2010, a judge ordered the Boy Scouts to produce a list of men accused of molesting boys in Boy Scouts, which the Boy Scouts called the Perversion Files. From that list, a child expert hired by the Boy Scouts grossly estimated that 12,254 boys had reported sexual abuse by at least 7,800 suspected assailants between 1944 and 2016. In fact, because of the rise in reports of sexual abuse, men who have come forward so far have named more than 300 “hidden predators” who did not appear in the Perversion Files.

Abused in Scouting, a group of law firms that collaborate on bringing such cases to light, have made it their focus to spearhead previously unreported cases of child sexual abuse in one of the country’s most prominent youth organizations. The group ran television ads throughout the United States asking people who had not previously reported to “protect tomorrow’s children, identify your abuser, and help put a stop to the cover up” in the Boy Scouts by contacting the lawyers from Abused in Scouting. The ad helped the group collect countless allegations from men around the country—as old as 88 and as young as 14—who claim they were assaulted during their time in the Scouts.

If you or a loved one were a victim of sexual abuse while serving as a Boy Scout, contact Forester Haynie at www.foresterhaynie.com or give us a call at 214-210-2100.



A Look Into The Employment Legislation Reforms In California

A new California law states that California companies can no longer require their employees to sign an arbitration agreement clause as a condition of employment. The victory for California workers came nearly a year after Google employees forced the company to change its policy regarding mandatory arbitration agreements.

Previously, an employing company could force new workers to sign arbitration agreements that would force harassment, discrimination, and wage claims into arbitration. At the time, companies would give new workers the option to either sign the arbitration agreements or to lose out on a job opportunity.

The new California law targets exactly those manipulative tactics by companies and bans them. The law applies to new employees required to sign arbitration agreements to get hired or current workers who risk being fired if they don’t agree.

To give some context, arbitration agreements are often used by these companies in order to force claims by workers to undertake arbitration instead of a trial. Arbitration is far more likely to result in a positive result for the defendants and is often costly and burdensome for workers seeking to sue their employers.

Earlier this year, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a bill concerning the FAIR Act that would ban mandatory arbitration agreements in a similar manner to the new California law. While the approval is a small victory for employment rights, the bill still has to go through the Senate where it is largely expected to be defeated.

The California law was careful not to conflict with the Federal Arbitration Act and U.S. Supreme Court decisions that allow companies to enforce mandatory arbitration agreements. Importantly, the law also does not ban arbitration agreements but simply says that they cannot be used as a condition for employment.

A big change in the law such as this one is always susceptible to challenge in the courts. It remains to be seen just how far state legislation will go and to what degree if any, federal legislation will follow.



Will The FDA Ever Actually Crack-Down On E-Cigarette Flavors?

On September 11th of this year, President Donald Trump announced that federal regulators would work to ban all non-tobacco e-cigarette flavors in response to the ongoing outbreak of severe lung illnesses that are linked to vaping devices and e-cigarettes. As of November of this year, there have been more than 2,000 cases of lung illnesses associated with vaping products and more than 30 deaths across 24 states.

A representative from the Food and Drug Administration went before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions on Wednesday. The director of the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products, Mark Zeller, was asked by the Senate Committee when the ban on the flavored products would move forward. His answer consisted of referring them to the White House for a definite answer on the question, saying that the FDA is waiting for the current administration to make the final call.

Under the administration’s policy, all vaping flavors would be removed from the marketplace with the exception of the tobacco flavor. All other flavors would have to receive authorization, whatever that may entail, before hitting the market again.

Last week, the CDC reported that they might have had a breakthrough in investigating what possible chemicals could be causing these illnesses. The result? They found the toxin, vitamin E acetate, in 29 samples taken from patients in 10 different states. Although this correlation was found, more investigation should be completed before determining if vitamin E acetate is, in fact, the cause of the lung illnesses we’ve seen associated with vaping and e-cigarettes throughout the past year.

E-cigarette and Vape companies such as JUUL are currently taking steps to prevent minors from using their products. Last week, JUUL announced it would stop accepting orders of their mint flavored pods from retailers in an effort to keep them away from the hands of children.

The attorneys at Forester Haynie are currently assessing possible claims involving injuries caused by e-cigarettes or vaping devices. If you or a loved one have developed a lung illness that you believe was caused by the use of these products, contact us at info@foresterhaynie.com or call us at (214)210-2100.



Did Uber Just Make A $649 Million Dollar Mistake?

The State of New Jersey has just demanded that Uber pay $649 million for unpaid employment taxes for its drivers. The State argues that the company has misclassified Uber drivers as independent contractors instead of rightfully classifying them as employees, which has resulted in years of unpaid taxes.

The New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development recently audited the company and found that $530 million was owed by the company in back taxes for not paying for unemployment and disability insurance from 2014 to 2018. Another $119 million in interest was added on top of the $530 million because of the nonpayment.

Though this case certainly represents a major escalation in how states view the practices of the app-based companies, this isn’t the first time that the classification of Uber’s drivers has been the subject of controversy. In fact, this distinction between independent contractors and employees is being widely debated nationwide, especially as it relates to ride-sharing companies. Earlier this year, the State of California passed a law that would reclassify the drivers of companies like Uber and Lyft as independent contractors, not employees, in order to afford them more protection by Federal and State regulations.

Alix Anfang, a spokeswoman at Uber, stated that the company did not agree with New Jersey’s findings, and would continue to fight them. “We are challenging this preliminary but incorrect determination because drivers are independent contractors in New Jersey and elsewhere,” she stated. 

The New Jersey legislature is taking up legislation that could crack down on the classification of workers as independent contractors. Similar legislation has taken root in states across the country like New York, Oregon, and Washington State. Misclassifying employees as independent contractors means that those workers are not afforded the same type of protections under Federal law that would be available to them if they were categorized as employees, such as the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), which regulates minimum wage and overtime. 

The attorneys at Forester Haynie, PLLC handle employment litigation specializing in cases surrounding the FLSA and minimum wage and overtime. If you think you or someone you know has been wrongly classified as an independent contractor instead of an employee, contact us at foresterhaynie.com or call us at 214-210-2100.