Toxic Exposure at Work – What are Your Options?

Every day, thousands of workers across the United States are exposed to chemicals and toxic substances. Construction workers, miners, welders, farmers, factory workers, and those in the aerospace industry are just a handful of the occupations that can lead to toxic exposure at work. Working around harmful chemicals or toxic substances may be part of your job, but your employer has the responsibility of ensuring that you are safe from toxic exposure that could injury you or make you ill.

Toxic Exposure at Work – What are Your Options?

If you have been exposed to harmful chemicals or toxic substances at work, and as a result you have experienced an injury or illness, you may be able to pursue a workers’ compensation claim. In order to file a claim, you must be able to prove that you suffered toxic exposure at work while in the course of performing your duties, and that your injuries are a direct result of the exposure.

Some helpful steps in this process include:

  • File a report with your supervisor (California law prevents your employer from retaliating for any reports you file).
  • Provide the date and time of the exposure, and the names of any witnesses present.
  • Seek medical attention for your injuries, and inform your healthcare provider that this was due to toxic exposure at work.
  • Contact a workers’ compensation attorney to discuss your situation and find out more about your legal rights.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and California law have strict regulations related to chemicals and toxic substances in the workplace. If you have been injured due to an unsafe workplace, a workplace accident, or toxic exposure due to negligence, contact the Law Offices of George Henderson today. We can help ensure that your legal rights are protected throughout the claims process and beyond.

Facts About Hate Crimes in the Workplace

Hate crimes are one of the most disturbing categories of crime in the United States. These crimes are motivated by bias based on someone’s race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, religious beliefs, or national origin. One of the most common venues for hate crimes is, unfortunately, the workplace.

How Common are Hate Crimes?

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), around 6,000 hate crimes occur each year in the U.S. The Bureau of Justice Statistics has estimated that the number may be closer to 250,000, as there is a gap in reporting by local and state law enforcement agencies, and often victims will not file a complaint.

Hate Crime Laws and Prevention

Currently, 45 states have specific laws regarding hate crimes. Most hate crimes fall under the jurisdiction of state laws, and will be prosecuted by the district attorney. California Penal Code 422.6 PC is the state law governing crimes based on violating someone’s constitutional rights.

Some hate crimes can be prosecuted as a federal offense depending on a variety of circumstances. There are several federal laws offering protection against hate crimes. These include:

  • The Civil Rights Act of 1964 (18 USC 245) – It is a federal crime to harass, threaten, or injure someone engaging in a federally protected activity on the basis of their race, color, religion, or national origin.
  • The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009 (18 U.S.C. § 249) – provides federal support for law enforcement battling hate crimes.
  • Fair Housing Laws (42 U.S.C. § 3631) – Prevent interference in fair housing based on race, ethnicity, religion, sex, disability, or national origin.
  • The Damage to Religious Property, Church Arson Prevention Act (18 U.S.C. § 247) – Prohibits intentional damage, destruction, or defacement of property based on its religious nature or affiliation.
  • Conspiracy Against Rights (18 U.S.C. § 241) – Unlawful for two or more people to conspire against any person to violate their constitutional rights.

Learn more about hate crimes in the workplace and your legal rights by contacting the Law Offices of George Henderson today.

Safety Tips to Avoid a Repetitive Strain Injury

Repetitive strain injuries are one of the most common types of workplace injury, accounting for around 93 percent of all injuries. Repetitive strain injuries can impact various parts of your body, including your hands, wrists, arms, shoulders, neck, and back. If you are concerned about repetitive strain in your job, read on to learn more about the causes of these injuries, as well as some safety tips to avoid a repetitive strain injury.

What are the Causes of Repetitive Strain Injuries?

While most commonly attributed to computer work, repetitive strain injuries are caused by any of the following:

  • Overuse of any single or group of muscles
  • Working in cold temperatures
  • Poor posture
  • Forceful movement or activities
  • Staying in the same position for extended periods of time
  • Lifting or moving heavy objects
  • Direct pressure on particular areas of the body

These causes may occur in any industry, though they are most common among those who work at computers, cashiers, assembly line workers, athletes, or those working with tools.

Safety Tips to Avoid a Repetitive Strain Injury

If you are concerned about repetitive strain injury in your job, consider the following safety tips:

  • Take regular breaks from repetitive work
  • Stand up and stretch regularly if your job requires a lot of sitting down
  • Rest the muscles in your eyes by taking a break and looking at your surroundings
  • Take notice of your posture and take steps to improve it
  • Consider investing in an ergonomic computer chair, or use an exercise ball instead
  • Keep your body and mind healthy overall by exercising and eating a balanced diet

If you notice pain or discomfort in overused parts of your body, contact your healthcare provider right away.

Facts about Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

Many people have incredible outgoing and jovial personalities. In many workplaces, jokes and flirting is just part of another day. But where does the line exist between harmless interactions and unwanted advances? Check out these facts about sexual harassment in the workplace to learn more.

Facts About Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

Sexual harassment in the workplace is considered a form of discrimination. Legally, it is defined as “unwelcome verbal, visual, non-verbal, or physical conduct of a sexual nature or based on someone’s sex…” that affects workplace conditions or creates a hostile environment. The defining line in determining sexual harassment has occurred is that it must be “unwelcome conduct”. Two people flirting at work may not constitute harassment.

Some good examples of sexual harassment include:

  • Making sex-based jokes
  • Requesting sexual favors
  • Threatening someone for rejecting advances
  • Spreading rumors about someone else’s sex life
  • Physically touching another person (kissing, hugging, stroking, touching clothing)
  • Sexual assault
  • Derogatory gestures or facial expressions
  • Following or stalking someone else
  • Displaying inappropriate sexual conduct to someone without consent

Sexual harassment can occur between any parties in the workplace. Consider the following:

  • The victim may be male or female
  • The victim may not be of the opposite sex
  • The victim may not have been directly harassed, but may have been otherwise affected by the conduct
  • Sexual harassment may or may not include economic injuries to the victim
  • The harasser may be a co-worker, supervisor, employer, or a non-employee of the business

It is important for anyone working in today’s business sphere to understand what constitutes sexual harassment. Anyone who feels that they are the victim of sexual harassment should contact an attorney to learn more about their legal rights and what options they have to protect themselves and pursue justice.

What to Know about Worker Injury and Mental Distress

For so many people, workplace stress is almost normal, or a way of life. However, did you know that if your stress is directly caused by your workplace conditions that you may actually have a workers’ compensation claim? Here is what you need to know about worker injury and mental distress.

Worker Injury and Mental Distress

Everyone suffers from stress, but some conditions or events are so significant that they cause mental distress or anguish. Unfortunately, it is often more difficult to prove mental injuries than physical ones. There is no blood test or x-ray to establish your mental health. It is important to understand how California law treats workers’ compensation claims, also called “stress claims”. First, you must be able to establish that you have suffered mental or emotional harm. To do this, you must:

  • Have a diagnosed “mental disorder”
  • Be undergoing treatment or be disabled
  • Be on the same job for at least six months (unless a sudden condition or event caused the injury)
  • Prove that “actual events of employment” were the cause. That means you must show that workplace conditions or events are at least 51 percent responsible for the harm you have suffered.

Some examples of conditions that may warrant such a claim include:

  • Abusive employer or supervisor
  • Hostile work environment
  • Discrimination
  • Being overworked to exhaustion
  • Being threatened

In short, you must be able to establish that your personal life or general struggles were not the cause of your condition. You also cannot make a workers’ compensation claim based on having been laid off or terminated for nondiscriminatory, legal reasons.

Benefits for Workers Injured by Mental Distress

If you qualify for a claim, you may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits including medical treatment, temporary disability, or lost wages. To find out what benefits you may qualify for, contact a workers’ compensation attorney.

Does Legal Status Affect My Case Against My Employer?

There are more than 12 million undocumented immigrants in the United States making up a significant portion of the U.S. labor force. There are a lot of misconceptions about the rights of undocumented workers, including their rights under labor and employment laws. In this article, we hope to provide some clarity on the legal rights of undocumented workers, and answer the question of whether legal status can affect a case against an employer.

Legal Rights of Undocumented Workers

Your legal status may seem like a barrier in some ways, but it does not bar you from basic protections under U.S. laws. That includes labor and employment laws. Regardless of your legal status, you can expect the following:

  • You are entitled to the same minimum wage, which is currently $7.25 except in some states that have passed individual minimum wage laws.
  • You are entitled to overtime pay the same as other employees.
  • You have the right to a workplace that is free from discrimination for any reason.
  • You have the right to bring claims against any employer violating your legal rights.

Does Legal Status Affect My Case Against My Employer?

If you plan to file a claim against your employer, you should know that your legal status could impact your case. Depending on your status and the facts of your case, you may not have access to all the same remedies as U.S. citizens. Here are a few important considerations:

  • Your legal status could impact your ability to recover back pay.
  • Generally, undocumented workers cannot recover pay for time not actually worked.
  • Your legal status does not prevent you from being prosecuted, detained, or deported.

Immigration laws are complex, and the best way to find out if your legal status could affect your ability to sue is to contact an immigration attorney.

5 Reasons to Hire a Workers’ Compensation Attorney

If you have been injured on the job, you may find that getting compensation for your injuries is not as easy as filing a report with your employer. Unfortunately, the process of filing a workers’ compensation claim can be complicated and can take some time. Avoid the hassle and stress by considering these 5 reasons to hire a workers’ compensation attorney.

  1. Stress Relief: Working with a workers’ compensation attorney can greatly reduce the stress of your situation. Stressing over the financial impact of your injury can exacerbate your physical injuries and add to the mental or emotional strain you are feeling.
  2. Legal Knowledge: A workers’ compensation attorney has valuable knowledge of the laws related to workers’ compensation, your legal rights, and your employers responsibilities. Further, an attorney can help navigate complicated and hard to understand forms and contracts.
  3. Claims Expertise: A workers’ compensation attorney has experience that will put your claim in good hands. An attorney can help you focus your attention where it is most needed, which can speed up the process as you don’t have to worry about figuring out all the who’s, what’s, and why’s of the process on your own.
  4. Denial Prevention: Sometimes, even the most seemingly straight-forward workers’ compensation claims are denied. This may be due to errors, lack of documentation, or other reasons. A workers’ compensation attorney can help you prevent a denial by ensuring that all documents and requirements are submitted on time, in their entirety. Should your claim be denied, your attorney can also help file an appeal.
  5. Cost Effective: If you are holding back on hiring a workers’ compensation attorney due to fear of the cost – stop! Most workers’ compensation attorneys operate on a contingency fee basis, meaning that if you do not get compensation, you do not owe your attorney any money.