A Book Everyone Should Read
June 18th, 2013
When I was in the worst of a serious illness, one of the most confusing questions I had to answer on a daily basis was “How are you?” It was an innocuous question. Some who asked it knew me well, others were just parroting a generic greeting. “How are you?” Think how often you say that automatically when you meet someone or even talk on the phone. Think how often others say it to you.
How are you?
Standard answers are “I’m fine” or, more often these days: “I’m great.” But how do you answer when you are definitely NOT fine, NOT great. For me, the answer I chose depended on a complex calculation: What does the person already know about my condition + when was the last time I spoke with her + how much has my condition changed – (my current strength + my current level of emotional distress). Some days, I was too tired to do the calculation and would simply smile and change the subject.
Now, author Letty Cottin Pogrebin has written a marvelous book called “How to Be a Friend to a Friend Who’s Sick.” It is based on her experiences with friends during her treatment for breast cancer, as well as the experiences of other people who are veterans of serious illness. According to amazon.com:
Pogrebin has distilled their collective stories and opinions into this wide-ranging compendium of pragmatic guidance and usable wisdom. Her advice is always infused with sensitivity, warmth, and humor. It is embedded in candid stories from her own and others’ journeys, and their sometimes imperfect interactions with well-meaning friends. How to Be a Friend to a Friend Who’s Sick is an invaluable guidebook for anyone hoping to rise to the challenges of this most important and demanding passage of friendship.
Granted, there will be people who don’t need this book–those who automatically know what to do in every situation. But most people will learn some nugget of information that will serve their sick friends well. Here is my personal list of things I learned during my own illness about how to be a better friend to someone who is sick:
- Don’t ask me how I am, especially as an automatic phrase tacked on to the end of “Hello!” If I’m not well, I won’t feel like explaining why not.
- Do ask if I need anything from a specific store. For example, call and say, “I’m on my way to the grocery store–can I get anything for you?”
- Do ask about the best times to call, and how frequent. My time of greatest strength was always between noon and 5 p.m. But for some reason, many of my friends chose to call after 7 p.m. There were nights I was already in bed by then.
- Don’t stay on the phone too long. I have one friend who can’t seem to end a phone call unless we talk for an hour. I love her, but I can’t always do an hour, and I feel rude cutting her off. This means that when I see her caller ID come up on my phone, I have to decide if I have the strength to talk for an hour.
- Please don’t tell me about other people who have had my same illness, regardless of whether they had a good or bad outcome. The details of my illness will never exactly match the details of someone else’s illness. And while I understand the need to want to share an optimistic example, the reality is that it often serves to make me feel worse…especially if I just got bad news from my doctor.
- Tell me all those cute and funny stories about your kids, grandkids, pets, or coworkers that we used to laugh about before I got sick. My sense of humor hasn’t changed, but when I was very sick, people forgot to include me in the small, daily life stories. They are the BEST.
If you have do’s and don’ts of your own, please share them. This book discusses similar points, and more. It’s a book everyone should read–we’ll all need the information eventually. Keep friendships strong, through sickness and health!
Game Show Reveals Workers’ Comp Fraud
June 10th, 2013
from NY Daily News
Apparently the glitz and glamor of The Price Is Right game show was too much much for Cathy Cashwell to resist. When she heard the siren call of “Come on down,” she did. And then she won. And then she won AGAIN. Then, it was time to spin the big wheel that would determine whether she would participate in the Grand Prize Showcase Showdown. In fact, she spun twice, reaching up and pulling/pushing that wheel with all she had.
It was a mistake.
According to an article on nydailynews.com, Cathy Cashwell filed for workers’ compensation in 2004 after she suffered pain in her shoulder, arm and neck while loading mail trays into her work vehicle. Official documents claim that her injuries prevented her from reaching, climbing, or grasping.
She appeared on The Price is Right in 2009, and spinning the big wheel requires–among other skills–reaching and grasping. Busted!
To add insult to injury (or non-injury), Cashwell also had Facebook photos showing her lifting furniture and groceries.
Cashwell pleaded guilty to workers’ compensation fraud for continuing to receive payments after she was well enough to return to work. Sentencing is scheduled for September
At HensonFuerst, we handle workers’ compensation cases, and we’d like to reassure folks that stories like this are, thankfully, rare. Most of the time we see workers who are seriously or catastrophically injured on the job, but are denied workers’ comp payments by employers or insurance companies that think the real game is to avoid paying at all costs–even when a formerly able-bodied employee can no longer afford to keep up with mortgage payments or put food on their family’s table. Our job is to help injured workers fight for their rights.
To learn more, visit our website at http://www.lawmed.com/WorkersComp/, or contact one of our experienced workers’ comp attorneys at 1-800-4-LAWMED. If you have questions, HensonFuerst has answers.
An App to Curb Distracted Driving
June 7th, 2013
Teens overwhelmingly disapprove of this app, which makes parents like it all the more. Canary is an app designed to keep teens and young adults safer by discouraging talking or texting while driving, providing a a digital fence of approved travel areas, and other precautions to give parents peace of mind.
Here’s how the app works: Parents and their children both download the app to their smart phones, and parents set social parameters. Then, the app uses acceleration and GPS technology to monitor the teen’s behavior and transmit the information back to the parent. For example, Canary will let parents know:
- Is the phone being used to make a call while your teen is driving (or even in a moving car)?
- Is the phone being used to read or answer a text while your teen is driving?
- Is your teen traveling places you’ve told him/her not to go?
- Is your teen out past curfew?
- Is your teen in a car driving faster than the speed limit?
The app does NOT disable the phone, but it does log the date, time, and location where the above actions take place. Parents can receive messages via the app on their own phone and by email, with complete details of their teen’s activities (including a list of call volumes, locations, and driving speeds). Canary also informs the parent if the teen disabled the app. So basically, the app gives teens no privacy for activities that could be dangerous, or which go against a parent’s rules.
The cost is relatively inexpensive: The app is free for a 7-day trial. After that time, there is a 1-time charge of $14.99 for a Lifetime Subscription, which covers up to 10 phones.
With distracted driving being cited as the cause of more and more accidents–especially among teens and young adults–Canary has the potential to be a lifesaver. It has only been available for about 7 months, so its actual benefit cannot yet be measured, but for parents who want to keep digital eyes on what their teens are doing, Canary may be worth a look.
To learn more–including information about which phones are compatible with the app–click here: The Canary Project
RECALL: Avon Popcorn Maker
June 6th, 2013
The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) reports that Avon is recalling nearly 55,000 units of its Microwave Popcorn Maker sold in the United States with item number 474-105. It has a clear plastic tub and a yellow vented lid.
Avon has received 20 reports of the popcorn makers overheating, including two incidents involving fires that resulted in damage to microwave ovens. No injuries have been reported.
Consumers should stop using the popcorn maker immediately and contact Avon to receive a copy of the updated instructions on how to safely use the microwave popcorn maker. The new instructions can also be obtained from independent Avon representatives and on Avon’s website www.avon.com under the Product Recall section (at the bottom of the home page).
Do You REALLY Know the Signs of Drowning?
June 6th, 2013
I’ve been swimming for several decades now, but I’ve never heard the information that is currently being offered about drowning. This is valuable information for everyone who spends even a single day by a pool, pond, lake, bay, or ocean.
First, forget everything you think you know about what a drowning person looks like. Try to erase the memory of all the movie and TV show portrayals of drowning. It’s all wrong. The following information comes from an article on Slate.com called Drowning Doesn’t Look Like Drowning.
Here’s what’s right, based on what’s known as the Instinctive Drowning Response, as first described by Francesco A. Pia, Ph.D.:
- Drowning is silent. Except in rare situations, there is no waving, yelling, splashing, or kicking.
- Physiology is paralyzing. A person who is drowning CANNOT wave for help or even control their arm movements. While drowning, a person’s arms automatically extend out to the side to press down on the surface of the water.
- There is no time to breathe. A drowning person will bob up to the surface, sink, bob up, and sink again. While they are above the surface, there is no time to exhale and inhale again. There is not enough time or breath to shout for help.
- Don’t expect assistance. A drowning person cannot help his rescuers. He cannot reach out or grab for a lifeline or a floatation device.
- Don’t ignore a yelling, splashing person. These are signs of “aquatic distress,” which could turn into an actual drowning situation. But a person who is in the actual process of drowning has only 20 to 60 seconds of struggle in the water before going under.
- If you have doubt, ask. If you notice signs of drowning but aren’t sure, ask: “Are you all right?” If they can answer, then they are probably fine. If not, then you have just a few seconds to rescue them. That goes for children, too–when they stop making noise, that’s the time to worry.
According to Slate.com, here other other signs of drowning to watch for when a person is in the water:
- Head low in the water, mouth at water level
- Head tilted back with mouth open
- Eyes glassy and empty, unable to focus
- Eyes closed
- Hair over forehead or eyes
- Not using legs—vertical
- Hyperventilating or gasping
- Trying to swim in a particular direction but not making headway
- Trying to roll over on the back
- Appear to be climbing an invisible ladder
Stay safe, everyone!
RECALL: Harley-Davidson Half Helmets
June 5th, 2013
RECALL: KBC America announced a recall of 456 Harley-Davidson helmets manufactured in March 2011.
According to Motorcycle & Powersports News, certain Harley-Davidson Hybrid Ultra-Light Classic Cruiser Half Helmets failed to conform a Federal Safety Standard, which specifies the requirements for helping to reduce the force of potential impact and penetration.
KBC America will recall only certain L, XL and XXL units. Users wearing these specific helmets may not be adequately protected in the event of a crash, and thus increasing the chances of injury.
Consumers will be asked to bring the affected products to a Harley-Davidson dealer. The dealer will confirm that the helmet is affected by this recall by inspecting the GM label on the helmet’s interior shell under the snap-in liner. The helmet part numbers are 98336-09VM/000L, 98336-09VM/002L and 98336-09VM/022L, and the affected label GM code for these three sizes is GM00032205. Customers may contact KBC at 1-818-526-7771. (Recall campaign number is 13E025000.)
Petition Opposing SB 174 (for Workers’ Compensation)
May 22nd, 2013
In 2011, North Carolinians helped injured workers by signing a petition opposing a massive overhaul of the NC Workers’ Compensation Act. As a result of those efforts and the work of many great people in this State, a compromise bill was created that preserved many rights for injured workers in North Carolina.
Unfortunately, the NC Legislature is back at it, attacking the rights of those in need. We’d like to explain this issue, and ask for your help.
SB 174 is in committee at the House of Representatives. SB 174 seeks to unfairly end the process of “fast track” decisions regarding the reinstatement of disability benefits of injured workers (Form 23 Hearings) and access to medical care (ending the right to a hearing on an Expedited Medical Motion). Without these provisions, North Carolina will go back to a system that delays the ability of an injured worker to have basic life necessities and delays access to medical care that would allow the injured worker to get to health and get back to work.
Right now, we can get medical treatment in a matter of hours if an emergent situation; otherwise it can take a week or so. If SB 174 passes, it could take months or even years of litigation to get medical treatment or benefits reinstated. To make matters worse, SB 174 does nothing to protect injured workers from having their benefits quickly terminated.
This bill is unjust and unfair. NC workers need your help.
We ask that you please take a moment to review and read up on the issue, and if you agree with us, please sign this petition and share it with friends and family.
Thank you again for your support.
What’s Important in Your Wage or Overtime Case
May 22nd, 2013
A lot of clients worry about certain aspects of a case, even when those details have little or no legal effect on a claim for unpaid wages. Here’s what IS important in these cases:
What definitely matters:
- That the wages were earned in the last 2 to 3 years. The deadline—or statute of limitations—for filing wage and hour cases is 2 to 3 years, depending on the specifics of the case. After that time, courts won’t hear your claim.
- That you actually worked the hours… or were required by your employer to be in a specific place, waiting to work.
- That you were an employee, not an independent contractor. This is actually a complex issue. You may be owed minimum wage and overtime pay based on the structure of your work environment, even if your employer says you are an “independent contractor.” If you have a question about your employment status or pay, it’s best to ask an attorney for assistance. (In my firm, your initial consultation is free, so it can’t hurt to ask!)
- Your duties. Did you manage employees? Make decisions about how to run the business? Drive large trucks? What you did (or did not do) has an effect on any claim you may or may not have.
- That you were not paid the correct rate, before taxes and deductions.
- If you have other pending or already settled claims or law suits against this same employer. A settlement in one case could affect the other, so whomever is handling one will need to look in to the other case. This is not an automatic deal breaker, but definitely something worth considering.
What seems like it might matter, but does not necessarily hurt your case:
- Whether you were fired or you quit. In fact, if you were fired for complaining that your wages were illegal, this may help you case.
- That you have no record of when or how much you worked. First of all, it is a good idea to write down your memory of when you worked as soon as possible. Second, you may have more of a record than you think (e-mails? personal or work or desk calendars? co-worker and friend witnesses? All of these things can be used to show how much you worked). Besides, it is the employer’s responsibility to keep these records.
- Your criminal record. Unless you’re claiming unfair wages for DOING criminal activity, your record doesn’t matter.
Overall, the lesson is that a wage and hour attorney is the only one who can properly assess what is and is not important in your case. At HensonFuerst Attorneys, we’ll listen to you. All wage and overtime cases are important. If you would like to have your case heard, call me–Maggie Davis–for a personal review of the facts of your case. I’m available at 1-800-4-LAWMED, or visit our website at http://www.lawmed.com/wageandhour/ and complete the online consultation form. If you have questions, call us: HensonFuerst has answers.
National Safe Boating Week 2013
May 21st, 2013
You’d never know it by the weather lately, but it is now boating season. This week, May 18-24, is National Safe Boating Week. To help you and your family get in the mood for a summer of floating fun, check out these safety tips from Sea Tow, a network of U.S. Coast Guard-licensed captains who provide on-water assistance to boaters in need.
Safety Starts Before you Leave the Dock
Check Your Safety Equipment. Inspect the boating safety gear that the U.S. Coast Guard requires you to have on board your boat. Make sure it’s all there, is working properly, and hasn’t passed its expiration date. Once you’ve checked off every item on the Boater’s Safety Equipment Check List posted on our website in the “Captain’s Classroom,” you’ll be good to go!
Choose the Right Life Jacket. It has often been said that the best life jacket is the one that a person will wear. A life jacket needs to fit properly and be suited to the wearer’s typical activities on the water in order to be the most effective. Life jackets come in five different types based on U.S. Coast Guard approvals. (For more information, visit the Sea Tow Foundation website.) Each of these types has been thoroughly tested and rated for safety. Yet, with all these options, boaters can easily get confused. The Sea Tow Foundation has provided some quick tips to help you choose the correct life jacket for your body type and boating activity.
- Check the label inside the life jacket to make sure it is Coast Guard-approved and that you fall within the weight restrictions and chest size measurements listed for it.
- Try on the life jackets in the store to make sure they fit snugly when all the buckles and/or zippers are fastened.
- Raise your arms over your head and have a friend tug on the jacket to make sure it doesn’t go above your chin. This is especially important when fitting a child who could slip out of a jacket that is too big for him or her.
- Move your arms and body as if you were out on the water and see if the jacket is comfortable and allows you to move easily.
- Then, make sure that it is rated for your boating activity using the following guides:
- Boaters involved in activities that take place in calmer waters (fishing, canoeing and cruising on a pontoon boat) can look for inflatable life jacket options (over age 16 only) or look for a Type II or III life jacket.
- Activities that involve possible impact with faster-moving water (riding a PWC, water-skiing and white-water kayaking) should avoid any inflatable life jacket options and stick with a foam vest that can be adjusted to fit snugly against the body. A Type III life jacket would be a good option for these activities.
File a Float Plan. Before heading out with the family for a day of fun on the water, it’s important to file a float plan and leave it with a responsible person. That way, if you should wind up being overdue on your return, someone ashore will know to alert the authorities. Filling out the float plan with your kids can be a fun and educational way to start your boating adventure. For a blank form, click here.
Safety When Boating with Children. Boating is one of the best ways to bond with your children, teach them about nature and create memories that will last a lifetime. Taking a few basic precautions before you head out onto the water can ensure the experience is safer and more enjoyable for the whole family. Here are five tips from the Sea Tow Foundation:
- Life Jackets Are the Law. All children under 13 years of age must wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket while the vessel is being operated, unless the child is below deck or in an enclosed cabin on board. The Sea Tow Foundation suggests letting the kids pick out their own life jackets (as long as you make sure they fit). You might want to keep a couple handy for friends.
- Safety Starts Ashore. Get the kids in the habit of putting on sunblock, a hat, and their life jacket even before you get to the boat. That way, they’re protected if they accidentally should tumble off the dock into the water.
- The Captain’s in Charge. The adult who is driving the boat should give the kids a safety briefing before leaving the dock. Make it a point to tell them that there can only be one captain, and it’s important to follow orders quickly and quietly.
- Ahoy, Matey. Kids get a bigger kick out of a boat trip when you make them your First Mate. Before you leave, show them where you’re going on a chart. While under way, teach them how to work the chart plotter. In many states, children as young as 12 can take a boating safety course to be able to operate the boat with your supervision.
- Places, Please! Give the kids assigned seats on the boat while docking, so that they don’t accidentally block the driver’s view. Make sure they know to keep their fingers and toes inside during this process!
For more tips on boating with kids, visit Sea Tow’s Captain’s Classroom at www.seatow.com/boating-safety/captains-classroom.
U.S. Fair Labor Standards Act and the N.C. Wage and Hour Act
May 17th, 2013
Here in the United States, workers’ rights are protected by a federal law called the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). For the average person, the most important things this law does are:
- guarantee that workers earn a minimum wage;
- create a premium wage rate (or “overtime”) for working more than 40 hours a week;
- regulate child labor.
Of course, as with all laws, the FLSA has many “loopholes,” which are called exemptions. There are dozens of exemptions, and some are so specific that they seem a little ridiculous. For example, some sugar beet workers are exempt from overtime – this means they just get paid straight time for all of the hours they work, even if they work 70 hours in one week. Sugar beets! Who would have thought sugar beet workers needed such specific laws. So yes, the FLSA and its exemptions are that specific at times. At other times, the exemptions are very, very broad and have been interpreted by the courts in lawsuit after lawsuit. (I will post more on the exemptions later.)
Most employees, though, are NOT exempt and ARE protected by the FLSA.
That means most employees in America should be paid fairly for the hours that they work. This is the idea behind the minimum wage, which is currently $7.25/hour. (If you think this is incredibly low, call your representatives in Congress now! There is a bill being considered which would increase the federal minimum wage.)
This also means that most employees in America are owed overtime if they work more than 40 hours a week. Overtime pay should be your straight time rate plus half of that rate again, commonly called “time and a half.”
Usually, for a private company to be subject to the restrictions of a federal law, the company has to engage in certain kinds of business or be of a certain size or fall within specific qualifications laid out in each law. The same is true for the FLSA. To cover those employers who aren’t covered by the federal law, the North Carolina legislature passed the North Carolina Wage and Hour Act (WHA) in 1937, which protected all employees that the federal FLSA did not.
The WHA largely mirrors the FLSA, and the gist is the same: minimum wage protection, overtime premiums, and limits on child labor. The WHA packs every bit as much punch as the FLSA, and ensures what’s important to all of us: Every employer in this state is covered by these wage and hour laws and must abide by certain requirements of either the FLSA or the WHA. But if your employer still cheats you out of money despite these laws, that’s when we can step in and help you fight for your wages.