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Archive for January, 2013

Hutterites must pay workers’ compensation

January 30th, 2013 at 11:18 am

The Montana Supreme Court has recently ruled that forcing Hutterite religious colony must pay workers’ compensation insurance for jobs that are outside the commune is not unconstitutional due to an intrusion on religion.

The decision was 4-3 and upheld a 2009 law that requires religious organizations to carry workers’ compensation insurance. This was passed by the Legislature after businesses complained that they could not outbid religious workers.

From northwestern Montana, the Big Sky Colony of Hutterites sued stating that the law targeted its religion and infringed on its beliefs. Members of the colony have no personal property and make no wages, which is central to their religious beliefs. Members are also not permitted to make a claim against the colony or take money for himself without the risk of excommunication.

Similar to the amish and Mennonites, the Hutterites are Protestants who live their lives centered on their religion. Hutterites, however, live in German-speaking communes that are scattered across the northern United States and Canada. Primarily, these groups are agricultural producers, but they have also expanded to construction with significant success because they can offer lower job bids than many other private businesses.

Writing for the majority, Justice Brian Morris stated that the workers’ compensation requirement does not interfere with the Hutterites’ religious practice. The law simply regulates their commercial activities just like any other business.

Numerous cases were cited by Morris, including two Native Americans being fired for ingesting peyote and Jimmy Swaggart’s ministry that attempted to avoid paying taxes on selling religious merchandise. Both of these examples were of courts rejecting religious organizations’ arguments of participation of government programs violating beliefs.

Justice James Nelson wrote that the court’s decision violates the Montana and U.S.’s constitutions by allowing the government to interfere with religious beliefs and institution simply to appease businesses that believe they are at a disadvantage.

Justices Jim Rice and Patricia Cotter also dissented. Rice stated that the decision gives an appearance that the law applies to all employers, but is specifically targeted at the Hutterites.

Rice wrote, “Had this been the status of religious freedom in 1620, the Pilgrims may well have sailed right by.”

Morris wrote that a colony member could refrain from filing a claim or share a claim award with the whole colony. In addition, there is nothing that prevent the colony from excommunicating a member who receives compensation and refuses to turn it over, in that sense, the law does not interfere with religious practice.

Rice followed up stating that the system would force Hutterites to pay for insurance that would never receive the benefit for.

In Montana alone, there are about 50 Hutterite colonies, averaging about 50 people in each colony. There are also colonies scattered across southern Canada, Montana, North and South Dakota, Minnesota, Washington and Oregon.

If you have had issues with workers’ compensation, whether it  has been not getting it for yourself or other companies that do not give it out and are beating your business, contact a workers’ compensation attorney today. Law Offices of Francis J. Discipio can help you with your workers’ compensation needs in Illinois.

When and How Workers Compensation Works

January 23rd, 2013 at 11:16 pm

Workers compensation benefits are mandated by the state of Illinois.  They provide a safety net which protects employees and employers from costs incurred from injuries or illnesses incurred in the course of work.  The employee receives funds to cover hospital bills, rehabilitation, and other expenses from an injury.  They also receive disability payments while not being able to work, which usually amounts to two-thirds of normal wages.  In return, the employee is protected from lawsuits seeking to collect damages for pain, suffering and mental anguish.

Employees are covered for one-time accidents such as, falling off of ladders, equipment malfunctions, or other workplace accidents.  They are also covered from injuries or illnesses which occur over time due to work related issues, for example repetitive stress injuries, exposure to harmful elements, or other issues that occur over a longer period of time.  There are certain factors which limit eligibility due to the type of injury or the place where the injury occurred.

If the accident is found to be caused by someone other than the employer, employer’s property or other employees, it may limit eligibility.  If the accident was caused by intoxication or drugs or other violation of company policy such as horseplay, the claim may be denied.  The claim might also be denied if the injury is self-inflicted or the result of a fight caused by the employee.  Independent contractors also aren’t eligible for workers comp in injured at a client’s location.

The eligibility covers injuries that don’t occur at an office or job site as well.  If the injury is during an activity that benefits your employer such as a work-related errand, social function, or other sponsored events.  This is a gray area that requires guidance from a legal professional.  Contact an experienced workers compensation attorney in DuPage County to review the accident and see if you are eligible for benefits from your employer.

Ex-Police Officer in Hot Water for Workers Comp Claim

January 16th, 2013 at 4:35 pm

A former Metro East police officer is facing numerous criminal charges stemming from a fraudulent workers compensation claim.  In February of 2009, Richard Turner claimed that his back was injured while he was on duty.  Once his story stopped making sense, investigators from the Maryville Police Department launched a probe to decide if he was telling the truth.

They found out that he did not injure himself at work.  Yet, since 2009, Turner has received over $38,000 in workers compensation benefits from the village of Maryville while he was unable to work.  The surgeries for his back injury were paid for by the workers comp insurance company which totaled over $150,000.  He resigned from the department in October 2011 after serving since Novemeber 2003.

Evidence which was presented to the grand jury in Madison County has resulted in many criminal charges.  Turner, 43 year old from Glen Carbon, was charged with two counts of theft, a class 1 felony for defrauding the insurance company and a class 2 felony for defrauding the village of Maryville.  He also received two class 4 felony counts for unlawful violation of the workers compensation act because he filed a dishonest claim and lied to his physician about how he was injured.

Tom Gibbons, State’s Attorney, applauded the city of Maryville for their detective work.  He said that Turner, “…was an individual who was supposed to be working to protect the Village of Maryville and their residents.  The law applies to everyone and we will work to ensure that anyone who steals from the public is held accountable for their actions.”  Turner can be sentenced for up to 28 years in prison if he is found guilty.

Workers compensation is a benefit afforded to employees who are injured while at work so they can take care of their families and doctor bills.  If you have been injured while on the job, then you deserve to receive these benefits.  Contact a skilled workers compensation attorney in Oakbrook to review your injury.

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