"Notice" Under the Georgia's Workers' Compensation Act

O.C.G.A. § 34-9-80 requires that every injured employee or his representative shall, immediately on the occurrence of any accident or as soon thereafter as practicable, give or cause to be given to the employer, its agent, representative, foreman, or the immediate supervisor of the injured employee a notice of the accident.  No compensation will be payable unless such notice, either oral or written, is given within thirty (30) days after the occurrence of an accident, or within thirty (30) days after death resulting from an accident, unless it can be shown that the employee had been prevented from doing so by reason of physical or mental incapacity, or by fraud or deceit, or that the employer, its agent, representative, foreman or immediate supervisor of the injured employee had knowledge of the accident, or unless a reasonable excuse is made to the satisfaction of the State Board of Workers' Compensation for not giving such notice and it is reasonably proven to the satisfaction of the Board that the employer had not been prejudiced thereby.

The Georgia Court of Appeals recently tackled whether an employee should be denied benefits under Georgia's Workers' Compensation Act for failing to meet the notice requirement under O.C.G.A. § 34-9-80 in McAdoo v. MARTA, 755 S.E. 2d 278, decided March 11, 2014.  Mr. McAdoo was employed by MARTA as a bus driver.  In May of 2010, Mr. McAdoo began to experience low back pain that caused symptoms in his right lower extremity.  His supervisor urged him to seek medical attention for his back pain because McAdoo was operating the bus differently in order to compensate for his symptoms.  The employee sought treatment with his family physician, who referred him to a neurologist.  Both physicians filled out disability forms indicating the employee's symptoms were not work-related.  The employee went out of work on October 17, 2010.  In December of 2010, the employee filled out a short-term disability form on which he indicated his disability was work related.

The Georgia Court of Appeals held that the short-term disability form completed by the employee (McAdoo) was adequate notice, as the sole requirement is that the information provided by the employee be sufficient to put the employer on notice of injury so that the employer may conduct an investigation.

Film Production Company for Greg Allman Biopic "Midnight Rider" Cited by OSHA Following Worker Fatality and Injuries

Sarah Jones, a 27-year-old camera assistant, was killed and eight other workers were injured while trying to avoid an oncoming freight train during the filming of a scene on February 20, 2014 for the movie “Midnight Rider”.  The accident occurred on the Doctortown train trestle in Georgia that spans the Altamaha River near Jesup.  While the crew was filming, a CSX Corp. train traveling on the tracks was observed heading towards them.  Crew members started leaving the tracks, trying to remove set pieces and get off the trestle.  However, they were unable to outrun the approaching train.  The train ultimately struck a hospital bed being used as a set piece, sending debris at Jones and the other workers.  The film, a biopic based on the life of musician Greg Allman began shooting the picture in Georgia on the day of the accident.

 

On August 14, 2014, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) cited the production for one willful and one serious safety violation.  Per OSHA’s Assistant Secretary of Labor, Dr. David Michaels, “It is unacceptable that Film Allman LLC knowingly exposed their crew to moving trains while filming on a live track and railroad trestle” and that “employers are responsible for taking the necessary precautions to protect workers’ health and safety, and the entertainment industry is no exception.”

 

OSHA went on to state that the production company’s failure to develop a safety plan to prevent such hazards, including obtaining permission from the rail owner to use the tracks for filming, led to the death of one crew member and injuries to eight other employees.

 

The movie production company has 15 business days from the date of receipt of OSHA’s citations and proposed penalties to comply or request a conference with OSHA.

 

Unsportsmanlike Conduct: Female Football Players Sue Lingerie League For Independent Contractor Misclassification

A former Lingerie Football League player has filed a class action lawsuit in a California state court against the all-female professional league (now called the Legends Football League) and it’s founder and chairman Mitchell Mortaza. The lawsuit claims that active and former players were intentionally misclassified as independent contractors instead of employees. The complaint alleges a number of violations of the California wage and hour laws, including failure to pay compensation for all hours worked; failure to pay at least the minimum wage; and failure to pay overtime wages.

 
The League allegedly mandated attendance at practices, games, and marketing events on dates and at times established by the League and reserved the right to punish or fire players for failure to attend such events; prohibited the players from participating in any outside activities that might result in significant physical injury; and did not allow any negotiation regarding the terms of the independent contractor agreement. Margulies v. Legends Football League, LLC, No. BC550244 (Super. Ct. Cal. June 27, 2014).

 
As stated in the complaint of the suit, “the designation of the football players as independent contractors was and is clearly improper because the players lack the requisite control and discretion over their job responsibilities and duties to deserve treatment as independent contractors.”  By classifying players as independent contractors, the league was (and still is) able to circumvent applicable wage and hour laws, and deprive them of benefits including workers’ compensation.

 
Certainly, one can appreciate the importance of workers’ compensation benefits to league football players who are engaging in a contact sport where serious or even catastrophic injuries may occur.  
 

Georgia Headquartered Home Depot Cited by OSHA for Serious Hazards

A Home Depot store in Chicago has been cited by OSHA for six violations, including two repeat, one willful, and three serious safety violations.  The repeat and willful violations involved lack of training and maintenance for powered industrial vehicles.

 
Employees at this Home Depot location used powered vehicles around-the-clock to accept stock and move goods to customers’ vehicles.  According to OSHA, the type and duration of these activities made operator training and maintenance for these vehicles vital to employee safety.  The failures at this store call in to question Home Depot’s corporate-wide safety procedures and should motivate it to ensure that all stores have integrated the necessary safety procedures and training.

 
In the past five years, countrywide, Home Depot has been cited over 120 times for health and safety violations at its stores, which employ approximately 325,000 people.

 
Annually, thousands of workers are injured, sometimes fatally, while operating these powered vehicles.  From 2005 through 2013, these vehicles were involved in 105 occupational fatalities in Illinois, Ohio, and Wisconsin alone.

 
In July 2012, Home Depot was cited by OSHA for failing to evaluate the performance of forklift operators’ at its Douglasville, Georgia store.  A second repeat violation was issued for failing to perform shift-by-shift inspections of forklifts.

 
In addition to the numerous violations noted previously, three serious violations were issued for exposing workers to chemical burns from sulfuric acid by failing to require the use of face, eye and hand protection when working with powered industrial vehicle batteries.

 
The home improvement retail giant has 15 business days from receipt of its citations to comply with or contest the OSHA findings.

 

Georgia Firefighters With Cancer Fight Uphill Battle To Receive Workers' Compensation Benefits

A local news station in Georgia has uncovered an alarming and disappointing fact about metro Atlanta fire departments.  Sadly, local fire departments throughout the city do not have policies in place to limit exposure to hazardous chemicals, thereby increasing firefighters’ risk of developing cancer.  As a result, firefighters in the Atlanta and surrounding areas rarely receive workers’ compensation benefits.