Category Archives: Legal News and Oddities

Injured while driving a truck in Georgia? Let’s talk.

The most common occupation in America is truck driving, so our firm sees a lot of drivers as clients when injuries occur, whether that be from a vehicle collision, a lifting injury from the loading/unloading process, or a fall.  Over 9 Billion tons of freight are moved each year in the U.S.!

The below graphic shows how workers’ compensation benefits have been cut in many states, and while Georgia is among them, it’s not one of the worst offenders.

If you’re a truck driver with a work-related injury, let me know…I’d love to discuss how you’re being treated by the workers’ comp adjuster and see what, if any, help we can offer you.  Initial consultations take a little time but cost you nothing!  I’m at 404-354-5432.

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Moebes Law nominated for “Best Legal Blog” by The Expert Institute!

Atlanta, GA – The readers have spoken – Moebes Law has been selected to compete in The Expert Institute’s Best Legal Blog Competition.

From a field of more than 2,000 potential nominees, Moebes Law has received enough nominations to join the 250 legal blogs participating in one of the largest competitions for legal blog writing online today.

Now that the blogs have been nominated and placed into their respective categories, it is up to their readers to select the very best. With an open voting format that allows participants one vote per blog, the competition will be a true test of the dedication of each blog’s existing readers, while also giving up-and-coming players in the legal blogging space exposure to a wider audience.

Each blog will compete for rank within its category, while the three blogs that receive the most votes in any category will be crowned overall winners.

The competition will run from August 27th until the close of voting at 12:00 AM on October 9th, at which point the votes will be tallied and the winners announced.

The competition can be found at The Expert Institute’s 2015 Best Legal Blog Contest website; you can vote for the blog you’re now reading by clicking here:  Moebes Law blog description.

About The Expert Institute:

Founded in 2011, The Expert Institute is a technology-driven platform for connecting qualified experts in every field with lawyers, investment firms, and journalists looking for technical expertise and guidance. The Expert Institute combines a vast database of pre-screened experts with a talented case management team capable of custom recruiting experts to fit the specific needs of our clients. The Expert Institute also maintains one of the internet’s most visited blogs on expert witnesses, in addition to an extensive case study archive and expert witness resource center.

Top 5 Settlements with the Biggest Contribution to the Public Interest in 2015

Corporate America and irresponsible government officials put down trial lawyers who are constantly fighting for the deserved rights of their clients time and time again. This is because when these corporations break the law or behave recklessly, someone needs to hold them accountable for their actions, and trial lawyers are the ones who do so. See for yourself who is actually in the wrong based on the five finalists for Public Justice’s 2015 Trial Lawyer of the Year Award, as summarized by our summer intern below:

David v. Signal International

Back in 2005, a large contractor in Alabama and Mississippi known as Signal International was hired to rebuild the Gulf Coast after the damage caused by Hurricanes Rita and Katrina. Almost 500 pipefitters and welders were recruited from India, and promised quality jobs, along with permanent U.S residency. After paying $10,000 to $25,000 to merely get considered for the job, Signal brought them over to America on guest worker visas, without the slightest possibility of gaining residency. They were forced to live in a trailer with only one bathroom, and up to two-dozen men living in it. $1,050 a month was deducted from their pay, in order to live in those terrible conditions. A group of workers who wanted a take a stand against this madness were caught by Signal. They were locked in a trailer, and the leaders of this uprising were terminated; Signal even tried to have them deported. One of these men became so terrified that he attempted suicide.

A team of public interest and private attorneys fought alongside the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) for seven years and counting, in order to claim justice for those victimized by Signal. The judge did not want to allow this case to proceed as a class action; therefore, the SPLC brought on a group of outstanding lawyers to represent hundreds of these workers. The first case to go to trial was David v. Signal International, led by Alan Bruce of Crowell & Morning in New York, including several other attorneys from numerous different locations. There were several challenges, including explaining complicated immigration laws to jurors, and bringing in translators for those who did not speak English. Despite these challenges, they won a $14 million jury verdict for five workers, over the course of a four-week long trial. This case made history, being the largest labor trafficking litigation in U.S history with many more to come.

Disability Rights Network of Pennsylvania v. Wetzell

Living in solitary confinement can be an excruciating experience for any person; however, those living in solitary confinement and suffering from mental illness have it even worse. These people are required to spend 23 hours a day with no contact from any other person, in a tiny cell space, which causes those with mental illness utter destruction of oneself. An investigation conducted by the Disability Rights Network of Pennsylvania found that out of 2400 prisoners living in solitary confinement in the state, one third of them suffer from mental issues. Those suffering from mental illness could not sleep, experienced hallucinations, paranoia, banged their heads against the cell, would not leave their cell, declined medical treatment, harmed themselves and staff members, and the list goes on, all the way to attempted suicide. When DRN tried to speak directly with officials at the State Department of Corrections, they did not comply, so the DRN rounded up a team of lawyers, and sued.

The group of lawyers, led by Robert M. Week, Kelly L. Darr, and Jeffrey M. Skakalski, made a case so favourable that within a few weeks of filing, the DOC agreed to negotiate. The strides for those with mental illness were outstanding. The settlement ensures thorough mental health evaluations performed regularly, puts an end to solitary confinement to those who are mentally ill (with a few exceptions), and puts limits on disciplinary measures for those with mental illness. It also establishes three new types of treatment units. When there were no options left, this settlement won a statewide reform of mental health treatment for 52,000 prisoners in Pennsylvania, including 4,000 with serious mental health issues. This reform was a great stride toward the proper way of treating those who suffer from mental illness.

Elwin vs. NS Home for Colored Children & Province of Nova Scotia

In 1921, The Halifax Home for Colored Children was established to help care for African-Canadian orphans living within the province. Unfortunately, this facility did nothing near what it claimed to do. For a period of almost 70 years, children there were physically, emotionally, psychologically, and sexually abused. One example of this abuse is Deanna Smith who was placed there for four years, beginning at the age of ten, by social services when her mother passed away. She was told that she was “stupid”, “useless”, and “would amount to nothing”. Staff members would fondle her and force her to perform “sex shows”, with the other girls and boys for the sake of the staff’s sickening idea of entertainment.

Wagners, a personal injury law firm based in Halifax, Nova Scotia, filed 60 individual lawsuits for the victims of this abuse. Between 2000 and 2003, when the lawsuits were filed, the provincial government refused to take any responsibility for the children placed in this home, and would not even acknowledge the truth about what had occurred there. Because of this, in 2011, the Wagners’ team of lawyers filed the Elwin case, which finally ended a 14-year battle. Both the government and the orphanage came out and admitted to these horrifying incidents, and entered into two different settlements, totalling $34 million. Since the verdict of this trial, over 300 children who previously lived in the Halifax Home for Colored Children have received monetary compensation, medical care, and financial counselling. After openly issuing an apology, the home is not a short-term residency facility that provides care for people of all colors.

In re McCray, Richardson, Santana, Wise and Salaam Litigation

In 1989, when a jogger in New York City’s Central Park was beaten and raped, the story made headlines. Those convicted were five young boys between 14 and 16, and all of them went to jail for 7 to 13 years on the basis of coerced confessions. When they were released from jail, they were all required to register as sex offenders. Despite these lives of these men having been ruined, in 2002, a convicted serial rapist came forward and claimed responsibility. After the District Attorney’s Office investigated, the confession proves to be true, based on a DNA match, and the “Central Park Five” were let off to go rebuild their already ruined lives. For the next 13 years, a group of attorneys fought for the justice of these five wrongfully accused men. After hundreds of depositions and a whopping hundreds of thousands of pages of discovery, there was finally a settlement; a record $41 million, or just over $1 million per year of jail time was paid to the men by New York City. Now, these men who were wrongfully accused are speaking out to young people, and teaching them how to learn from this avoidable life changing accident.

Navajo Nation vs. U.S

The Navajo Nation, which is the largest Native American tribe in the country, owns 14 million acres in land, by which the United States government holds trust in. The two have an agreement that allows the U.S government to lease out parts of the land for farming, housing, timber operations, and oil and coal exploration. Over the last seventy years, the government has failed to conduct its operations with any accurate record of monetary accumulation, did not obtain a market value for what it leased, and it never recorded the natural resources that were extracted from the Navajo’s land, giving them no true royalties that they were owed.

This case, led by Samuel J. Buffone of Buckley Sandler in Washington D.C, lasted a span of eight years. The lawyers collected an innumerable amount of evidence of governmental misconduct over the decades. In a “landmark revolution”, the United States paid the Navajo Nation $554 million, which is the greatest settlement ever obtained by a Native American tribe by the federal government.

Works Cited:
Bryant, Arthur. “This Year’s Five Most ‘Frivolous’ Lawsuits by ‘Greedy’ Trial Lawyers.” Business Press Release Service Submit 123PR. N.p., 14 June 2015. Web. 29 June 2015

Are there differences in workers’ comp laws between states?

A couple months ago, NPR did an extended investigation and report on the inequities that can come from hurting oneself at work, especially when comparing states (as each state has its own body of workers’ compensation law).  Below is a summary of that report from our summer intern, Sophie Frostbaum:

One may think that an arm is an arm and a leg is a leg, right? Wrong! Jeremy Lewis, a 27-year-old man living in Alabama, and Josh Potter, a 25-year-old man living in Georgia share a lot in common with one another. They are both married with two children around the same age, both work at Southern industrial plants about seventy five miles away from each other, and both of them lost a portion of their left arm in tragic machinery accidents.

These two men seem to be in quite similar situations, right? Wrong again! Despite the fact that these two men seem to be living nearly identical lives, Lewis only received $45,000 in workers’ compensation for losing a great portion of his left arm, whereas Potter has received benefits so great that he could receive over $740,000 throughout his lifetime.

This seems comparatively unjust, considering two extremely similar incidents occurred, however, because Lewis lives in Alabama, which gives out the nation’s lowest workers’ compensation benefits, he is receiving an exceedingly miniscule amount of money. Potter, on the other hand, is quite lucky to be living across the border in Georgia, because they are a pretty generous state in the case of workers’ compensation benefits with catastrophic injuries.

The nearly innumerable difference in benefits between Lewis and Potter is a prime example of the geographic lottery that regulates compensation by state for workplace injuries in America. Thanks to congress, each state has the privilege of determining its own benefits. There are no minimums put in place by the government, therefore, identical injuries can receive completely different benefits based on the location at which they occurred. Almost all states have a “schedule of benefits” that says the supposed price for a lost body part. For example, a lost arm in Alabama is worth up to $48,840, whereas in Illinois, a person may receive up to $439,858.

The huge difference in award of benefits per state for the loss of a body part is in a sense dehumanizing. Why should someone living in Alabama not only be punished by the loss of an arm, including their ability to perform simple daily routines, but also lose their ability to provide for their family? For a man like Jeremy Lewis, only 27 years old with two young children, $45,000 will not get him too far, and without an arm, he will struggle to get back on his feet, and find work again.

My workers comp firm and I know that it is unfortunate that in 2015, employers are paying the lowest workers’ compensation rates since 1970. These miniscule benefits have torn the Lewis family apart; he lost his house, three new vehicles, and after foreclosure, is living in an old trailer with his family. For people like Jeremy Lewis, an arm is not just an arm.

Note:  shortly after this story ran on NPR, Alabama’s legislature considered a bill to increase its workers’ compensation benefits for injured workers, though its passage is considered unlikely.

Let’s not cash a dead person’s workers’ comp checks, ok?

A lady in Macon named Barbara was getting workers’ compensation indemnity benefits and died.  Not wanting to see these checks go to waste, her daughter, April, decided to start cashing the future checks and keeping the money for herself.  This was a bad idea.

What April should have done was notify the workers’ comp insurance carrier (probably the adjuster) that her mother had died.  If the death was related to the work injury, and the daughter was a dependent, she may have had a claim for continued workers’ comp benefits (unlikely, since April is 29 years old)!  Or, perhaps she could have helped a younger dependent sibling get any owed death benefits.  What she chose to do instead, however, was forge her mother’s name on the checks and cash them.  Now, she’s facing 23 felony counts.

Again, this was a bad decision. Cashing a dead person’s workers’ comp checks after forging the deceased’s name might work for a short while, but it won’t last.  Instead, call a qualified workers comp attorney in Atlanta who specializes in Georgia workers’ comp claims for advice on what your rights might be after the death of a loved one on workers’ comp benefits.  But first, alert the paying insurance company.

2014’s top instances of workers’ comp fraud (and a Georgian made it!)

Every year, I enjoy seeing the fruits of North Carolina lawyer Leonard Jernigan, Jr.’s research regarding workers’ comp fraud in the U.S., especially since most people thing this type of thing is perpetuated by claimants, when year after year, billions of dollars of fraud are actually committed by the employers who gripe about injured workers’ increasing their insurance premiums.  That’s disingenuous.  See the below from Professor Jernigan’s blog:

2014 Top Ten Workers’ Compensation Fraud Cases

Number Value
Non-Employee Fraud Cases 9 $ 74,876,000.00
Employee Fraud Cases 1 $ 450,000.00
Total $ 75,326,000.00

Five of the top ten fraud cases in 2014 are from California. The other five cases are from Florida, Texas, Arizona, Washington and Georgia. As usual, non-employee fraud cases dominated the list and the dollar amounts are staggering, led by the $36 million over-billing case out of southern California. An emerging issue is the misclassification of workers, and we will likely see more of these cases in 2015 as enforcement steps up in this area.

1. (California) Medical Equipment Company Overbills $36 Million (3/17/14)

The owners of Aspen Medical Resources were indicted in on 49 felony counts of fraud.

The owners of Aspen Medical Resources had all their assets seized and put into receivership by the Orange County District Attorney. They were indicted in on 49 felony counts of fraudulent overbilling of $36 million for hot-cold physical therapy machines. Although these machines retail between $250 and $500 Aspen often billed Southern California workers’ compensation claims departments thousands of dollars each time a machine was rented.

2. (California) 15 Medical Professionals Indicted in $25 Million Scheme – Small Child Dies (6/24/14)

Ahmed Kareem, one of 15 doctors accused of participating in a workers’ compensation scam.

Fifteen doctors, pharmacists and other medical professionals in Southern California were charged in a $25 million workers’ compensation scam which was linked to the death of a baby. Prosecutors alleged insurance fraud and conspiracy in the 44 count indictment which detailed that the head of a workers’ compensation claims management firm hired pharmacists to produce a pain-relief cream and then gave kickbacks to the doctors that prescribed it and conspired to submit phony claims. A 5-month old boy ate the cream and died when his mother, who was using the prescribed cream for back and knee pain, allowed her son to suck her fingers to sooth him. The next morning he was found dead and tests showed he had ingested lethal amounts of drugs in this cream.

3. (California) Lowe’s Settled Independent Contractor Misclassification Case for $6.5 Million (7/3/14)

Lowe’s misclassified its installers as independent contractors, rather than employees.

Over 4,000 “Lowe’s professionals” in California are members of a class action alleging that Lowe’s misclassified its installers as independent contractors, rather than employees, thus depriving them of a variety of employee benefits, from workers’ compensation insurance coverage to 401(k) plan participation. Lowe’s, without admitting liability, recently settled the case after mediation for a sum that could be as much as $6.5 million. The plaintiffs claimed that Lowe’s retained and exercised control over their work by requiring them to identify themselves as working for Lowe’s, wear Lowe’s hats and shirts, and attend training by Lowe’s.

4. (California) Paving Company Cheats System of $4 Million (6/19/14)

Sabas & Lucia Trujillo

Five owners (Sabas Trujilo, Lucia Trujilo, Rick Trujilo, Laura Fitzpatrick and Alex Trujilo), operators and employees of a Corona, California based paving company are facing criminal charges for alleged wage theft, premium fraud, workers’ compensation and payroll fraud. The Riverside County District Attorney’s Office alleges that the individuals’ criminal actions enabled them to illegally obtain about $4 million. After launching an investigation, the state obtained search warrants for both companies, seizing computers and bank, payroll and other documents. The state conducted several wage audits on several hundred projects, which ultimately led to the filing of criminal charges.

5. (Florida) False Insurance Certificates Check Cashing Scheme Defrauds Insurance Company of $1 Million (11/18/14)

Arturo Santos Zuniga paid laborers cash to avoid paying workers' comp'.

Arturo Santos Zuniga, who also went by the name David Hernandez, was busted for paying laborers in cash to avoid paying workers’ compensation insurance premiums. Zuniga paid a North Lauderdale man to create and insure a fake or “shell” company, Behar Services Incorporated, and “rented” out insurance certificates to uninsured subcontractors in South Florida. Payments to the uninsured subcontractors were made through checks to the fake company, which were then cashed at check cashing stores. Behar Services Incorporated got its insurance policy by saying it had 10 employees doing carpentry and office work with an annual payroll of $210,000. The annual premium was about $26,500. Law enforcement financial reports show that just in the months from July to October, more than $7.3 million had been cashed out at check cashing stores to Behar Services Incorporated and/or the North Lauderdale man who started the company. A $7.3 million payroll would have cost more than $1 million more than the existing policy. No estimate of lost tax revenue was given.

6. (Texas) Man to Pay $806,000 for Underreporting Payroll to Workers’ Comp Carrier (3/11/14)

Howard Douglas Whiddon of Travis County was ordered to pay $806,000 in restitution.

Howard Douglas Whiddon was ordered to pay $806,000 in restitution to workers’ compensation insurer Texas Mutual Insurance Co. after pleading guilty to workers’ comp fraud-related charges. He intentionally misrepresented the payroll of a related company, thus lowering his premiums. Mr. Whiddon was sentenced by a Travis County, Texas court to 10 years of deferred adjudication and 160 hours of community service.

7. (Arizona) Paul Johnson Drywall Inc. Agreed to Pay $600,000 in Back Wages, Damages and Penalties to 445 Employees (5/19/14)

Paul Johnson Drywall Inc. classified its workers as “members/owners” instead of employees.

Paul Johnson Drywall Inc. classified its workers as “members/owners” instead of employees, which stripped them of workers’ compensation and other protections afforded to employees. The owner, Robert Cole Johnson agreed to take concrete steps to ensure that misclassification of its workforce does not occur again and to pay $556,000.00 in overtime back wages and liquidated damages to at least 445 current and former employees. The employer also agreed to pay $44,000.00 in civil monetary penalties. Investigators found that the drywall contractor violated the Fair Labor Standards Act overtime and record-keeping provisions.

8. (Washington) Summit Drywall, Inc. Ordered to Pay $550,000 in Unpaid Wages and Damages to 384 Workers (2/20/14)

The owner of Summit Drywall, Inc. was ordered to pay damages to 384 employees.

Thomas Kauzlarich, the owner of Summit Drywall, Inc. was ordered to pay $550,000 in overtime back wages and liquidated damages to 384 current and former employees. An investigation showed that the company violated the Fair Labor Standards Act’s overtime and record-keeping provisions from October 15, 2009 to April 15, 2013. The article did not report the amount of reduced workers’ compensation premiums paid.

9. (Georgia) Nurse Gets 5 Years in Prison for $450,000 Bogus Workers’ Comp Claims (8/26/14)

A VA nurse from Glenwood, GA, will serve five years in prison for mail fraud and fraudulent claims.

Loretta Smith, a VA nurse from Glenwood, GA, will serve five years in prison and must repay $450,000.00 in federal funds by filing bogus workers’ compensation claims, pleading guilty to two counts of mail fraud in the mailing of fraudulent claims, in which she received more than $450,000.00. She agreed to forfeit the equivalent of $454,740.06 in cash, real estate and other property. She was also sentenced to three years probation after her release.

10. (California) Drywall Company Owners Arraigned on $420,000 in Fraud Charges (12/11/14)

The owners of a defunct drywall company, National Drywall in San Bernardino, CA, were arraigned on charges that they defrauded their workers’ compensation insurance carrier of $260,000.00 and stole $160,000.00 from their workers.

Honorable Mention – (Oregon) Uncooperative Hillsboro Businessman Convicted of $481,519 Tax Evasion – Only Gets 30 Days In Jail (9/30/14)

Stephen Nagy engaged in fraudulent schemes to evade payment of payroll taxes.

Stephen Nagy was the former president of Hillsboro-based S&S Drywall Assemblies. The IRS assessed the company $481,519 in federal employment taxes, penalties and interest between June 2009 and September 2010. Nagy met with the IRS and chose not to comply with the payment plan and engaged in a variety of interrelated fraudulent schemes to evade the payment of the delinquent payroll taxes. Nagy intimidated, manipulated, and threatened the loss of much needed jobs to gain the cooperation of his employees. Special agents of the IRS learned that Nagy had transferred all of S&S Drywall Assemblies income, contracts, receivables and assets to ASM Drywall, Inc. a shell company he created and placed in his sister’s name. The Oregon attorney general prosecuted Nagy in 2011 on allegations of criminal anti-trust and racketeering. He was sentenced to 30 days in jail and five years of supervised probation.

Georgia Employer Cited After Worker’s Death

Jack Smiley of Smiley Plaster Co. can attest that ignorance, or the appearance thereof, is not necessarily bliss.

In September 2013, a 42-year-old worker fell to his death while applying stucco to a pre-existing building on the campus of East Georgia State in Swainsboro. After conducting a thorough investigation of the fatality, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration found that Jack Smiley, the owner of Smiley Plaster Co., essentially signed his employee’s death warrant by knowingly failing to provide a properly constructed scaffold system.

And that’s not all. Not only did Smiley fail to provide safely constructed scaffolding, he was also cited for failing to brace the scaffolding and provide protective measures such as toe boards. These willful violations were enough to place Smiley Plaster Co. into OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program, which keeps a close eye on employers who have demonstrated blatant indifference to the safety of their employees.

To add insult to injury, Smiley was cited with one “other-than-serious” violation: he failed to report the fatality within eight hours on the incident. (One would think that this kind of blind disregard would have a category of its own.)

All told, Smiley Plaster Co. is facing a total of $57,000 possible fines in OSHA penalties. While some may call this justice, we have to wonder if this is an accurate representation of the value of a human life. While money is a great motivator, it seems unlikely that anyone who waited over eight hours to report the death of an employee is willing to change his ways.

We urge employees in Georgia to carefully evaluate the safety of their work environment. If you notice that an employer has failed to comply with basic safety regulations, report the violation to your supervisor immediately. If the proper safety measure continue to go unfulfilled, start looking for employment at a company that values your well-being.

If you or a loved one has been injured at the workplace, call Atlanta workers’ comp attorney Michael Moebes at (404) 354-5432.

Who is to blame for assistant camerawoman Sarah Jones’ death?

On February 20, 2014, second assistant camerawoman Sarah Jones and the film crew of Midnight Rider, an upcoming indie film, were setting up equipment on a narrow trestle. The scene was set to be shot on live train tracks in Wayne County, Georgia, and the crew had been told that in the event that a train appeared, they would have 60 seconds to clear the tracks.

Later that day, a train did come barreling down the tracks—and tragically, 60 seconds was not enough time for Sarah Jones and several other members of the film crew to escape. As the industry mourns, multiple investigations are looking into the case in an attempt to determine who is to blame for this horrific accident.

A partner in the Los Angeles branch of Washington’s Arent Fox, LLP law firm, Richard Charnley, believes that this accident points to the need for stricter safety measures on both television and movie sets—especially those outside of Los Angeles.

According to Charnley, there is typically a designated set of safety observers on the set; outside of Hollywood proper, many film production companies use local union help. While Ms. Jones was certainly an accomplished camerawoman, many union workers are often unaware of the rules and standards set in place for the protection of the cast and crew.

More troubling, however, was the fact that there seemed to be no real arrangement with the train company prior to filming. A representative from CSX, the train company that owns the tracks, stated that the production had actually been denied permission to shoot on location. (However, later reports suggest that this issue might be a little more convoluted than it seems.)

Mary Katz, a producer and manager with nearly 40 years of experience, noted that the production company in charge of Midnight Rider should have had clear, written location agreements signed by the supervisors of the railroad—something that seems to be nonexistent thus far.

Sarah Jones’ family has publicly announced that they plan to sue the producers of Midnight Rider. Since Ms. Jones was in all likelihood a union employee covered by workers’ compensation statutes, attorney Richard Charnley says that they may very well have a case.

If you or a loved one has been injured at work, please contact Atlanta workers’ comp attorney Michael Moebes at (404) 354-5432.

 

 

 

 

Goodwill Under Fire for Treatment of Disabled Workers

2013 was not the best year for Goodwill. Although it is a nonprofit organization that claims to offer both employees and customers a helping hand, it has faced multiple accusations of grossly underpaying its disabled employees. According to the National Federation of the Blind (NFB), the charitable corporation’s payroll policies allow for “payment of wages as low as pennies per hour” for workers with disabilities.

Given Goodwill’s reputation for helping the disadvantaged, this certainly seems like a concern. But, is the nonprofit organization really guilty of this dreadful accusation?

After a little investigation, PolitiFact Georgia found that only 64 of Goodwill’s affiliate agencies paid disabled workers below the minimum wage, affecting a total of 7,000 workers. (Other reports suggested that these same workers were paid anywhere from 22 cents to 4 dollars per hour.)

While this may seem illegal, it turns out that the Special Minimum Wage Certificate, a provision enacted under the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, actually allows employers to pay those with disabilities below the minimum wage.

While PolitiFact’s investigation also revealed that the Atlanta, Macon, Savannah, and Columbus, Georgia Goodwill affiliates all pay their disabled workers at least the minimum wage ($7.75/hour), it also found that two of them possess the Special Minimum Wage Certificate, meaning that they could decide to lower wages and still be within their legal rights—a frightening prospect, to say the least.

On October 31st, 2013, the NFB rounded up 170,000 signatures calling for Goodwill to amend their policies, and force all of their affiliates to pay disabled workers the minimum federal wage. The fight continues in Washington, D.C., where concerned lawmakers are challenging Goodwill’s status quo and pushing for the rights of all workers.

Contact Atlanta workers’ compensation attorney Michael Moebes at (404) 354-5432 for legal questions or concerns.

Officials Investigate Daycare Brawl in Atlanta, GA

State officials in Georgia are currently conducting a formal investigation of a shockingly vicious brawl that took place last year in an Atlanta daycare center. Footage from the fight was first aired by WSB-TV, revealing two facility workers and one parent swinging their fists at each other and wreaking havoc in the baby room of the daycare.

David Gray, the parent allegedly seen in the shocking video, claims that the two daycare worker attacked him while he was holding his one-year-old son. Police contest that, in fact, Gray started the fight after several staff members of the McGarity School or Prep informed him that his son would be suspended from the center.

Oh, and did we mention that Gray also alleged that the daycare workers wouldn’t let him leave with his son? Considering that the inflammatory issue was the suspension of his older child, that seems odd. (People don’t usually insist on retaining students that they’ve suspended.)

After watching the video, it’s little difficult to tell the difference between the adults and the children. (All the “he said, she said” rhetoric surrounding this investigation makes it even harder.) But, what we can see is that one of the daycare workers is clearly trying to break up the fight, while another rushes to move a toddler out of the line of fire.

According to the Chief Communications Officer of the Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning (DECAL), Reg Griffin, the incident, was never reported to the agency by the parent, provider, or even local authorities. From an observer’s perspective, this seems a little suspect. After all, charges brought against feisty parent David Gray were recently dismissed, suggesting that there was at least a little publicity surrounding the events.

Perhaps the real question is why this shocking (and repulsive) video wasn’t investigated by Georgia state officials sooner. And, what’s more, why were the charges brought against alleged instigator David Gray dropped so recently? (Charges were dismissed not long before the video surfaced.)

While we can certainly understand that the public display of this video would be detrimental to the McGarity School of Prep, one would think that, for the sake of the children and the long-term success of the daycare, someone would have reported this incident to a higher authority. Had someone reported this to DECAL a year ago, chances are it wouldn’t be surrounded by a media firestorm.

So, what is the lesson to be learned here? Redemption may not always be found in honesty, but it’s certainly absent in deceit.

Contact Atlanta workers’ compensation attorney Michael Moebes at (404) 354-5432 for legal questions or concerns.