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The inside story

It’s not a pirate SHIP, but there’s treasure to be had


May 13, 2014

By Amy Ray

Do you have an innovative idea for improving workplace safety and health or a creative solution to help injured workers return to work soon after an injury? If so, L&I would like to hear from you and may help fund your project.

L&I’s Safety and Health Investment Projects (SHIP) grant program offers grants to projects that:

  • Help prevent workplace injuries, illnesses, and fatalities.
  • Develop and implement effective Return to Work programs that reduce long-term disability.

Port Orchard’s project

In April 2013, the SHIP program funded five grant applicants, including the City of Port Orchard. Awarded a $63,000 grant, the city began work in June 2013 to develop a Return to Work program that specifically addresses the unique needs of public works employees and police officers.

High claims rate signals need for new thinking

The city had experienced a high number of time-loss claims and several large claims in recent years. Deborah Howard, the city’s HR coordinator, saw the SHIP grant as an opportunity to help change the organization’s culture, and reduce claims.

The city knew that the employees most likely to be injured on the job are police officers and public works employees. However, due to the nature of their work, it’s often not possible for these workers to return to their normal jobs until they are 100% recovered. Traditionally, it’s been difficult for the city to provide medically-approved light duty jobs within the limitations set by an injured worker’s doctor.

Work paying early dividends

Port Orchard’s work is already producing results. The city has developed a light-duty job bank and a tool that allows medical providers to be specific about what injured workers can do in a light-duty job. Both improvements are helping injured workers get back to work in other roles while they heal.

Says Howard, “The Police Department has been the most supportive. They had three officers on light duty that are now back to full duty doing what they do best − protecting our city.”

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Officer Andrew Brandon (left) works a light-duty job at the front desk of the Port Orchard Police Department. Brandon’s colleague, Officer Randy Ernst, is pictured right.

Materials, and successes, can be replicated

Port Orchard isn’t the only organization that could benefit from the city’s work. Other organizations will have access to the city’s suite of materials once they are complete. That’s because anything created with SHIP grant funds becomes public domain. It’s an efficient use of state funds that helps ensure the widest possible benefit possible.

Howard is very clear on the benefit to her own organization.

“We want injured workers to know that we want them back to work with the city as quickly as possible and that we will do our best to help them get there,” she says.

You can learn more about the SHIP program on the L&I website.


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Giving employers a uniform answer


May 19, 2014

By Aaron Hoffman

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Pop quiz – Sally Smith is opening a western-themed restaurant and she wants her employees to look the part. She requires her servers to wear a cowboy hat, plaid shirt, blue jeans, and cowboy boots. Since this is the required uniform, does Sally have to pay for these clothing items?

If you said “yes” and “no,” you are correct!

Here is the breakdown:

  • Cowboy hat – yes
  • Plaid shirt – yes
  • Blue jeans – no
  • Cowboy boots - yes

Why is this? Washington state law requires an employer to pay for the full cost of an employee’s uniform if it meets these tests:

  1. Clothing clearly identifying the person as an employee of a specific employer.
  2. Apparel specially marked with the employer’s logo.
  3. Unique apparel to identify historical or ethnic background.
  4. Formal attire.

Since the western wear theme falls into the third category, the employer must pay for the items. However, there is a twist. Since blue jeans are considered “common colors,” Sally doesn’t need to pick up the tab on the jeans.

More questions? Check out these L&I administrative policies:


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Everything you want to know about your L&I account


June 5, 2014
By Chris Alcatraz

Intrigued? Glad to hear it!

This is the title of just one of the many classes offered at FREE Contractor Training Days scheduled monthly at locations across the state.

Informative? You bet!

Over 25 topics: from starting a business to managing contracts; plumbing code to fall protection.

Useful? Absolutely!

Lots of reference material and in-person Q&A with staff from L&I and the Department of Revenue, volunteers from the legal community and more.

When & where? Next event in Lakewood on June 27.

If you can’t join us in June, we’d love to see you at future events in Yakima, Edmonds, Spokane and Renton. See the complete schedule.

Can’t wait? There’s more!

Check out our website for all the resources we offer business owners: http://www.Lni.wa.gov/main/ForBusiness.asp


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Thinking positive: Pregnancy and your job


June 11, 2014
By Kyra Ingraham

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It’s positive. They are two lines that can change your life. And as thousands of questions race through your mind, one question is likely to be “How will this affect my job?”

Here’s what you need to know about workplace rights for pregnant women:

  1. Can they fire me for being pregnant?
    The simple answer is no. It’s illegal to fire an employee because she’s pregnant. However, if your employer is doing layoffs due to a slow or failing business, your position can be included, regardless of your pregnancy. In addition, you can still be fired or disciplined for performance problems.
     
  2. How much leave can I use, and is it paid?
    Employees are given 12 weeks of leave through the Washington State Family Leave Act (FLA). This law builds on the similar existing federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which also offers 12 weeks of leave. In both laws you have to:
    • Work for a company that has more than 50 employees in a 75 mile radius
      and
    • Have worked for the company for at least 12 months. The months don’t have to be consecutive, but you must have worked at least 1,250 hours before your leave starts.
     
    Washington State Family Leave Act must run after your pregnancy disability has ended (which FMLA doesn’t account for), so depending on your medical needs throughout the pregnancy you may actually be eligible for at least 18 weeks of leave.
     
    It is important to remember, though, that none of the laws require that this leave is paid. Some employers may offer short term disability pay, but for the most part you’re on your own (squirrel it away now!) or you must use some sort of leave to get a paycheck.
     
  3. Is my employer required to hold my job for me?
    Yes and no. The employer is required to allow you to return to work, but they’re not required to hold your exact position open. If they choose not to return you to your exact position, they must then have a similar position for you.
     
  4. Do I have to tell my boss right away?
    Once your pregnancy has an estimated end date (so close but yet so far!), you’re required to give your employer at least 30 days’ notice of when you’ll be starting your leave. If, however, you don’t realize you’re pregnant (hey, there are TV shows on it so it obviously happens), or you’re adopting a child where the placement is less than 30 days, the law simply requires you to tell your boss as soon as possible.
     
  5. How can L&I help me?
    If you feel your rights or benefits have been violated, call L&I at 1-866-219-7321. If it’s a bona fide complaint, L&I will investigate the complaint and, if warranted, issue a citation. You also have the right to sue your employer in a civil court.

For more information visit:


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Stay at Work program reaches milestone


June 25, 2014
By Amy Ray

During the first week of June, the Stay at Work program reached an impressive milestone — benefitting its 10,000th injured worker.

To date, the program has also paid employers nearly $24 million to keep employees working in medically-approved light duty jobs.

Stay at Work encourages employers who pay workers’ compensation premiums to Labor & Industries to bring their injured workers quickly and safely back to light-duty or transitional work. The program offers a financial incentive and reimburses some of the employer’s costs.

Eligible employers can be reimbursed for:

  • 50% of the base wages they pay to the injured worker.
  • Some of the cost of training, tools or clothing the worker needs to do the light-duty or transitional work.

The Stay at Work program launched in January 2012. 


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New web page helps businesses “know what they don’t know”


June 30, 2014
By Amy Ray

An old, unattributed quote says simply, “You don’t know what you don’t know.”

But if you’re a business regulated by L&I, what you “don’t know” could get you into trouble. This is particularly true for small businesses, which often don’t have the resources to research L&I requirements that apply to them.

We want it to be easy to do business with L&I, and we don’t want a businesses’ first interaction with the agency to be when they are cited for non-compliance.

That’s the thinking behind a new tool on the L&I website: Check to See If You’re Meeting L&I Business Requirements.

The business requirements page is a one-stop-shop to help businesses discover which requirements apply to them. They can then get the information they need about how to comply without having to search across multiple program areas. An intuitive design makes for an effective Web experience, and we tested the page with small business owners and operators to verify the site was relevant and easy to use before its launch.

Check out the Business Requirements web page today: www.lni.wa.gov/businessrequirements


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5 tips for filing your quarterly report successfully


July 7, 2014
By Andrea Ruiz and Roseann Collins

It’s that time again. Quarterly Report filing and premiums for the 2nd quarter (April 1, 2014 – June 30, 2014) are due on July 31, 2014.

Remember, even if you don’t have any worker hours or payroll, you still have to file a report.

What’s the easiest way to file your quarterly report?
Online! To file online, go to www.QuarterlyReports.Lni.wa.gov.

  • You can file on-the-go from any mobile device. Try it at www.QuickFile.Lni.wa.gov.
  • You can file your quarterly report in 3 minutes or less.
  • We calculate the rates for you.
  • You can print a confirmation page for your records.

New to online filing?
Here are some tips to help you file successfully:

  1. Watch a tutorial and see step by step how easy it is to file online. image
  2. Don’t wait until the deadline — file early. If you have any issues or questions, you won’t be pressured by time constraints.
  3. Look up your Account ID or UBI number.
  4. Choose the payment option that works best for you. You can schedule your payment (up until 7/31), mail in a check, or pay with a credit card.
  5. Don’t forget to hit the submit button, and then print a copy of your report for your records.


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5 things you need to know about hiring teen workers


August 7, 2014
By Aaron Hoffman and Kyra Ingraham

Thinking about hiring a teen to work for your business during summer break or after school starts? Here are the answers to some of the most common questions we get from new employers:

What kind of permits and records do I need?
Any employer hiring a minor must:

  • Get a Minor Work Permit endorsement on their Master Business License. This can be done at the Business Licensing Service or any UBI service location, including the Department of Labor & Industries.
  • Keep the following information on file:
    • Proof of age
    • Personal data (name, address, date of birth and a copy of the minor’s social security card)
    • Employment description

During summer break, employers must also have a signed Parent Authorization Summer Work form for each teen worker. This form needs to be renewed every year.

Things change when the school year starts. Then employers must complete a Parent/School Authorization form, which includes additional school information and signatures.

What is the minimum wage for teen workers?
The minimum wage for 16- and 17-year-old workers is the same as for adults — $9.32 in 2014. Minors under 16 may be paid 85% of the state minimum wage ($7.92).

Are family members employees?
Yes! If the family member is a teen, there are some special items to remember. First, the minimum age requirement for working at a family business is 14 years old. Second, it’s important to remember though that even family, no matter how annoying, still needs to be treated legally and given appropriate breaks (a paid 10-minute break for every 4 hours worked, and an unpaid 30-minute lunch for every 5 hours worked).

Here is an example: Jane owns a construction company. Her 17-year-old son, John, wants a summer job. If John performed work for the company and Jane gave him anything of value for his labor, then she would need to:

  • Pay minimum wage and overtime
  • Provide a safe working environment
  • Pay workers’’ comp on John’s hours
  • Pay unemployment insurance on John’s wages
  • File federal payroll taxes
  • Get a Minor Work Permit
  • Follow all of the teen worker restrictions (There are a lot of them in construction!)

What about agricultural jobs?
As with family workers, the minimum age for teens working in agricultural jobs is 14 years old. The one exception is 12- and 13-year-olds may work during non-school months (June 1 to Labor Day) hand-harvesting berries, bulbs, cucumbers and spinach.

There are also a few exceptions regarding what wages minor agricultural workers make.

If a minor worker is a hand harvest laborer who is paid per piece picked and commutes each day from their permanent residence and works less than 13 weeks in the calendar year, he or she can be paid less than the minimum wage. For example, this could include teen workers living in the local community who harvest berries during the season but don’t normally work in agriculture at any other time.

Where can I get information about teen workers?
To learn more, including rules on hiring teens for house-to-house sales, theater work or sports work, or hiring minors under the age of 14:


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