Farmhands Demand Workplace Protection
A Florida advocacy group has tried for more than two years to convince officials to enact heat safety standards in outdoor workplaces, and the matter is finally scheduled for a preliminary hearing.
Historic heat waves have already killed at least one farmworker in South Florida this year; he had expressed feeling fatigued and leg pain.
One community leader with We Count!, a Guatemalan worker living in Homestead, advocated in favor of a heat standard at the hearing alongside two of her young children.
“If parents die because of the extreme heat, who will take care of our children?” she said in Spanish. “I have lived through the heat.”
Medical professionals have long said that having access to water and shade and taking breaks from long hours of intense physical labor can protect workers from heat illness.
The tentative hearing presents a small glimmer of hope considering that the federal government has been stuck in a years-long process to draft heat safety rules that would protect workers from dangerously high temperatures.
Workers’ Compensation Eligible Employees
Florida’s Workers’ Compensation Law only applies to employees. However, bosses don’t get to decide the difference between employees and non-employees. An Administrative Law Judge, upon the recommendation of a Tampa workers’ compensation lawyer, makes that decision. Three basic factors apply:
- Behavioral: Does the company control or have the right to control what the worker does and how the worker does his/her job?
- Financial: Are the business aspects of the worker’s job, such as how the worker is paid, whether expenses are reimbursed, and who provides tools/supplies, controlled by the payer?
- Type of Relationship: Are there written contracts or employee type benefits (i.e. pension plan, insurance, vacation pay, etc.)? Will the relationship continue and is the work performed a key aspect of the business?
Many companies intentionally misclassify workers as independent contractors to skirt the workers’ compensation law. Others misclassify high-risk workers as low-risk workers. For example, a roofing company with twenty roofers and ten office workers might claim it has ten roofers and twenty office workers.
When insurance companies discover these lies, they usually deny payment. This denial usually allows a Tampa workers’ compensation lawyer to file a civil claim. Additional damages, mostly compensation for emotional distress and other noneconomic losses, are available in these claims.
Workers’ Compensation Benefits
Victims must prove negligence, or a lack of care, to obtain damages in civil cases. If the employer didn’t have a valid policy, the employer usually can’t use contributory negligence and other effective defenses. It’s much easier to win a fight if your opponent has one hand tied behind his back.
Workers’ compensation benefits are no-fault benefits. If the injury was work-related, no matter who was at fault, the victim is entitled to:
- Lost Wage Replacement: Most victims receive two-thirds of their average weekly wage for the duration of their temporary disabilities. Permanently disabled victims, whether that disability is permanent or partial, usually receive lump sum payments.
- Medical Bill Payment: Workers’ compensation insurance companies bear exclusive financial responsibility for reasonable medical costs. It’s illegal for clinics, hospitals, or other providers to send any bills to victims, as long as the treatment was reasonably necessary.
These benefits apply to both occupational diseases, like toxic exposure, and trauma injuries, like falls, even if the victim’s pre-existing or non-work injury contributed to the risk and/or severity of the job-related malady.
Count on a Savvy Hillsborough County Attorney
Injury victims are entitled to important financial benefits. For a free consultation with an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer in Tampa, contact Kobal Law. The sooner you reach out to us, the sooner we start working for you.