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See’s Candies Must Face Worker’s COVID Lawsuit After Cali High Court Denies Appeal

SACRAMENTO — The California Supreme Court will not review a novel ruling that said a candymaker can be sued by an employee who claims she contracted COVID-19 at work and spread it to her husband, who died.

Trade groups have warned the lawsuit could spur limitless liability for businesses, but the court on Wednesday denied a petition by See’s Candies Inc for review of the December decision. It was the first by an appeals court allowing a worker’s lawsuit against an employer over a family member’s COVID death to proceed.

At least two dozen so-called “take-home” COVID-19 lawsuits have been filed across the country, including ones against Amazon.com Inc, Walmart Inc, McDonald’s Corp, and Caribbean Cruises Ltd. Trade groups have said allowing employers to be held liable for COVID infections will prompt lawsuits not only by workers’ family and friends, but by anyone infected by that circle of people.

Plaintiff Matilde Ek claims she contracted COVID-19 at a See’s factory because the company failed to ensure workplace safety, and that her husband died after she passed it on to him.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other business groups have backed See’s, arguing in court briefs that Ek’s claims are covered by state workers’ compensation law, which precludes her from suing in court, because contracting COVID on the job would be a workplace injury.

But the appeals court in December said it was not any injury to Ek that caused her husband’s death, but rather the COVID-19 virus for which she served as a “conduit.”

Lawyers at Munger Tolles & Olson who represent See’s did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Thursday. Neither did Joel Krissman, a lawyer for Ek.

The San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is currently considering whether employers can be liable under California law for take-home COVID in a separate case involving a woodworking company.

During oral arguments last month, Circuit Judge John Wallace called the See’s Candies decision “a gamechanger” and suggested that the 9th Circuit would ask the California Supreme Court to decide the question.

The case is See’s Candies Inc v. Superior Court, California Supreme Court, No. S272923.

For Ek: Joel Krissman of Krissman & Silver

For See’s: Joseph Lee of Munger Tolles & Olson

REUTERS

Reporting by Arnd Wiegmann/Dan Wiessner

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Social Security Can Help You Start Or Return To Work

If you rely on Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits and want to start or return to work, we can help.

Ticket to Work (Ticket) is a program that supports career development for SSDI beneficiaries who want to work and progress toward financial independence. The Ticket program is free and voluntary. Learn more about the Ticket to Work program at www.ssa.gov/work or call the Ticket to Work Help Line at 1-866-968-7842 or 1-866-833-2967 (TTY) Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET.

Social Security Can Help You Start Or Return To Work

If you receive Social Security disability benefits in Puerto Rico or US Virgin Islands and are interested in giving yourself the opportunity to return to work at your own pace and without fear, please call the Movement to Achieve Independent Living (MAVI, for its Spanish acronyms) at 787-758-7901. If you reside in Puerto Rico, we also recommend you call the Program for the Protection and Defense for Beneficiaries of Social Security Disability (PABBS) at 787-725-2333.

Your job isn’t just a source of income — it can be a vehicle to independence or the beginning step to fulfilling your dreams. Let our Ticket to Work program help you achieve your goals.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we could not receive visitors at our field office except for previously arranged appointments on special limited critical situations. However, we continue providing our services by phone and internet. If you have questions on Social Security benefits and services, please access www.socialsecurity.gov. You could also access our automated services at 1-800-772-1213 or call your local Social Security office Monday to Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. To locate the telephone number of your local field office, please input your residential zip code at www.ssa.gov/locator/

[wpedon id=23995]

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Roach Pays Homage To Legacy of Rights Leader D. Hamilton Jackson On Liberty Day

FREDERIKSTED — Lt. Governor Tregenza Roach, prior to leaving the territory on a personal matter, called on Virgin Islanders to pay homage to native son D. Hamilton Jackson today.

“In celebration of Liberty Day, we recognize the legacy and impact of David Hamilton Jackson on the U.S. Virgin Islands. As a trailblazer, he spent his life advocating for the rights and civil liberties of the people of the territory,” Roach said in a prepared statement.

“We honor him and his vast achievements that are a profound part of our history,” Roach said, adding that “in a time of oppression, Jackson displayed both courage and valor in leading the fight against unfair labor conditions and inadequate wages.”

“He was successful in establishing the first labor union, through which he gave workers a voice, and a means to exert more economic influence,” Roach said.

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Penny Dreadful: Georgia Man Receives Final Paycheck In Coins

ATLANTA — A Georgia man said his former employer owed him a pretty penny, $915 to be exact, after leaving his job in November.

But Andreas Flaten said he was shocked to see his final payment: 90,000 oil or grease covered pennies, at the end of his driveway earlier this month, news outlets reported. Atop the pile was an envelope with Flaten’s final paystub and an explicit parting message.

“This is a childish thing to do,” Flaten said.

Flaten said he left his job at Peachtree City’s A OK Walker Autoworks in November. He said he was owed the final check and had difficulty getting it, even turning to the Georgia Department of Labor to receive help.

In mid-March, Flaten said as he left his house with his girlfriend he noticed the pile at the end of his driveway. He said the pennies were covered with some sort of oily substance.

Now his nightly routine consists of cleaning the pennies so he can cash them in. He said it took him about an hour and a half to clean off several hundred.

“I think that’s going to be a lot of work for money I’ve already worked for,” he said. “It’s definitely not fair at all.”

The owner of the shop, Miles Walker, spoke with WGCL-TV briefly, stating he didn’t know if he did or didn’t drop the pennies off at Flaten’s house.

“I don’t really remember,” Walker told the TV station. “It doesn’t matter he got paid, that’s all that matters.”

Walker went on to call Flaten a “weenie.”

Flaten’s girlfriend, Olivia Oxley, said she hopes her boyfriend’s story sheds light on how people “are treated so poorly by their employers.”

She said the pair have stopped being angry and are looking at the petty act in a positive light.

“With that many pennies, we’re bound to find a few treasures. I’ve already found one from 1937,” Oxley said. “After the first shovel full, all we could do was laugh because this poor miserable man took so much time to be vindictive and cruel. We absolutely refused to let him ruin a single moment of ours.”

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VIDOL Failure To Pay UI Obligation Makes Private Employers Have To Pay 6 Times As Much For Unemployment Insurance

CHARLOTTE AMALIE — For the third consecutive year, the U.S. Virgin Islands is the only jurisdiction in the United States to not meet its outstanding Unemployment Insurance (UI) loan obligation to the U.S. Department of Labor.

Because the Virgin Islands Department of Labor failed to make a critical USDOL payment by November 10, 2020, all private sector employers will have to pick up the slack for the territorial government and pay six times as much for unemployment insurance as any other state or territory.

“Once again, if you budgeted to pay $42 per employee, be prepared to pay $252 per employee by February 1, 2021,” St. Croix accountant Theresa Marie Frorup-Alie said today.

VIDOL’s failure to pay has now happened 11 years in a row and the Federal Unemployment Tax Act (FUTA) rate paid by private employers will go up $210 per employee next month, Frorup-Alie said.

VIDOL Failure To Pay UI Obligation Makes Private Employers Have To Pay 6 Times As Much For Unemployment Insurance
Virgin Islands Department of Labor Commissioner Gary Molloy

“Each year the VIDOL is delinquent, there’s a 0.3 percent reduction off of the 5.4 percent that the feds grant as a credit to offset the six percent tax,” she said. “So, rather than the V.I. business owner paying $42/employee, they’re forced to pay $252 employee. Non payment of this tax to the IRS will be met with late payment penalty of 0.5 percent per month on outstanding tax, a 5 percent late filing penalty if form 940 is not timely filed and accrued interests that compounds monthly.”

The accounting expert said there are consequences for the territorial government not living up to its financial obligations to the federal government.

“The feds claim that employers in a FUTA Credit Reduction State pays a higher rate,” Frorup-Alie said. “Now that is supposed to include both private and public sector employers, but God only knows if the VIDOL is failing to repay these loans, how do we know if the Virgin Islands government is honoring each of its department’s obligations and making restitution to the IRS?”

Each year at this time, Frorup-Alie posts to her Facebook professional page information that is vital to small businesses relative to their obligations to the IRS, the IRB, and VIDOL.

Virgin Islands Department of Labor Commissioner Gary Molloy did not immediately return a request for comment to the Virgin Islands Free Press.

The Federal Unemployment Tax Act (FUTA) is a United States federal law that imposes a federal employer tax used to help fund state workforce agencies.

Employers report this tax by filing an annual Form 940 with the Internal Revenue Service. In some cases, the employer is required to pay the tax in installments during the tax year.

FUTA covers a federal share of the costs of administering the unemployment insurance (UI) and job service programs in every state. In addition, FUTA pays one-half of the cost of extended unemployment benefits (during periods of high unemployment) and provides for a fund from which states may borrow, if necessary, to pay benefits.

Until June 30, 2011, the Federal Unemployment Tax Act imposed a tax of 6.2%, which was composed of a permanent rate of 6.0% and a temporary rate of 0.2%, which was passed by Congress in 1976. The temporary rate was extended many times, but it expired on June 30, 2011.

Consequently, for the years until 2010 and the first six months of 2011, the FUTA imposed a 6.2 percent tax (before credits) on the first $7,000 of gross earnings of each worker per year. Once the worker’s earnings reach $7,000 during a given year, the employer no longer pays any FUTA for that year with respect to that worker. Certain credits are allowed with respect to state unemployment taxes paid that may reduce the effective FUTA rate to 0.8 percent.

Effective July 1, 2011, the rate decreased to 6.0 percent. That rate may be reduced by an amount up to 5.4 percent through credits for contributions to state unemployment programs under sections 3302(a) and 3302(b), resulting in a minimum effective rate on and after July 1, 2011 of 0.6 percent (6.0–5.4 percent).

https://www.investopedia.com/articles/taxes/08/business-payroll-tax.asp

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DHS Recognizes National Disability Employment Awareness Month In October With Readiness Training

CHARLOTTE AMALIE — The Department of Human Services, Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) Program, is seeking to raise awareness about disability employment issues and celebrate the many contributions of Virgin Islands employers, community partners and trailblazers that support and honor courageous workers with disabilities.

This year marks a major milestone in the nation’s history; it is not only the 75th observance of National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM), but the 30th anniversary of the American Disability Act, ADA and 100 years since the establishment of the Vocational Rehabilitation Program.

National Disability Employment Awareness Month is celebrated across the United States to help eliminate the barriers that limit opportunities for educational and economic advancement for workers challenged by disabilities.

The Virgin Islands Vocational Rehabilitation Program launched its first ever online work readiness training program this summer, and services will continue for qualifying students throughout the school year. 

The Department of Human Services encourages all to help celebrate the milestones of the national Vocational Rehabilitation Program by reaching out to someone who has a disability and expressing a little extra support and encouragement for their journey.  

For those with a disability seeking employment, and for those who may know someone seeking employment, please contact the DHS – Vocational Rehabilitation Program today. The Program offers employment related services that include:

  • Transition planning for high school students with disabilities to assist with adequately preparing for post-secondary education and competitive employment.
  • Vocational counseling
  • Evaluation & training
  • Job placement
  • Assistance with resume writing and many other services

DHS – Vocational Rehabilitation Program

  • St. Croix: (340) 643-8145 or (340) 626-6268
  • St. Thomas / St. John (340) 774-0930 or (340) 244-7861