Justia Lawyer Rating for David M. Barish

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Before the recent pandemic, Amazon had come under fire for various workplace safety incidents, including one in Joliet, Illinois, involving allegations that the company delayed emergency medical treatment for a worker who suffered a heart attack and died in early 2017. In fact, a lawsuit claims that workers waited 25 minutes before calling 911. Since the fire station was only a half-mile away, it is apparent that the delay probably led to the worker’s death. What makes the allegations against Amazon even more concerning is that no AED (Automated External Defibrillator) was provided because the AED boxes did not actually have the devices inside of them. When the Joliet Fire Department arrived, the EMTs were slowed down by security and were forced to go through the much of the 1,500,000 square foot warehouse facility before reaching the injured worker, which caused him to lose precious time to save his life. Later in 2017, an Amazon forklift operator was crushed and killed at the Plainfield, Indiana fulfillment center. Regulators found out that Amazon did not provide their worker with any safety training. In fact, safety issues at Amazon were dismissed and covered up. It comes as no surprise that the state authorities issued $28,000.00 in fines. 6 other similar incidents took place between November 2018 and September 2019 at the company’s various locations across the U.S., making many people wonder if Amazon is willing to sacrifice human life for the sake of more profits.

In 2018, the Monee warehouse reported 235 injuries. The rate of injury was 2.3 times higher than the industry average. Many people in Will County are concerned about the level of safety at the five fulfillment centers located in their community, especially now with the threat of Covid-19 surrounding their loved ones as they work to supply area families with the necessities of life during this difficult time. Most people have questioned the safety of Amazon workers without masks in the local facilities, but that may change. In announcing daily temperature checks of workers and the supplying of masks, Dave Clark, Amazon’s senior vice president of worldwide operations, said via written statement”Whether it’s fulfilling orders in one of our fulfillment centers, delivering an order to a customer’s doorstep, or one of the many roles in between, I couldn’t be more proud of the critical role our teams are serving by enabling people to stay safe at home while receiving the products they need.” While these steps are certain to prevent further Amazon workers from contracting Coronavirus, time will tell if it is enough. Since Amazon already hired 80,000 of the 100,000 additional workers they need, it isn’t hard to imagine that Amazon sees its workers as easily replaceable until more drones and robots can be used to cut down on costs.

Based on Amazon’s conduct, Katz Friedman is investigating work injury cases on behalf of many distribution, warehouse, logistics, and fulfillment center workers in Monee, Joliet, Plainfield, Crest Hill, Romeoville, Waukegan, Aurora, Edwardsville, and Chicago, Illinois. We are also investigating Amazon related to its practices involving Amazon Flex delivery drivers who get hurt on the job but are unfairly denied workers compensation benefits. When making decisions regarding a work injury involving Amazon, it is wise to consult an attorney to protect your interests because Amazon has been prepared to fight its injured workers for a very long time. If you or someone you know works for Amazon and has suffered injury due their job at Amazon, the attorneys and staff at Katz Friedman are here to help with obtaining proper compensation.

The “gig economy” is where more and more people are finding work. This allows for greater flexibility for workers who do not want to be tied to one job or who have to balance earning a living with family obligations. However, this allows employers to avoid providing benefits such as health insurance and allows companies to deny that they are even an employer.

This has serious consequences when people get hurt. If you drive your own vehicle to deliver packages for Amazon Flex or to carry passengers for Uber or Lyft, they will deny that you are an employee when you get injured. They will refuse to pay the benefits to which you are entitled under the Workers’ Compensation Act. Benefits are paid to employees but not independent contractors. Companies will claim that gig workers are not employees but are independent contractors.

The Courts have found drivers for a pizzeria and for licensed taxi companies are employees. There are no decisions regarding drivers for gig economy companies such as Amazon, Uber or Lyft yet. Gig economy companies say that all workers are paid by 1099. This is only one factor in determining whether somebody is an employee.

According to an Amazon spokesperson, an worker at Joliet’s Amazon fulfillment center has recently tested positive for the novel Coronavirus (SARS – CoV2). It is understood that the employee last worked on March 18 and is in quarantine. The worker’s identity remains confidential. There is no information yet on the health and safety of co-workers. Apparently, the announcement of this case was made on a Facebook group page for local employees. Clearly, during Amazon’s recent rise in business, there are no plans to close the facility. However, this may change if another worker tests positive. This is just one of many similar cases across the United States with no end in sight to the high risk of exposure. It comes as no surprise the New York area Amazon employees are expected to strike to gain basic safety protections at their jobs against the Coronavirus even if Amazon keeps raising their pay as they have been doing over the past month.

It is doubtful that Amazon will be able to slow the spread of sickness at its warehouses. Although Amazon may be doing some deep-cleaning in its Joliet facility, the company is claiming that they are also using social distancing despite the cramped proximity in which these employees must work as demand makes Amazon orders skyrocket and the need for more workers to be present to complete those orders. For example, Amazon is using boards to write messages instead of having meetings and spreading out chairs in break rooms. When employees actually find the time to take a break, their breaks are being staggered. Even though sick employees are being told to stay home and seek medical attention, workers can have no symptoms for several days but be contagious to all people in proximity.

Amazon claims they are supporting their sick and injured employee in Joliet, following guidelines, and taking extreme measures ensure the safety of employees in Joliet. It is still widely anticipated that Amazon expects business to carry on as usual with both its warehouse workers and its Amazon Flex drivers. In fact, Amazon has begun working with Lyft to use inactive drivers to deliver for Amazon. While this is certain to provide some much needed cash to Lyft drivers, it will most certainly not provide Lyft drivers with any workers’ compensation benefits if they are injured on the job. This is because Lyft drivers are not considered employees by Lyft just like Amazon Flex drivers are not considered employees by Amazon.com, Inc. Unlike Amazon Flex and Lyft drivers, Amazon fulfillment or warehouse workers are considered employees of Amazon.com, Inc. This means that Amazon will fight each and every claim that a Lyft or Amazon Flex driver makes for work comp benefits.

The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission has announced that pursuant to the order of Governor J.B. Pritzker and the national pandemic of COVID-19 the Commission will be closed through the end of April.

For more information and the full press release click here.

Your Katz Friedman attorneys and staff, remain available to help you. We are still able to negotiate settlements, get medical bills paid and get your weekly compensation benefits.

AMAZON-300x197Jeff Bezos can probably take credit for changing the way people shop online more than any single person. While the road to Amazon’s dominance as a retailer certainly has been fueled by a spark of ingenuity, that same road has also been filled with many strategies designed to protect the company to the detriment of its work force. While news stories have focused on Amazon fulfillment worker injuries at its numerous warehouses across the country, many Chicago area Amazon workers face other challenges. This is especially true as Amazon uses a strategy that involves treating its Flex drivers as 1099’s or independent contractors even though they are under the direction and control by Amazon.com, Inc. as to how they are required to do their jobs. For instance, Amazon uses GPS to tell the drivers where to go after the packages are picked up. Amazon has the right to control how many blocks a driver gets, which means that sometimes a driver will not get consistent work.

Many Amazon delivery drivers may be surprised to learn that Amazon.com, Inc. does not consider them to be employees. That means that Amazon Flex drivers will be told by Amazon’s lawyers that they do not have workers’ compensation benefits when they sustain a work injury. Amazon operates very much like Uber and Lyft as part of the gig economy that uses a strategy of evading the existing laws that are designed to protect workers when they are hurt on the job. This probably is not a surprise because it is a way of saving money and passing the buck to society both by not paying for work comp insurance and by pushing the costs onto local, state, and federal governments. They also operate like many delivery companies in that they tell their drivers that they are their own boss yet control they way they do their jobs from start to finish by using an app. For example, Amazon drivers must operate under a “Block.” This means that a driver must deliver a certain amount of packages in a set time based on what the company thinks that a driver should be able to accomplish. A driver is paid the same whether they complete this block in the allotted time or not.

Certainly, Amazon Flex drivers are at a higher risk of harm than most people because they are driving through many urban and suburban areas, parking, walking to doorsteps, and doing all of this through ice, snow, sleet, and rain, especially in Illinois. It comes as no surprise that Amazon delivery drivers sustain work injuries not only in major vehicle accidents, but also in slip and fall and trip and fall accidents. In the recent weeks, there have been many concerns voiced about Amazon drivers becoming infected with the Coronavirus and developing Covid-19 illness. According a a recent Seattle Times article, Amazon is telling drivers to knock with their phones, don’t sneeze on packages, and to have customers step away from their ID’s left on the ground to avoid spreading the virus. https://www.seattletimes.com/business/amazon/amazon-gives-delivery-drivers-detailed-guidance-for-working-amid-coronavirus/ Considering the recent surge in orders and Amazon increasing the hourly rate for Flex drivers, not only will there be an increase in the number of Amazon workers hurt at work and left in the cold from car crashes, but there will probably be a surge in the number of workers who fall ill with Covid-19 who are easily and rapidly replaced by Amazon. In fact, the way that Amzaon treats its workers is very close to treating them like robots. It is expected that Amazon will proceed this way until they can replace their drivers with automated vehicles and drones. Despite what Amazon’s lawyers say, Flex drivers are covered under Illinois Workers’ Compensation law.

The outbreak of the COVID-19 virus has left us all in unprecedented and uncertain times. On March 20, Governor J.B. Pritzker issued a statewide “shelter-in-place” order which requires all non-essential businesses to close and all non-essential employees to stay home. However, employees in many of the “essential businesses” are exempt from that order including nurses, hospital employees and first responders. Unfortunately, such medical professionals are the ones most at risk of contracting the virus while they continue to work and treat those suffering from COVID-19. Understandably, those individuals must have questions and concerns about what happens if they contract the virus through their work.

Under the Illinois Workers Compensation and Occupational Disease Acts, employees who suffer from an accident/injury or illness which “arises out of” and “in the course of” their employment are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. Contracting conditions, such as COVID-19, while performing your nursing/medical duties satisfies those requirements and should entitle nurses and medical professionals to the benefits under the law. These benefits include full payment of your medical bills, weekly workers’ compensation pay equal to 2/3 of your weekly pay and potentially a permanency recovery. There is a 3 day waiting period before receiving the weekly pay but if you are off 14 or more days the waiting period is waived and you are entitled to workers’ compensation pay from day one. You must establish, more likely than not, that you contracted the condition from work as opposed to at home (or some other location outside of work). Your entitlement to benefits is determined on a case-by-case basis. However, employees in the medical field such as nurses, medical professionals, as well as first responders who, by the very nature of their employment, are at a higher risk of exposure than the general public should still complete an accident report/incident if they develop symptomology and seek treatment. Obtaining the necessary paperwork with the diagnosis, work ability and treatment plan is important.

The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Laws were enacted to protect employees, such as nurses, medical professionals and first responders, who are trained and employed to protect society. These laws not only apply to you, but are necessary for you to utilize in order to get you back healthy and able so you can continue to help others. We need these workers’ compensation laws now more than ever during these uncertain times.

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Looking down and over racks of products stored in boxes in a distribution warehouse.

Meanwhile, Amazon is looking to hire some 350,000 new workers to deal with the backlog of orders and has slowed down delivery in the COVID-19 era.

Click here to read the full article from USA TODAY.

Unfortunately, injury-causing or fatal workplace accidents too often involve an employer that cut safety corners to save time, money, or both, or that otherwise ignored its worker safety and health obligations. When that happens, the workers harmed by the accidents that ensue may have their lives forever changed (or ended) by those injuries. The law says that, when that happens, the workers or their families may be entitled to be compensated for the harm that they suffered. Be sure to contact a Chicago work injury attorney about your situation.

Back in May of 2019, an explosion at a specialty chemical plant rocked the city of Waukegan. The explosion was so massive that it was felt throughout much of Lake County. For five families, though, what they suffered was far worse than just feeling an odd rumble beneath their feet. The explosion killed four workers and very seriously injured a fifth.

And, according to an investigation performed by the Chemical Safety Board, it didn’t have to happen. The Chicago Tribune reported that the interim executive of the board declared the accident to be preventable because more complete safety “management systems could have avoided the incident.”

Stop-Payment-Check-300x131We represent flight attendants who are injured on the job. We are familiar with the adjusting companies for United Continental Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Airlines, Southwest Airlines and Jet Blue.

If are you are forced to miss therapy or doctor visits for your work injury due to a self-quarantine for the Corona virus, your Workers’ Compensation benefits should not be stopped or interrupted. If your weekly temporary total disability payments are suspended to due the quarantine, THIS IS WRONG!

Flight attendants who have questions about Illinois Workers’ Compensations benefits and the COVID-19 virus should call us toll free at 800-444-1525. There is no charge for speaking with our attorneys as all initial consultations are free.

The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission announced a suspension of business to limit the effect of the COVID-19 virus. This suspension of operations is in effect until 3/31/2020 when the situation will be re-evaluated. Here is the link to the Commission’s announcement:  ⁣

http://www.iwcc.il.gov/ ⁣

Unfortunately, no hearings nor docket calls will take place during this period.  In order to comply with the order of Governor Pritzker, the law firm will not be traveling to the union halls for interviewing at least through the end of March.  However, your Katz Friedman lawyers are working hard for you and remain available to take telephone calls.  Our office is open with a reduced non-lawyer staff to insure we make progress on each and every case.⁣