Monday, December 7, 2015

Our Rules Are Better

Last Wednesday, California State Senator Tony Mendoza, D-Artesia, called an oversight hearing of the Senate Committee on Labor and Industrial Relations to gather more information on why claims frequency and severity is so much higher in the Los Angeles region.

There are many studies confirming that the LA region reflects disproportionately higher frequency and severity than the rest of the state, ergo much higher workers' compensation insurance premiums for businesses in the Greater Los Angeles area.

The theories abound.
The LA Basin from 5,500 feet.

The area has more thieves, crooks and fraudsters.

We have more lawyers.

There are more unscrupulous doctors.

A greater population and more diversified economy.

Bigger underground economy employing more immigrants that stay quiet about their plights.

Or, perhaps, that there are more Hispanic workers doing the lower level, more dangerous work...

Evidence supports the last theory.

Pew Research Center reports 5.8 million Latinos called Los Angeles or Long Beach home in 2011 and there are 2 million Latinos living in Riverside and San Bernardino, making the Inland Empire alone the fourth-largest Hispanic population in the U.S.

Combined, the Latino population in Los Angeles and the Inland Empire is seven times that of the San Francisco Bay Area or San Diego.

That population gets hurt more often based on Department of Industrial Relations data.

While Latino workers accounted for 59% of private-sector lost-time claims in 2014 and almost half of the fatalities, they represent 36% of the state's labor force, according to a November report by the DIR.

In comparison, according to that report, Whites accounted for 27% of claims requiring days away from work, Asians accounted for 7% and blacks 6%.

In the construction, manufacturing, mining and natural resources industries, Hispanic workers account for about 48% of the workforce but 75% of total injuries. In the trade, transportation, utilities, information services and financial activities sectors, Hispanics account for 46% of the workforce and 52% of reported injuries.

Latinos are also more likely suffer the severest workplace injuries, death. Of the 393 workers killed on the job in California in 2013, 194, or 49% were Hispanic -- 13 percentage points more their share of the state workforce, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Whites accounted for 163 deaths, or 41% of fatalities, blacks 4% and Asians 5%.

Over the last decade, more Hispanics were killed at work in 2013 than any other year except 2006 when there were 231 Latino workers who suffered fatal work injuries. Over the past 10 years, an average of 174 Latinos were killed at work.

The argument, thus, is that because the Hispanic population is overrepresented in the LA area, and that population does more hazardous work, the fact that claims frequency and severity is higher is obvious.

Sort of...

What is missing from that equation are the artifacts that come along with that demographic: (a) social isolation, (b) cultural interference, and (c) informational deficit (influenced by the other two items).

Although recent studies reflect that the Mexican migration pattern is reversing, there are other Latin countries than Mexico in Central and 'South America that immigrate and fulfilling much of the manual labor requirements of the regions.

And those manual labor requirements are diverse: from agriculture to pool maintenance, from housekeeping and nanny services to waiting tables, from construction to landscaping...

Along with that influx are the demographic items listed above (and perhaps others I haven't thought of) which we gentrify as "culture".

Put all that together and one has a very nice stew brewing that feeds a sub-industry of doctors and lawyers that either specialize in taking care of the Hispanic disenfranchised, or simply taking advantage of them (not to mention the employers who perpetuate the underground economy and leave many without adequate safety or remedy).

So while we all want a simple "explanation" for a statistic that we can't make sense of, there isn't any. Perhaps the fact that there are more Latinos in the Greater LA area and they get hurt more often and more severely, but there is also a culture that has developed which supports the entire machine.

The problem isn't that Los Angeles is overrepresented in the workers' compensation statistics.

The problem is that we think it's a problem in the first place.

It may not be. The "problem" may be that we simply have a statistical anomaly that probably doesn't really matter other than the simple fact that there are people getting hurt at work.

"When people come here from across the Pacific or wherever, they either were business owners and want to be business owners here, or they were workers and want to be workers here," Bruce Wick, director of risk management for the California Professional Association of Specialty Contractors told reporter Greg Jones. "They're used to the rules where they came from. Our rules are better. Employers have more obligations and employees have more rights here."

I think Wick pretty much summed up the entire situation quite nicely.

"Our rules are better." That's pretty much it.


  1. I wonder if the Hispanic population has a higher number of deaths or injury rates because they don't all speak or understand English?

  2. Maybe it's the lack of expertise and compassion of the available attorney pool for injured workers?

    Huge case loads and zero interest in anything but easy fast money "cases" can cause complex and dangerous and expensive results.

    Perhaps CAAA can organize satisfaction surveys of injured workers for any cases that are settled within the first 24 months. Apparently those are quite rare also.

    Some providers have suggested a mandatory settlement should coincide with the California 104 weeks of alleged benefits. In other words, rather than dragging a case on for years, if the medical care is inadequate to return an injured worker to the job, settle up and everybody can move on.

    Let's hope for better days ahead for injured Workers in America and beyond. Let's all work together to ensure that we "RESTORE CIVIL RIGHTS AND HUMAN RIGHTS TO INJURED WORKERS NOW" πŸŒΈπŸ™ŠπŸ™‰πŸ™ˆπŸŒΈ