Whistleblower at WSI claims agency retaliated | INFORUM | Fargo, ND

BISMARCK – An employee of North Dakota’s workers’ compensation agency who blew the whistle on suspected wrongdoing is alleging she has suffered retaliation.

Barbara Frohlich filed a grievance with Workforce Safety and Insurance, the state workers’ compensation agency, alleging several instances of retaliation for her “whistle-blowing” actions.

Frohlich, who works as a liaison with medical providers who treat injured workers, filed an affidavit outlining the deletion of the record and what she portrayed as efforts by managers to whitewash the suspected crime.

She first made her allegations by filing an internal “fraud hotline” complaint last August and was frustrated by what she regarded as a response that sought to minimize or cover up improprieties, rather than resolve problems.

Ultimately, in April, she submitted a sworn statement detailing her allegations to criminal investigators. The results of that investigation have not yet been disclosed.

The purported retaliation, Frohlich said, included remarks from her supervisor made in a “curt and accusatory” tone, despite assurances from supervisors, including Bryan Klipfel, WSI’s director.

“I was assured on multiple occasions there would be no retaliation against me for filing the report,” Frohlich said in her grievance statement, which was filed Friday.

After repeated performance reviews that were glowing, Frohlich said her latest evaluation was more critical, though the reasons for her lower scores were not well documented, except for her failure to complete certain safety courses.

“My performance record is an open book,” Frohlich said in an interview Monday. “I’ve received good to excellent performance reviews that entire time,” since she was hired seven years ago.

“There’s no basis or documentation to support it,” she said of the lower evaluation scores in her most recent evaluation, which she received at the end of June.

“The only conclusion I can draw is that of reprisal,” she added.

In her complaint, Frohlich said she understood another employee was considering filing a retaliation grievance, but she did not name the employee.

Klipfel said he has not yet been able to review Frohlich’s grievance, and therefore could not offer a comment Monday. Policy allows up to five working days to review a grievance.

“We will review the material submitted by Barb, gather additional information and conduct an investigation according to our process,” he said in a statement.

If deemed necessary, an investigation must be completed within 30 days of the complaint. If no investigation is deemed necessary, a decision is due in 15 days.

Frohlich said her supervisor pointedly asked her what she was talking about with WSI’s medical director, Dr. Luis Vilella, following news reports that appeared in The Forum in February about her allegations involving the deleted record and a report that Vilella had twice been pressured to alter his medical reviews.

After the altercation, Klipfel wrote Frohlich to inform her that her supervisor, Thomas Solberg, director of medical services, had received a formal warning for his conduct and said the agency does not condone the behavior that she had described.

The deleted record at the center of Frohlich’s complaint involved an injured worker’s claim for mental health symptoms suffered from a workplace injury.

The worker has since said the record would have been helpful in challenging denial of certain benefits for ongoing problems associated with his injury.

via Whistleblower at WSI claims agency retaliated | INFORUM | Fargo, ND.

Report Card: Best, Worst States for Workers’ Compensation

Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Utah and Virginia do the best job handling workers’ compensation injuries, while Louisiana, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Texas and Wyoming perform the worst.

That’s according to the latest report card from the California-based Work Loss Data Institute (WLDI). The report, 2009 State Report Cards for Workers’ Comp, is meant to help employers, insurers, third party administrators, state governments and consultants answer, “Who is doing well and why?”

WLDI’s State Report Cards are based on data from OSHA that covers recordable injuries and illnesses. The 2009 release adds four more years worth of data (2003-2006), which makes for a total of seven years of data since it includes statistics collected in the last publication, which was released in 2004.

With seven years worth of data, WLDI was able to track trends and not only give states a grade based on most current performance, but also to give them a tier ranking” based on how they performed on average over the seven years, and whether they have an upward, downward or stable trend. There is data available for 43 states, plus Puerto Rico, Guam and the Virgin Islands.

Similar to past reports, the 2009 State Report Cards compare states on five different outcome measures for each year: incidence rates; cases missing work; median disability durations; delayed recovery rate; and key conditions: low back strain.

Iowa performed the best of all the states for 2006 and Minnesota came in a close second. Both states received a grade of “A+” based on an average of their 2006 scores in the five categories above.

Illinois came in last, with Wyoming, Rhode Island and New York very close to the bottom. In total, nine of the 43 states received a grade of “F” in 2006. WLDI prepared a summary of each grade for all states.

In terms of the tier ranking system, the Tier I states are Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Utah and Virginia. Tier I means that the state had an average grade of “B+” or better, and a trend going up or level. Those five states were doing great and continuing to improve.

Eight states fell into the opposite category (Tier VI), which means they had an average grade of “D-” or worse, and a trend going down or level. The worst performers for the years 2000-2006 were: Illinois, Louisiana, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Texas and Wyoming. The report includes a summary of tier rankings for all states.

The full report is available for purchase from WLDI in both electronic and hardcopy formats

Work Loss Data Institute is an independent database development company focused on workplace health and productivity based in Encinitas, California.

via Report Card: Best, Worst States for Workers’ Compensation.

Check’s in the mail on workers’ comp reform – Peoria, IL – pjstar.com

SPRINGFIELD —

There’s little evidence yet showing workers’ compensation reforms passed by state lawmakers in 2011 have sharply reduced costs for businesses that say those expenses make it hard to stay in Illinois.

A spokeswoman for the state’s Workers’ Compensation Commission and an official at a leading Illinois business group say the reform efforts must be given time to work. But at least one Peoria-area business has not seen much in the way of an impact so far from the reforms.

Meanwhile, Indiana still cites workers’ comp costs as a part of its recruitment efforts.

“It’s not just the (higher income) taxes” passed by Illinois lawmakers last year, said Indiana Commerce Secretary Dan Hasler. “Look at the differences in workman’s comp that people have to pay in Illinois vs. Indiana.”

Before the reforms went into effect, Illinois ranked third in the nation in workers’ compensation rates, according to a 2010 study by the Oregon Department of Business and Consumer Services. Bordering Indiana ranked 50th, Iowa ranked 36th, Missouri ranked 33rd, Michigan ranked 23rd, Wisconsin ranked 19th, and Kentucky ranked 15th out of 50 states and the District of Columbia.

When the reforms passed last year, policymakers predicted they would save Illinois businesses $500 million to $700 million a year. But the state is unable to put a dollar figure on what the savings has been so far.

The legislation made several major changes that are already in effect:

►It called for the hiring of new arbitrators who are licensed attorneys to decide workers’ comp cases. Those have been appointed by Gov. Pat Quinn and confirmed by the Senate.

►New staff have been hired at the commission to focus on efficiency, preventing fraud and internal audits.

►Medical fee schedules have been slashed by 30 percent, and wage differential awards have been capped. Under current law, if an employee’s earnings are reduced because of an injury, they’re entitled to receive two-thirds of the difference between their new wages and old ones. The new law ends that provision five years after the employee receives the award or at age 67, whichever comes last.

Two other changes — establishing a preferred-provider organization program for workers’ comp claims and upgrading computer systems at state agencies to make fraud detection easier — are in progress.

A year ago, policymakers predicted that cutting the medical fee schedule would result in most of the savings for employers. But now, the Quinn administration said the PPOs will do the most to cut costs for employers.  read more…

via Check’s in the mail on workers’ comp reform – Peoria, IL – pjstar.com.