Democrats & Liberals

Workers' Compensation in the Wake of COVID-19

Posted by Magnolia on June 24, 2020 at 4:00 PM

As cities and companies begin to reopen, people will return to work. When they do, they fully anticipate that they will return to their families at the end of the day, safe and sound. This is often an unspoken agreement between employee and employer because everyone should be provided with a safe environment to do our jobs to benefit ourselves and the economy. If the unfortunate does occur and you're injured or fall ill, there are safeguards in place, and one of the most important is worker's compensation.

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Sustainability & Adapting to a Post-COVID-19 Economy

Posted by Magnolia on June 9, 2020 at 4:40 PM

Consumerism negatively impacts the environment but also the lives of many. Household debt rose to $601 billion in 2019, the highest in 12 years. The COVID-19 pandemic may have had a positive side to it; as people sheltered at home, many learned how to go without many of their perceived necessities and items they used to spend money on.

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Recognizing Abuse and Moving Forward with Divorce: What You Need to Know

Posted by jhamilton on June 8, 2020 at 4:20 PM


Image Source: Pexels

Millions of Americans each year find themselves in a dangerous marital relationship in which they are being abused -- physically, sexually, psychologically, or even financially -- by their spouse. Women, especially women of color, find themselves at higher risk, but abuse can affect anyone in a relationship.

Luckily, rights are guaranteed across the nation when filing for divorce and protecting your belongings in the course of leaving a toxic marriage. Anyone can begin the process of starting a life free from abuse, though every situation will have its own unique challenges.

The first step toward the freedom of divorce is recognizing the abuse. Then, understanding your rights can create a path towards the comfort and security of a home that is truly yours again, a home free of violence and nightmares.

Recognizing Domestic Abuse - and How to Leave

Domestic abuse is one of the many problems disproportionately affecting women around the world. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, 4 out of 5 victims of domestic abuse between 1993 and 2010 were women. Across the nation, an average of 20 people per minute experience physical intimate partner violence (IPV).

But IPV isn't just physical.

Intimate partner violence can take many forms, primarily physical, sexual, or psychological. Each of these forms of abuse cause harm in either a single episode or a recurring pattern of behavior. And while it may be easier to see the signs of physical abuse in a relationship, it's often not as easy for those experiencing sexual or psychological abuse to recognize the abuse for what it is.

Recognizing Sexual Abuse

Sexual abuse occurs whenever one is forced or coerced by a partner to engage in any activities involving physical intimacy. No one in any relationship is obligated to perform sexual acts, and no one should ever be made to feel like they have to. Signs of sexual abuse can include a partner forcing sexual behaviors or dress, assuming consent, or refusing the use of birth control.

No one should have to experience sexual violence, especially from a partner. If you or a loved one has suffered sexual assault, you can call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800-656-4673 or chat online for help and support.

Recognizing Emotional and Psychological Abuse

Psychological abuse happens when an intimate partner purposefully controls or hurts you emotionally. This can take the form of outright insults and humiliation or more controlling behavior like demanding to know where a partner is, who they are with, and what they are doing at all times.

Psychological abuse is often marked by jealous, controlling behavior and a quick temper. If a spouse is actively discouraging you from seeing friends and family or from fulfilling your obligations to your work, school, or even hobbies, it may be time to examine the relationship and seek help.

How to Leave an Abusive Marriage

Leaving an abusive marriage can be a terrifyingly daunting experience. The number of factors from finances to physical safety can make leaving a difficult task, but luckily there are plenty of organizations ready and able to help.

For immediate assistance in a domestic abuse situation, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or you can use their online chat if you aren't in a place where you can speak out loud. You can also speak with your healthcare provider for more helpful resources, or follow an online guide for prevention and intervention.

Understanding Property Rights in a Divorce

While specific divorce laws vary by state, the way property is split between parties falls into one of two categories: community property or equitable distribution. The state you live in determines which of these will guide the division of your resources.

A state with community property laws views property owned by a married couple as either belonging jointly to the couple or to one spouse specifically. Which items quality as marital property depends on the items and when they were acquired. The biggest determiner in whether property will be considered marital vs. non-marital is the time frame in which it was purchased. Everything from cars to clothes to pets can qualify. Even debt accumulated during the marriage becomes marital property.

In states with equitable distribution laws, property is divided based on what the court determines as fair. For example, the financial contributions of one spouse may entitle them to certain property while the other spouse receives the remainder.

In the case of homes, every situation differs, but most often homes are sold since it becomes difficult for one person to afford to maintain it on their own. Whether or not you can stay in your home will depend on whether it was purchased in one spouse's name alone and how long ago that occurred before the marriage. The length of the marriage also has an effect on a claim to a home.

Making Your Home Yours

After a divorce has been settled and the property is split, it's time to make a safe and
comfortable home. Whether you are getting your old home ready to sell or redecorating it and maintaining it on your own, it is important to move on from the hard memories kept in the old space.

Thorough cleaning is a great starting point at this stage. Any home can begin to feel like new by scrubbing the walls and floors, dusting, repainting, and cleaning a rotten drain. Memory is triggered by an olfactory sense so something resembling a fresh start can be made with simply a fresh, clean home environment.

Then comes what can be the hardest and the best part of divorce: moving on.

Why America Needs A Bigger Focus On Identity Theft

Posted by jhamilton on May 26, 2020 at 12:57 PM


Image Source: Pexels

Digital technology has expanded into every aspect of our lives. People wear smart tech such as watches for fitness and health as well as jewelry that can track their location. Refrigerators and kitchen appliances are connected to home networks, and virtual assistants like Alexa, Siri, and Google Voice are always listening and ready for commands and requests. What happens to all the information these devices collect?

The growing dependence on the internet and online connectivity exposes users and their sensitive data to cyberthieves and criminals. It's a growing problem -- the Federal Trade Commission reported 3.2 million fraud complaints in 2019 with identity theft being the top complaint. Although online fraud is growing, there are steps you can take to safeguard your identity and to avoid becoming another statistic.

Limit Your Online Sharing

There are times when you can't control the use of your personal data, such as what websites harvest from your visits, or the IRS selling your tax return data, but there's the information you can limit and control.

The amount of personal data we freely provide online can be eye-opening. Sharing photos of your partner or kids on Facebook and tagging their names may be publicly seen by strangers. Providing your date of birth so loved ones can remember to wish you a Happy Birthday can be collected by cyberthieves. Posting photos from your tropical vacation sends criminals the message that you're away from home, making your house the perfect burglary target.

You don't have to delete your social media accounts to control your personal data. Social networks have privacy settings that allow you to lock down your accounts so you can choose who views your information. You can also eliminate some of the more sensitive information you provided online, such as your full name, city or location, or your family member's full names and ages.

Once you take measures to limit who has access to what you post, be more thoughtful of what you share, even with trusted friends and family. If their accounts are hacked, the hacker can view your activity by impersonating them.

Protect Your Medical Data

Medical insurance identity theft is a serious problem. Obamacare is dismantled, leaving many uninsured and wondering if there will be an alternative. Having good insurance can make you a target for identity thieves.

According to CNET, 1.4 million people are victims of medical theft. Thieves will use a victim's identity or medical insurance information to get medical treatment. The victim is then responsible for the bills, and the cost of those bills is astounding. The victim ends up paying an average of $20,000 in fraudulent medical bills to avoid going into collections. In addition, they are in danger of having their health insurance canceled.

You can protect yourself by being more selective with what information you provide your doctor or medical clinic. If you have to provide information to your insurer or hospital, do it over the phone or in person. Sensitive information shouldn't be emailed to protect the data from being stolen.

A thief needs more than your health insurance card details to get care in your name. They would need other data that identifies you such as your date of birth, home address, or Social Security number. Be careful who you provide your personal details to, and if you lose your health insurance card, contact your insurance provider immediately so they can issue a replacement card with a new account number.

Be Wary of Mail Fraud

There are plenty of risks to your information being stolen online, but even non-Internet activities are risky. One of the most common ways criminals can steal your identity is by taking your mail. They may be able to find bank account numbers on your personal checks and your Social Security number on statements.

Scammers may even offer to hire you for a postal job as a way of accessing information. They'll ask you to fill out the standard employment forms such as a W-4 that contains your date of birth and Social Security number. In addition, they may ask for you to fill out a direct deposit form so they can steal your bank account information.

Avoid post office job postings that don't come directly from the official website or the local branch. As for your mail, invest in a locking mailbox or forward your mail to a P.O. box to make it harder for thieves to steal your mail. In addition, don't leave bills that contain checks inside your mailbox for your carrier to take. Anyone can walk by and steal the bill, getting access to the check inside.

Vigilance Is Key

Corporations are far from transparent on how they are using the data they're collecting or what safety measures they've taken to protect your information from a data breach. You may not find out until it's too late. Take matters into your own hands to safeguard your personal information and keep it from being used by thieves and criminals.

Your personal data and the data of your loved ones including names, birth dates, Social Security numbers, home addresses, and financial account information should be guarded closely. Question if disclosing the information is necessary, and what risk you can be exposed to if you do. Making it difficult to access your information will reduce your chances of identity theft

COVID-19 and the Danger of Substance Abuse Relapse

Posted by Magnolia on May 13, 2020 at 5:03 PM

By now, we're certainly all aware of the havoc that the Covid-19 pandemic is wreaking across the globe. It's hard to believe that there is anyone who hasn't been impacted in some way or another. From the shutdown of many major countries and the rising unemployment rates to the economic fallout and the actual disease itself, our world will never be the same.

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A Whole New World: What Will a Post-Coronavirus World Look Like

Posted by jhamilton on May 7, 2020 at 12:52 PM


Image Source: Pixabay

Sometimes, it seems incredible that we have been living under lockdown for only a few weeks. At other times, a post-pandemic world feels utterly unthinkable.

Like it or not, our world has changed. And it's not changing back anytime soon. If, in fact, it ever does. But what might we expect in this "new abnormal" of our post-pandemic world? How might we learn to live after, and with, the coronavirus?

A Brave New World of Medicine

Probably the most obvious and most significant impact is on the healthcare industry itself. Perhaps never before has the life-saving, self-sacrificing work of our healthcare providers been more widely recognized or appreciated.

But COVID-19 is taking a disproportionate toll on America's best and brightest, ravaging both their physical and their mental health. Those who survive the pandemic may not have the emotional or physical strength to remain in the healthcare industry long thereafter, and this could be devastating for an industry already burdened by labor shortages.

With the aging population, though, the demand for healthcare will only continue to increase. This means that baby boomers may have to turn to other medical care providers, such as family nurse practitioners (FNP), to fill the void.

At the same time that the pandemic is taking its toll on healthcare providers, it's also creating a more informed public, a public better able to identify and reject misinformation and those who dispense it.

And this increasing political and health literacy is not only going to help people make better decisions, it's also going to provide much-needed relief for a financially struggling healthcare system. In fact, according to recent estimates, improving public health literacy can save billions of dollars in healthcare costs each year!

The Letter of the Law

We're not only going to be entering our post-pandemic lives with greater health savvy, but we're also going to be much more informed about our legal rights as well. When our country went into lockdown, and now as we figure out how to restart our world again, we're all turning into amateur Constitutional scholars.

COVID-19 is challenging and redefining legal rights and interpretations across virtually every aspect of our lives, from our businesses and our workplaces to our homes and families. For instance, workers are now reconsidering what their employment rights are in the face of COVID, including questions of whether they can be legally compelled to shutter their businesses to stem the spread or, alternatively, return to work even if they don't feel safe in doing so.

Likewise, as millions of people face unemployment, determining and enforcing the rights of homeowners, renters, and landlords become increasingly challenging. Legally and morally, for instance, how do you turn someone out of their home for non-payment when there's a pandemic raging and no work to be found?

Working Wonders

The speed with which the national lockdowns were implemented meant that employers and employees alike had to hustle to redefine the way they understand, and the way they do, work. In the scramble to preserve and protect their livelihoods, workers had to learn how to transform office work into telework.

And, for many, the project was a success. So much so, in fact, many workers and employers may be reluctant to go back, especially for companies interested in practicing sustainability. After all, allowing staff to work from home is going to cut down on the number of commuters on the road, reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Plus, with fewer workers in the office, employers are going to be able to cut their office's energy demands and reduce the pressure on the infrastructure overall.

But, of course, for every medicine, there's a little bit of poison, and the poison pill of remote work may well be the danger of burnout. If the "always-on" mentality is the hallmark of the contemporary working world, how much more will that pressure be felt when you're quite literally bringing your work home?

The World Goes Virtual

As frightening as this pandemic has been, it's not likely that we're going to be able to emerge from the shadow of fear very quickly. A lot of people are probably going to feel reluctant, if not downright opposed, to congregating in large crowds, at least for the foreseeable future.

That means that we're probably going to be doing a lot more of our entertaining, or socializing, and perhaps even our traveling, remotely. And that's going to open up unexpected opportunities for creativity and innovation, both in the worlds of business and in the worlds of art and entertainment, from digital events to the flourishing of esports.

The Takeaway

Right now, the pandemic feels like it's consuming our entire world. But there will be a new dawn. Life, though, is probably not going to look like anything we knew or relied upon before COVID-19 carved out a new global reality. In our post-pandemic world, the medical industry will need time to recover and reconstruct itself, even as it embraces a more informed and empowered public. In this new abnormal, many of us will find ourselves contemplating, even powerfully engaged in, legal questions and challenges we might never have imagined applying to us. We will also learn to redefine and re-experience the nature of work, especially for businesses invested in sustainability. Finally, we will discover new possibilities for virtual experiences, whether for work, for entertainment, or for creative exploration.

Job Hunting in the Wake of COVID-19

Posted by Magnolia on April 29, 2020 at 2:10 PM

In this newly-remote world of the coronavirus pandemic, job hunting has taken on a whole new set of challenges. With nationwide closures forcing many non-essential businesses to temporarily close up shop, while other essential businesses are quickly becoming overwhelmed, trying to navigate the business world has become a bit more complicated.

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Why We Need Safer Sports

Posted by jhamilton on April 22, 2020 at 11:25 AM


Image Credit: Unsplash

Depending on who you ask, the love of sports is one of the defining tenets of what it means to be an American. While sports are, for the most part, an exhilarating experience that can teach young and old alike about working together and adhering to a set of rules, the simple fact is that sports in the United States are wildly dangerous and each and every time we let our children onto the field we are putting them at risk of injury. Though safety has come a long way when it comes to contact sports, there is still much work to do when it comes to protecting current and future players.

Contact Sports Are Inherently Dangerous

The idea of the most violent, dangerous sports often conjures up images of MMA, boxing, rugby, and football. However, it is important to realize that any sport that incorporates contact or even presents the opportunity for contact can be incredibly dangerous. Soccer, basketball, and lacrosse, while having a generally low rate of injuries, still pose dangers to those playing them from collisions, falls, or any number of other factors that can't be predicted.

Yes, some sports are going to be more dangerous than others simply due to the nature of the game. Looking at hockey, there is no wonder that there is a huge record of serious injuries considering the fact that contact and fighting are encouraged all while skating around on sharpened metal blades. Football, a game dependent on tackling at full force, consistently results in concussions that can lead to serious health issues down the road like CTE as well as increased risk of Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, not to mention the horrific injuries that can occur to players' extremities. Joe Theismann's leg break, anyone?

While we shouldn't try to dictate what sports people can participate in, we should certainly take the time to inform and educate everyone on how dangerous sports can really be. Adults can make informed decisions on their own, but America's youth simply cannot fathom how dangerous sports can be or how a serious injury in their youth can impact them throughout their entire lives.

There is Far Too Little Regulation

The simple truth of the matter is that without appropriate regulation, professional sports would result in far more injuries than they currently have today. New rules and regulations in sports aren't put in place to anger fans, but to ensure that they can continue to enjoy the sport for years to come as they protect those that play.

Those on both sides of the aisle are prone to lament the politicization of sports, whether over Colin Kaepernick's peaceful protesting or Tommie Smith and John Carlos' black power salute at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics. The arguments against these acts revolve around the so-called "soul" of sportsmanship, but an issue that is far more pressing than deriding the peaceful protest of police brutality is the fact that players of contact sports are suffering from preventable injuries that severely affect their lives for years after they are injured.

No one wants to stop athletes from doing what they love, but it is imperative that more regulations be put in place to protect both professional athletes and youth athletes from injury. The spirit of sports won't be diminished from implementing new rules and regulations designed to protect players and will still be a great way for people to learn about leadership and teamwork, but in a safer manner than currently exists.

We Must Set A Precedent For Future Generations

For many of America's kids, sports are not just a fun activity or an escape from everyday life but act as a ticket out of potentially poor socio-economic situations. Sports stars are idolized by adults and youths alike, and it is important that these athletes not only stay healthy but also to champion regulations that increase safety in all levels of sports. Like it or not, professional athletes are public figures and hold a huge amount of sway, so their actions and positions are taken very seriously among fans.

This is why it is so important that athletes today try to lead by example for future generations. Player behavior both on and off the field is likely to be emulated, and it is vital that athletes be held accountable for their behavior and encouraged to help change their sport for the better. While professional sports organizations might fight against new safety measures out of fear of declining attendance or viewership, it is the players that really hold the keys to the kingdom when it comes to setting an example for what sports can and should be about.

Safety in sports is necessary for their continued existence. If contact sports like football continue to refuse to address safety issues, fewer families will be inclined to let their kids play and risk traumatic injury. This is the true battle for the soul of sports, because if there is no one left to play and enjoy them, then what is the point?

Safety and regulation in sports is a contentious issue, but one that must be addressed. It doesn't matter if someone feels as though increased safety rules ruin the game for them because it isn't about their individual enjoyment, but about the longevity of players and even the sports themselves.

Stable Jobs for Unstable Times

Posted by Magnolia on April 9, 2020 at 1:57 PM

The coronavirus crisis has already resulted in the loss of millions of jobs globally, and with no clear end in sight, Americans are rightfully concerned about their futures. This pandemic has exposed many holes in American society, and with access to healthcare tied to employment, the issue isn't just economic in nature but a matter of public health. While the nation faces an unspoken hiring freeze over the next few months, it is important to consider employment options that may be available once things have settled down.

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How the FDA Regulates in Comparison to the World

Posted by jhamilton on March 30, 2020 at 12:54 PM


Image Source: Unsplash

The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has a massive amount of responsibility. The organization is in charge of regulating everything from medications to fresh food, tobacco products, and cosmetics, and as of March 2020, the FDA has its hands full thanks to COVID-19 (commonly known as coronavirus).

The virus has quickly enveloped the world, and ordinary citizens are scrambling to access both emergency provisions and information. The FDA has taken on much of the responsibility of helping to control the spread of COVID-19 in the U.S. On February 29, for example, the FDA issued a new policy for diagnostics testing related to public health emergencies. The organization continues to monitor the spread of coronavirus in addition to its everyday responsibilities.

For now, the hysteria surrounding COVID-19 has eclipsed the majority of questions related to how the FDA operates. However, consumer concerns remain relevant, especially regarding the safety of the national food supply and medication efficacy. Some critics have even referred to the FDA's food safety efforts as "ineffective" and "inadequate," noting that FDA standards differ considerably from regulatory bodies in Europe and elsewhere. In the wake of the worldwide COVID-19 epidemic, how does the FDA stand up?

Health and Medication Concerns

Every medication or medical device intended to treat or cure an illness, disease, or chronic health condition must be reviewed by the FDA prior to sale. The FDA will then affix an appropriate label on the medication or medical device, such as "FDA cleared" or "FDA approved." The process is known as pre-market approval, or PMA, and it is a rigorous endeavor.

During the PMA process, FDA officials attempt to confirm that the benefits of a medication or treatment method are greater than the potential risks. These risks include possible side effects. The FDA gathers information from relevant scientific studies and trials in order to determine a product's safety and effectiveness. According to Medical News Today, a negligible 1% of products pass the PMA process.

It's important to note that vitamins and supplements are not reviewed by the FDA; thus, those manufacturers cannot claim that their products effectively treat a particular health condition or symptoms. The bulk of prescription medications, however, are subject to the PMA process.

Even if FDA approved, manufacturers must disclose potential side effects. For example, the FDA has approved Truvada as a treatment for HIV infection, but notes that serious side effects of the drug may include bone loss, lactic acidosis, and kidney problems. In the case of Truvada, the FDA has clearly determined that its benefits trump the potential risks.

The FDA's Role in Food Safety

Along with medication efficacy and safety, ensuring the safety of what we eat represents another crucial job for the FDA, but FDA standards may not be up to par when compared to the rest of the developed world. Notably, the oxidizing agent potassium bromate is considered a cancer risk by Canadian, Brazilian, and EU governments who have all banned its use in food products.

The FDA, however, has made no such move, and potassium bromate remains a common ingredient in a wide variety of foods despite its carcinogenic properties. That's just a single example of how the FDA tends to turn a blind eye when it comes to food-related hazards.

Few can deny that Americans are a rather unhealthy bunch with approximately 160 million men and women considered obese or overweight. Then there's the prevalence of foodborne illness to consider. On an annual basis, 48 million Americans contract a food-related illness. Some solutions to this problem are available at the service level such as ensuring that food prep surfaces and equipment are sufficiently sanitized and that food is kept at the proper temperature.

FDA plays a major part in food safety as well, ensuring that food labels are accurate while also overseeing the quality of substances sold as food in the U.S. Today, however, these concerns often take a back burner to more pressing matters in the realm of medications and viruses.

Can the FDA Help Prevent Future Epidemics?

COVID-19 has effectively spread like wildfire, quickly snowballing into a pandemic. Because of this, people across the globe have eagerly pointed judgmental fingers at governmental leaders and organizations. In the U.S., the FDA is an easy scapegoat despite its best efforts to help contain the virus and increase access to respiratory devices and medications.

Controversy and criticism are nothing new to the FDA, which boasts a regulatory history spanning more than a century. The FDA was founded in 1906 and has faced a number of crises over the years as well as made dubious decisions. Unlike many other nations, the FDA has yet to ban asbestos, a natural mineral that boasts a wide variety of applications in the cosmetics, construction, and automotive industry. Like potassium bromate, asbestos is a known carcinogen that can lead to serious health conditions including mesothelioma, an aggressive form of lung cancer. It's unclear why the FDA still allows the widespread use of asbestos.

Despite the organization's shortcomings, at the end of the day, FDA regulations are in place to protect the health of the general public. No matter your opinion on the ability of the FDA to do an effective job, it's important to remember that the organization is often at the forefront of life-or-death situations. Whether the inspection or approval process involves a potentially life-saving drug, questionable food additives, or a new medical device, the FDA has a massive job in working to keep Americans safe and healthy.

The Pull Yourself Up from Your Bootstraps Mentality Needs to Be Replaced with Volunteer Work

Posted by Magnolia on March 11, 2020 at 5:36 PM

If you're down on your luck, then traditional wisdom says you should "pull yourself up by your bootstraps." The image is so prominent that it's even common parlance in business and financing. When uttered today, it's usually a suggestion that you should use what means you have available to turn things around and make your life a success. After all, so many other people did it, why can't everyone?

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Worker's Benefits We Should Be Fighting For

Posted by jhamilton on February 19, 2020 at 5:25 PM


Photo Credit: Unsplash

As the 2020 election cycle goes into full swing, many American workers are faced with the question of who they think will best represent their interests going forward into the new decade. On November 3rd, the office of President of the United States of America, 35 out of the 100 seats of the United States Senate, and all 435 seats in the United States House of Representatives will be contested. Before America heads to the voting booths, we should take a serious look at worker's benefits and rights we should be fighting for and investigate what candidates are the most likely to enact positive change.

Worker's Compensation

Worker's compensation laws are some of the few ways in which corporations are forced to acknowledge that employees are living, breathing people and not simply a commodity or tool that can be discarded after it becomes damaged. The basic idea behind worker's compensation laws is that, if you do happen to become injured performing labor or services for a business entity, they are obligated to provide assistance in your recovery and financial security until you are able to once again enter the workforce.

As far as social insurance programs go, worker's compensation is one of the oldest in the United States and arguably one of its most important safety nets. Unfortunately, worker's compensation laws are decentralized and there are no federal minimum standards set for how a state government runs its worker's compensation programs. This has led to varying levels of benefits and coverage for workers from state to state, and many states have changed worker's compensation programs to provide shorter claims filing windows, making it harder for workers to get their qualified benefits.

Because there is no standard set by the federal government and an individual state can have wildly different rules, it is important to research your state's worker's compensation program. For instance, in Georgia, the term "injury" is actually quite broadly defined and applies not only to injuries sustained in sudden accidents but to some injuries that develop over time gradually. Other states such as Alabama have far worse worker's compensation laws and lower payouts than the relatively generous policies of Georgia, so it is wise to do your homework. Do some digging on which prospective state representative has any policy regarding worker's compensation or its reform and vote accordingly.

Family Leave

Another instance where the lack of any sort of government regulation leads to the exploitation of U.S. workers is in regards to family leave. Americans are some of the most overworked and underpaid workers in any developed country, largely due to the fact that the federal government enables corporations to implement policies that are designed specifically to cut costs regardless of the impact it has on workers. While individual states can implement laws requiring businesses to provide paid family leave, in 2017, only three states had mandated such a law. By this year, five states and Washington, DC, were expected to have paid family leave.

While the federal government does require that businesses across the US offer up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave per the Family Medical Leave Act, there are a number of ways in which a business can skirt this rule or an employee may not even be eligible. Businesses with less than 50 employees are exempt from the FMLA, and employers may even request medical certification from a doctor as long as the information does not fall under ADA or HIPAA protections.

Federal workers recently won a huge battle in regards to paid family leave with the inclusion of the Federal Employee Paid Leave Act into the massive National Defense Authorization Act of 2020. The FEPLA allows for 2.1 million federal workers to take up to 12 weeks paid leave following an adoption, childbirth, or fostering. This is, of course, fantastic news for the millions of federal employees in the US, but there are certainly candidates at both the state and presidential level that would work to ensure paid family leave for all employees.

Health Insurance

Though the passing of the FEPLA is certainly exciting for federal workers, it is somewhat of a pyrrhic victory. The Trump administration, for the third year in a row, has proposed further cuts to federal workers' health benefits as well as to their retirement benefits and pay. The White House estimates that these austerity measures would save the U.S. $5 billion in 2020, which is about half of the amount of the funding that they have secured for Trump's passion project, his "big beautiful wall".

Healthcare reform is a seemingly bipartisan issue, though the establishment of both parties balk at the idea of a public option, citing the idea that it would unfairly compete with private insurance companies. Universal healthcare is actually a massive boon to unionized workers' ability to negotiate for higher pay instead of having the issue of healthcare dominate contract battles. A single-payer system actually gives unions more bargaining power in the long run, despite what you'll hear from the Republican Party and moderate democratic candidates.

Yes, labor unions fought hard for the health insurance benefits that they have, and some unions feel that it would be wrong to undo that hard work by instating universal healthcare. However, it should be noted that with universal healthcare, unions would have the ability to argue for far more favorable wages and working conditions. The benefits of universal healthcare policies and thus the candidates both local and federal that support them far outweigh anything lost as far as worker's rights go.

At the end of the day, all worker's rights are important in the US. People have fought and died for the worker's rights we have today. However, we should not remain complacent and instead look forward to a future that is better for the generations to come after us. This is a wildly important election for the future of worker's rights. Do your research and vote accordingly.

Body and Mind: Sexual Harassment, Workers' Compensation, and Labor Rights: Where Are We Now?

Posted by Magnolia on February 6, 2020 at 2:55 PM

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Image Source: Pixabay

No matter how much we love our homes and families, for many of us, the workplace is where we spend most of our waking hours. It should be a safe place. A place where you do fulfilling work. A place where you build your family's future. But for too many of us, the workplace is not a haven but a terror and a dread.

» Continue reading "Body and Mind: Sexual Harassment, Workers' Compensation, and Labor Rights: Where Are We Now?"...

Tips for U.S. Business Travelers to Japan

Posted by jhamilton on February 5, 2020 at 11:02 AM

Japan and the United States have a unique history. However, the power of commerce binds these two nations together in ways few could have expected fifty years ago.

The business ties between Japan and the U.S. grow stronger by the year. Since 2002, Japanese businesses have created 840,000 jobs for American workers. The numbers are significant: Japanese companies employ more American workers than any other country (with the exception of the UK). It's no surprise then Japan is a popular destination among business travelers. What's more, the Japanese government recently opened up its immigration system to attract more foreign workers.

Traveling to Japan or another foreign destination is not like a trip to Toledo. It requires more preparation to not only learn but begin to understand the cultural norms practiced by Japanese businesses and workers. Learning how to socialize appropriately and getting to grips with how decisions get made will not only help you save face in a country that highly values politeness and honor but will make your trips more productive.

Socialization is as Important as the Boardroom

With today's technology, long-haul business trips are becoming less necessary. The use of tools like cloud-based digital signatures means two parties can securely sign documents remotely. Although the technology's use is widely dominated by North American firms, it is growing substantially in the Asia-Pacific region. Even still, the Japanese consider socialization to be an important part of a business transaction. Tech like cloud-based document management has an increasingly important place. However, the Japanese consider socialization outside the office to be as important as the technology used in the boardroom.

When you travel to Japan, you should be ready to put in extra effort to socialize with no regard for your jetlag. In Japan, it's common for the office to leave work and head to a bar to eat and drink for hours after the official end of the business day. These after-hours chats are important for developing personal relationships with your Japanese counterparts, who value relationships with people they know and trust above all else.

While out on the town, you'll want to avoid chatting about personal and sensitive matters: you won't say much more about your family other than you have one and you should avoid politics or other controversial subjects. Instead, come up with other interesting topics that you can talk about confidently or with some curiosity, including those related to the nature of your work or topics related to sports, Japanese culture and history, and local attractions.

Baseball fans do particularly well as it is a popular sport in Japan, but do also ask about Japan's impressive national rugby team, too!

Learn the Meaning of the Word "No"

There is a common myth that suggests Japanese people in general and business people in particular never say "no." They do. In fact, there are hundreds of ways to say "no" in Japanese. And you'll hear them as the Japanese use them to deny compliments or express modesty.

At the same time, it is uncouth to use the word "no" as directly as you might in German or American culture. Instead, Japanese businesspeople will disguise their "no" as an expression of regret or even as a "maybe."

You are more likely to encounter a direct "no" in an informal situation but almost never in a business meeting. As a result, you need to be able to do as the Japanese do and "read the air." To read the air is to read a social situation, which means keeping an eye on body language and other social cues to understand when what they're saying is "no," even if they don't say it directly.

Remember that it's not only important to understand how your Japanese counterparts say no but also to mirror this in your own behavior. A direct "no" is not possible in polite company, even if it's what you're used to. You'll need to learn to express yourself in a circumspect way.

Close Deals by Embracing the Hierarchy

Of course, U.S. businesses have a sense of hierarchy with management levels and structures for decision making. But it differs from the Japanese hierarchical structure, and if you want to walk away from your trip having accomplished your mission, it's important to understand how the Japanese organize their companies.

The Japanese take a hierarchical approach to authority. It's based on the social ethics of Confucianism, which places people in a vertical, hierarchical relationship. Because the stability of society depends on maintaining these relationships, there are clear boundaries for each level. Those at the top provide instructions, and they appreciate talking to other (at least perceived) decision-makers without your organization. At the same time, decision making in Japan happens by consensus. The leader seeks buy-in from the rest of the team before proceeding.

It's important to reciprocate the Japanese approach to hierarchy and decision-making while in their offices. In a meeting, your most senior team member will sit across from their Japanese counterpart and so on. If you are a junior member of a team and you have an idea, your role is to pass it down the line to a senior member of the team to presentation rather than try to negotiate as an equal.

Getting to know these structures will also be important during the social after-work settings outlined above. You won't discuss business strategy or close deals at the bar or over dinner. These are settings for relationship building only. Your understanding of hierarchy needs to inform your situational behavior.

Are You Ready for Your First Overseas Assignment?

Working with Japanese businesses is a rewarding experience that offers insight into your own ways of thinking and working. However, the key to making the most of your first overseas business assignment is to do plenty of preparation before you leave -- not just on the plane.

By getting to grips with how the Japanese build relationships, communicate and make decisions, you'll be much better prepared to embrace the unique relationship that Japanese and American businesses enjoy.

Why Are Americans So Unhealthy?

Posted by jhamilton on January 28, 2020 at 12:16 PM

The United States is the world's wealthiest country, but the health of its general population is middling at best. Compared to other high-income countries, Americans live shorter lives and experience higher rates of illness and injury. The difference is so substantial that the National Research Council refers to the discrepancy as a "mortality gap."

Poorer outcomes may come as no surprise to the average American, who struggles to navigate the country's healthcare system. Yet, even wealthy Americans may have worse health compared to their peers in other countries. In other words, even those who can afford access to healthcare in the U.S. are still not enjoying the quality of life found in other wealthy countries.

Why are Americans so unhealthy, and what can be done to help close the gap?

A Lack of Social Programs Means More Americans Get Sick

The ills of the American healthcare system are both many and well-known. Americans spend more on healthcare than any other nation (by far) and yet still see worse health outcomes. While this is a problem, there is even another spending issue potentially at work.

Despite increasing its healthcare spending each year, the U.S. spends substantially less on health-adjacent social programs, like housing, education, food, jobs, and transportation. Instead, the U.S. sinks the vast majority of its money into Medicaid, and it has spent relatively little money on social housing or food access.

There is a wealth of research that demonstrates the ability of social assistance programs to protect public health. What's more, social programs aren't just a policy issue. The medical community (including regulators like the CDC) refer to the areas these programs tackle as the social determinants of health -- essentially, when resources are available to help people overcome potential negative determinants of health, overall population health improves.

Access to Simple Health Tools is Expensive

Let's briefly forget about how much it costs to go to the doctor or the price of prescription medication and return to the core building blocks of health: healthy food and regular exercise. These are the core building blocks of good health outcomes, but it is also a place where the U.S. does poorly compared to other countries.

The high price of healthy food isn't a new trend. It didn't arise with the rapid expansion of Whole Foods, and people have complained about the cost of fresh food for decades now.

It costs money to farm fresh fruit and vegetables, but unlike other countries, the U.S. doesn't subsidize leafy vegetables like it does corn, soy, and wheat. As a result, the cost of vegetable crops gets passed on to the consumer. The subsidized crops (corn, wheat, and soy) are the ones that make up the vast majority of ingredients in inexpensive foods, including junk food.

Americans don't just spend more on fresh food, either. Group exercise classes like pilates can be expensive due to the overall time and energy that goes into curating an effective course and routine, and these expensive classes are dominating fitness opportunities now. Even a barebones Crossfit gym can set members back several hundred dollars each month. At the same time, discount box gyms aren't a one-size-fits-all solution -- one survey even found that 80% of people feel nervous about going to a gym.

The U.S. Funds Care for the Elderly Only

The U.S. provides healthcare funding through the Medicare and Medicaid programs for what are supposed to be the two most vulnerable social groups: the poor and the elderly. However, neither program covers everything, and seniors still spend hundreds of thousands on their healthcare during retirement. Only providing for these two populations so assumes that those who are in full employment and of working age need only preventative care, which isn't true.

Women's healthcare and pregnant women, in particular, are a good example of population groups whose needs aren't fully covered through the current system. Postpartum maternal health is widely neglected both in healthcare research and in coverage, but postpartum recovery is a significant indicator of a woman's future health. Yet, the day women leave the hospital after giving birth is the day they usually fall off the healthcare radar.

The U.S. is the worst developed country for maternal health, not only because other countries provide both prenatal and postpartum care for free but because they provide it at all. And to return to the issue of funding social programs, the U.S. is the only country that doesn't require paid maternity leave, which means many new mothers need to go back to work immediately -- whether or not they are healthy enough to do so.

Public Health Doesn't Begin and End at the Doctor

The U.S.'s expensive and broken healthcare system is only one factor in the lackluster state of American public health. Health is about more than being able to afford to see a specialist -- it includes the total sum of a person's life or the social determinants of health.

Where the U.S. misses out isn't just in affordability, it also fails at supporting public health by ensuring that the population has access to healthy food, housing stability, and clean water. It helps to prioritize healthy foods and exercise by making them affordable. And it recognizes that the elderly aren't the only demographic who need both extra medical and social support.

Until the U.S. takes a holistic view of health, its public will continue to see poorer health outcomes, even with a single-payer or universal program.