Data encryption, national security, and corporate America intersected this week as federal investigators secured a court order compelling Apple, Inc. to help unlock an iPhone recovered in the investigation of December's mass shooting in San Bernardino, California. While the technology sector has demonstrated a range of support of Apple's decision to resist the FBI, pressure is mounting from the Executive Branch and the White House for the technology giant to comply with the government's request in this case.
Encryption (and de-encryption) legislation could be on its way. Representative Adam Schiff, a ranking member of the U.S. House of Representatives' Intelligence Committee, indicated this week that the complex issues raised by the Apple case, combined with the growing number of strongly encrypted devices in the marketplace, will ultimately need to be resolved in partnership among the Congress, the administration, and industry.
As for this case, Apple intends to resist and challenge the order all the way to the Supreme Court if necessary. The Apple case, and the precedent it might set, is very complicated -- even for Harvard University scholars. We've got our peripheral vision engaged on this one, as all three branches of the federal government are actively involved in this high-profile issue.
State legislatures renewed the specific question of whether an employer can be held financially responsible for the cost of legal medical marijuana sought by injured workers. We might have to wait a bit longer for a definitive answer. In New Mexico, a state where courts have ordered employers to pay for medical marijuana in workers' compensation claims, H.B. 195 would have reversed these rulings and expressly excluded reimbursement for medical marijuana. The bill never passed out of the Senate. With the regular session of the New Mexico legislature closing this week, the bill is likely dead. In Kansas,H.B. 2691 would expressly require employers to purchase medical marijuana, if appropriately recommended by an injured worker's physician. This bill is pending in the Kansas House, but is not currently moving.
UNDER THE INFLUENCE
On the other hand, state legislatures were willing to pass legislation to address the management of claims where improper drug use is involved. The New Mexico Legislature passed S.B. 214, which would allow a judge to reduce an injured worker's compensation benefits down to 10% of his claim if intoxication contributed to the accident. This bill is awaiting signature by Governor Susana Martinez, and if signed, would become effective on May 18th. In Wisconsin, the legislature unanimously passedagreed bill A.B. 724that would bar all indemnity and death benefits if a worker’s violation of an employer's drug and alcohol policy caused his work injury. The agreed bill is on Governor Scott Walker's desk, and would become effective upon his signature.
MAKING OUR WAY AROUND THE COUNTRY
Let's stay with the Wisconsin agreed bill a bit longer. If Governor Walker signs it into law, then other changes to the workers' compensation system will be on their way to America's Dairyland. Key provisions of the agreed bill prohibit temporary disability payments when the employee was terminated for misconduct, allow for apportionment of permanent injuries to non-related causes, and raise maximum weekly benefits by $40. We're keeping watch.
Missouri remains the only state that does not impose some form of a prescription drug monitoring program (PDMP). Seemingly on par with the state's "Show Me" slogan, support for PDMP legislation (H.B. 1892) in Jefferson City appears to be waning this session, as lawmakers have not seen enough to trust the bill's potential for effectiveness.
Lawmakers in Concord have introduced legislation aimed to protect employees of who are hired through staffing or temporary labor companies. Senate Bill 407 would require staffing companies to supply temporary workers with comprehensive information about the nature of the expected work, the host site's safety programs, and notification of specific work hazards on site. The relative responsibilities of staffing companies, and the employers using those services, remain a burgeoning issue at the state and federal level.
As the Department of Labor continues to develop its policy and guidance on work-related travel and the Zika virus, high-profile employees from all over the North America are traveling south this week for long awaited work hardening and return-to-work programs. Let's Go Mets!
Thank you for your readership. We greatly appreciate your feedback and support of The Way. We have begun work on several mid-session legislative updates, including our comprehensive CloakroomReport, which we will be discussing at the RIMS Annual Conference in San Diego, April 10-13. If you are planning to attend the conference, please send a line to Greg McKenna or Cari Miller. Let’s get together.
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