Despite bitter partisan divide in Washington, both the House and Senate recently passed H.R. 4445 which will effectively end the forced arbitration of sexual assault and sexual harassment cases. (Read here.)
What does this mean? Many employees may not even be aware that they signed an arbitration agreement when they accepted the offer from their employer. Often these clauses are buried in employment agreements, and employees have no knowledge or understanding of what they even mean. However, employers favor forced arbitration because it keeps them out of court. The effect of forced arbitration clauses is that they close the courthouse doors for many victims of sexual assault or harassment.
When a new client comes to me with a claim of sexual assault or harassment, one of the first things we want to know is whether they signed an arbitration agreement. If a victim is bound by an arbitration agreement, then we can’t file a public lawsuit. Arbitration agreements empower employers to make low ball offers to settle and insist on confidentiality. These agreements effectively take away a victim’s right to go public with the allegations and exposing the perpetrators.
Many defense lawyers are surmising that this will result in a huge increase in the number of lawsuits being filed by victims, and larger settlements because corporations are no longer going to be able to force victims into a confidential arbitration proceeding. The guaranty of confidentiality means less exposure and publicity for perpetrators and the corporations for which they work.
While it remains to be seen whether this will cause an increase in lawsuits, this can certainly be viewed as a win for victims of sexual assault and harassment. The law basically amends the Federal Arbitration Act to make it easier for victims to file suit in State or Federal Court despite having previously agreed to arbitrate those claims. Victims will now have the right to choose to file their claims in court, rather than being forced by their employers to arbitration, thus allowing their claims will be heard by a judge, not an arbitrator.
The effects of the new law go beyond just giving victims their “day in court.” This will now force employers to effectively address sexual assault and harassment in the workplace. Gone are the days of paying off victims and buying their silence with a confidentiality agreement. By shining the light of a public proceeding on a perpetrator, it may prevent them from finding any future victims.
This blog contains discussions of suicide. If you or someone you know may be struggling with suicidal thoughts, please call the suicide prevention hotline at 800.273.8255.
There’s only one place in America where basic healthcare is an undeniable right; that’s prison. Since the incarcerated have no opportunity to seek out healthcare on their own, they rely on the 8th amendment to get the minimum standard of medical care they need. The 8th amendment of the Constitution protects the incarcerated from cruel and unusual punishment, enabling them to receive medical care while behind bars—as being literally locked up without access to medical care is be deemed both cruel and unusual. What’s truly cruel and unusual; however, is the rate at which inmates are dying in Indiana prisons.
Those of you local to Indianapolis may have seen an article in the Indy Star recently highlighting the horrifying statistics related to inmate suicide. Here is what the Indy Star reporters found:
• Since 2010, 125 people have died by suicide in Indiana prisons. That is 42% of all in-prison fatalities, exceeding the national average of 30% and making suicide the leading cause of death.
• 2020 was the worse year for jail suicides in Indiana with 18 total deaths. This is triple the number who died in 2010.
• At least 76% of the suicides occurred in jails that were found by state inspectors to be overcrowded, understaffed, or both—conditions that make it hard to identify and monitor people who might be at risk of suicide.
• 82% of the people were being held pretrial and had not yet had their day in court
• At least 20% of the suicides involved people who jailers should have known, or did know, were suicidal. Some told jailers they had considered suicide or were on suicide watch. Several had even made, and survived, prior attempts to harm themselves in jail. Others were captured on surveillance video making a noose or other preparations.
• More than 40% of the suicides happened within a week of the person being booked into jail. Nearly one in 10 occurred within a person’s first 48 hours behind bars.
• As many as 80% of the roughly 20,000 Hoosiers in Indiana’s county jails are struggling with mental health or substance abuse issues.
Being behind bars is overwhelming. It creates extreme anxiety, stress, and fear with research showing that people in prison are more than twice as likely to die by suicide than a person who is not incarcerated. These facts paint a clear picture. Careful evaluation and close monitoring of those entering prison is critical to inmate safety.
According to the Indy Star, new corrections officers in Indiana are required to attend only 8 hours of state-mandated training specifically focused on suicide and mental health. State law also allows new officers to work as long as a year before receiving that training. Suicidal prisoners are supposed to be checked every 15 minutes. In many facilities, this doesn’t occur and the reasoning is astounding.
Prisons are grossly overcrowded and understaffed leading to inadequate prisoner to staff ratios and a virtual impossibility of meeting the every 15 minute check in rule for inmates at risk for self-harm. Corrections officers are also inadequately trained in the area of mental health. More social workers are needed—licensed mental health professionals that adequately evaluate and recommend the safest course of action in dealing with suicidal inmates. Greater efficiency in prescription medication requests and access to psychiatric care is imperative in adequately treating the mental ill behind bars, a larger staff with access to more video surveillance technology in special padded cells designed to protect the mentally ill and suicidal along with stricter adherence to suicide protocols such as the every 15 minute check in and other state mandated procedures.
If rules are expected to be followed on the outside to avoid landing behind bars, the rules need to be followed on the inside as well. As Lindsay Hayes says, a researcher of suicides in jails and prisons for over 40 years, “preserving life is our moral and legal responsibility. Everyone who dies in our jails could have been our son or daughter, our brother or sister, our loved one, our friend.”
As construction continues on the new Community Justice Campus, the replacement for Indianapolis’ Marion County Jail 1, we at Goodin Abernathy hope that all non-clinical personnel get the training they need to better recognize and react to suicidal and mentally ill inmates. We also hope that those incarcerated get the medical and mental health services they so fervently require.
If you or someone you know may be struggling with suicidal thoughts, please call the suicide prevention hotline at 800.273.8255.
Why You Need to be Represented by the Attorneys of Goodin Abernathy LLP for Farming Accidents in Indiana
The Goodin Abernathy LLP trial attorneys are experienced with helping farm and field workers who suffer serious injuries in farming accidents. As Indiana’s harvest season begins, now is the time to use extra caution working in the fields and driving through the countryside.
The Hoosier State is ranked 10th nationally in total agricultural production and ranked in the top five states for crop production like corn and soybeans. It’s also ranked fifth in the nation for swine production and third for poultry. (https://farmflavor.com/indiana-agriculture/) With this high volume of production, numerous workers and large farm machinery are active daily in the fields of Indiana’s farms. Because of this heavy equipment, agriculture is a hazardous industry. Farmers are at a high risk for fatal and serious farm accident injuries. (https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/aginjury/) These injuries are gruesome and can have long lasting effects. Over the years, Goodin Abernathy LLP’s personal injury attorneys have represented farm hands throughout Indiana, helping them understand the legal system and fighting to make sure they collect the legal benefits or damages they deserve following serious accidents.
Our initial consultations are free. More importantly, since each client’s farming accident experience is unique; Goodin Abernathy LLP does not charge a set contingency fee. Our fees depend on the level of legal work your claim requires. When meeting with us for the first time, no one will pressure you to sign a fee agreement or make any decisions right away. We prefer in-person initial consultations. If time and distance are a barrier for out of state clients, we handle video conferencing and telephone conferences at convenient times, all days of the week.
Goodin Abernathy LLP attorneys handle farming accident cases for injured clients and their families from all across the country. If the accident happened in Indiana, Goodin Abernathy LLP attorneys know the law. We handle state and federal lawsuits and are proficient at holding those responsible accountable for their negligence.
Since fall is when the harvest takes place, more accidents occur during this time of year. Most farm operations own and run their own semi trucks for hauling grain. Thus, more big trucks are driving throughout the countryside on state and country roads increasing possibilities that trucking accidents can occur. Grain trucks, filled full of heavy grain, are harder to stop. They can also enter the road at unmarked points during the day or night. Many do not have the proper, legally mandated, reflectors and lights. Some of these farm vehicles are even left on the side of the road without the proper materials to make them visible to other traffic on the road. Big farm machinery can also hit or run over workers in the field—especially those attempting to load produce.
Machinery accidents only allot for a portion of farming accidents. Here are some of the other accidents the attorneys of Goodin Abernathy LLP have handled:
a dairy farm hand who slipped in cold, frozen mud and fell into a manure pit where he died from toxic fume exposure;
a young teen who was working as a temporary farm hand and put his hand in an auger to dislodge material when the machine started running again and mangled his hand;
silo accidents where young or untrained farm hands get sucked into huge amounts of grain.
Goodin Abernathy LLP attorneys also realize that many of Indiana’s agricultural workers come from out of state or even out of the country. In fact, 73% of America’s farming labor force is comprised of migrant workers.
If you are injured in Indiana, Goodin Abernathy LLP is the firm to represent you. When Goodin Abernathy LLP attorneys take a farming accident case, we grab it hands-on and work to collect the details that accurately describe how and why the accident happened. Our experience handling medical testimony, using top quality experts and showing a jury the anatomy of an injury is just as important as our experience investigating accidents. We have the skills necessary to represent you, and the attorneys of Goodin Abernathy LLP CARE ABOUT OUR CLIENTS.
Goodin Abernathy LLP also offers all of these services, in Spanish, to the Indiana Latino community. Marca aquí por un versíon en Español – Legalmente Hablando Indy.
Indiana law allows farms to cover cases under Indiana Worker’s Compensation law or face a potential negligence claim. Worker’s compensation should provide you with medical, rehabilitation and income benefits if you are injured on the job. These benefits are provided to help injured workers return to work. It also provides benefits to the worker’s dependents if they die as the result of a job-related injury. The attorneys are Goodin Abernathy LLC understand the legal intricacies of farming accidents claims. We care about you and your families and are ready to help you fight for the maximum amount of compensation allowable by law.
Let Goodin Abernathy LLP guide you through your legal claim. We walk beside you through the entire process handling your case with the care and attention you deserve. We want to get to know you, discuss the legal process, provide you the opportunity to ask questions and explain our fee structure. Reach out to Goodin Abernathy LLP and let us show you how we set ourselves apart from other attorneys. Experience the care, wisdom, and experience Goodin Abernathy LLP has to offer by calling 317.843.2606 today for your free consultation.
Jim Browne: Hey, welcome to Goodin Abernathy. I’m attorney Jim Browne. We have a new member to our group, Garrett Lewis. He is a young attorney, and I thought we would spend a little time with him so you get to know who he is and what he can do for you. Come on in, Garrett.
Garrett Lewis: Alright, glad to be here Jim.
Jim Browne: Where are you from, Garrett?
Garrett Lewis: So, I’m actually from the South Bend area. I practiced there for a couple years before moving down here.
Jim Browne: What time of law did you focus on?
Garrett Lewis: We did Real Estate; we did Torts, which is contracts, defamation, things like that; and intellectual property, which is sort of copyrights, trademarks and patents.
Jim Browne: Do you have a typical client that you helped with the intellectual property?
Garrett Lewis: Yea, we dealt with small businesses. We had a few global businesses that we worked with and a lot of individual clients with patents and trademarks.
Jim Browne: What about people with inventions?
Garrett Lewis: All, all the time.
Jim Browne: Awesome.
Garrett Lewis: Yea, some that we knew weren’t going to anywhere right out of the gate and some that were very successful.
Jim Browne: Well, what’s that? I mean is that employment law type of work?/employment-lawyer/discrimination-in-the-workplace/
Garrett Lewis: Yea predominantly. Yep.
Jim Browne: And you are helping clients – individuals with their questions about discrimination? Tell us about that for a second.
Garrett Lewis: Yeah, so it sort of depends – when it comes to the ADA – businesses, for example, have legal obligation to provide reasonable accommodations and….
Jim Browne: so, there are seven core areas – age, race, religion, sexual discrimination, physical disabilities – those are things that you’re focusing on?
Garrett Lewis: Correct
Jim Browne: Great. You’ve already had a jury trial in that area… and what court was it in?
Garrett Lewis: So that was actually in the southern district in the…
Jim Browne: A federal court?
Garrett Lewis: A federal court, yea.
Jim Browne: And that trial, what was it about?
Garrett Lewis: So, that case was about a woman who was working at a grocery store for about 12 years and because of her chronic conditions and disabilities, she needed to be able to use a chair, as necessary.
Jim Browne: And the new employer said “No, you can’t use the chair.”
Garrett Lewis: That’s exactly right.
Jim Browne: So, it’s something probably a pretty easy fix.
Garrett Lewis: It was a very easy fix.
Jim Browne: You had a nice result with that jury trial?
Garrett Lewis: We did.
Jim Browne: You were able to learn some things.
Garrett Lewis: Yes.
Jim Browne: Give me one thing that stood out to you about that process.
Garrett Lewis: Well, first thing is you know maybe as a last resort everybody paid attention on the jury, which was nice – and whereas outside of the courtroom, Covid has sort of made remote working a little bit more convenient, inside the courtroom it’s made it much more of a challenge.
Jim Browne: I understand, so you’re preparing and you’re going to teach us old guys what to do about those technological challenges right?
Garrett Lewis: Yep.
Jim Browne: Well, I’m glad you’re on board Garrett. If you have questions about any of those areas of law please call us at Goodin Abernathy. A lot of your questions can be answered by phone, and we really care about the quality and responsiveness of our work, so please call us at 317-843-2606. You’ll get in touch with whichever attorney probably best suits the area of law you’re looking for, and we appreciate you tuning in to Goodin Abernathy.
It is December 17, 2020, and this week was the beginning of vaccine distribution in the United States.
Many people are asking, “Can the government or my employer require me to get the Covid-19 Vaccine?”
The simple answer is YES, but the likelihood of that happening is going to depend on a lot of factors, and it is not likely that the FEDERAL government would issue such a mandate.
Historically, states have had the right to mandate vaccines in order to ensure safety of the public. However, experts believe that it is very unlikely it will happen.
What is more likely is that employers and states will condition return or access to workplaces, public schools and universities upon getting the vaccine. Currently, all 50 states and Washington DC have laws requiring certain vaccines for students, but there are exceptions for personal, moral or other beliefs.
The industries most likely to mandate vaccines are going to be those most at risk for contracting the disease, such as those who work in HEALTHCARE, EDUCATION, PUBLIC SAFETY. Another important factor will be: AVAILABILITY OF VACCINE.
Currently, the available Coronavirus vaccines have been given Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) by the FDA. By the time the vaccines receive full FDA approval, which could take months. A lot will depend on how widespread the current vaccine has been distributed.
It is not clear if employers could legally mandate a vaccine that is only approved for Emergency Use. However, it would be very unusual to mandate a vaccine that has not been fully licensed and approved by the FDA. Right now, the consensus seems to be to encourage as many people as possible to voluntarily receive the vaccine. Assuming large numbers of people get vaccinated, there is a much less likely chance that there will be mandates by states or employers.
On the other hand, once the vaccine is approved by the FDA, if the number of people vaccinated is still too low to be effective, AND there is an available supply of the vaccine, we should probably expect to see some mandates.
As with any vaccine, there will be exceptions to those mandates; for example: pregnant women, people with disabilities, or those who hold deeply-rooted religious convictions.
So, what does that mean for you? To be vaccinated is a personal decision for each of us. I can tell you that I will be volunteering to get the vaccine as soon as it becomes available, and I look forward to putting an end to this deadly disease.
If you have questions about the vaccine as it relates to your employment, please feel free to contact me, Chip Clark, for a free consultation.
It can be difficult sometimes to stay positive during the current COVID-19 crisis. However, experts recommend that it is not only good for our physical health, but also our mental health to get outside and exercise. With the decrease in motor vehicle traffic, many people are riding their bikes for exercise and enjoyment. In fact, the current pandemic has led to a tremendous surge in bicycle sales around the globe. If you have been shopping for a new bike lately you will know what I am talking about. We have a wonderful system of shared paths here in Central Indiana. As more and more people are using these paths, it is up to each of us to ensure that they are safe for all users and avoid personal and bicycle accidents or injuries whenever possible.
I have always enjoyed cycling, but had fallen away from the activity until recently. The pandemic has allowed me to renew my love for cycling, and I have used this as an opportunity to ride more frequently. I try to ride to work 2-3 days per week, as my schedule allows. With the Courts being closed to the public, and most hearings taking place via phone call or Zoom, I have not needed to wear a suit and tie every day. My current commute is about 25 miles round trip. This takes me about 1 hour each way, and I have found that my rides to and from work are a great way to relieve stress, enjoy the outdoors, and save a little money on gas.
Most of my commute is on shared paths, used by both cyclists and pedestrians, which allows me to avoid interaction with motor vehicles, for the most part. However, most of the accidents and close calls that I have observed were between two bicyclists or bicyclists and pedestrians.
The most common mishaps that I have observed can usually be narrowed down to 3 things: 1. Bicyclists riding too fast for the conditions; 2. Pedestrians who move suddenly out of their lane and in to the path of bicycle that they don’t know is approaching, and 3. Confusion between bicyclists and motorists at the intersections of shared paths and roadways.
I ride a relatively slow, fat-tired bike, with an average speed of 12-14 miles per hour. In my opinion, this is plenty fast for shared trails. To go faster than that in an area where pedestrians are walking is just a recipe for disaster. There are places on the Monon Trail, for example, where cyclists can go faster than that, but when there are crowds of people running and walking and crossing the trail, it is simply not safe.
The other danger that I have observed is cyclists overtaking pedestrians without warning them of their approach. In 2016, the Indiana Legislature removed the requirement at I.C. 9-21-11-8, that all bikes must be equipped with an audible signal device, that can be heard from a distance of 100 feet, such as a bell. I think this was a mistake. A simple bike bell is an easy way to alert others, particularly pedestrians, that you are passing them. In my experience, most pedestrians who walk on shared paths, appreciate the signal that a bike is approaching and will be passing them. Most pedestrians will usually give a hand signal that they heard the bell, and many will even say, “Thank you,” as I pass. Many people walk with their children and their pets. An audible bell gives them a heads up to keep their kids or their pets close as a bicycle passes.
Some pedestrians who are not as familiar with walking on shared paths may be startled by an audible bell. I have observed pedestrians jump upon hearing the bell, or quickly move out of the way. I have observed pedestrians turn suddenly, which can cause them to inadvertently move left and into the path of the cyclist. This can be dangerous. Just last week, I saw a runner, who had reached the point in her run where she was going to turn around and go the other direction. She quickly turned around just as a bicycle was overtaking her. The cyclist did not have a bell to alert his presence. The bell is only to alert pedestrians so that they know a bicycle will be passing on their left. It is not a call to get out of the way, or to even change your course in any way. If more cyclists used a bell, I believe pedestrians would be more attuned, and travel on our shared paths would be even safer. If you are walking on the trail, it is always a good idea to move to the right of the trail before stopping, and look both ways before crossing the trail and reversing direction.
Lastly, there is a lot of confusion about what motorists and cyclists are supposed to do when the shared path intersects with vehicular traffic. If you spend any time on Nextdoor, you will see raging debates about who should stop and when. Everyone needs to follow the rules of the road whether you be driving a car or riding a bicycle. All bikes and motor vehicles should heed the signs that pertain to them at each individual intersection. Bikes and pedestrians are required to stop and make sure the intersection is clear of vehicle traffic before proceeding. If there is a flashing yellow light, motorists need to be prepared to stop to allow pedestrians to cross. Usually, motor vehicle drivers will stop for a flashing yellow light if they see bikes or pedestrians waiting to cross. Always make sure it is safe to proceed before riding your bike across vehicular traffic.
If everyone takes a moment to make sure that their bike is functioning properly, and we all pay attention to the rules of the road, our great system of trails will be safer for everyone. Now get outside and ride your bike!