Fiefdom: 2. Informal. anything, as an organization or real estate, owned or controlled by one dominant person or group.
Last July, I wrote two pieces, The Stench of Fraud: Why Workers’ Comp Can No Longer Be a Closed System and The Stench of Fraud, Continued. These articles dealt with the issue of fraud in the workers’ compensation system. The first article was based upon David De Paolo’s article about physicians or hospitals in CA using phony or unapproved implants on patients.
The second article discussed the plight of a woman, also in CA, who I called “Ms. X”. Ms. X was injured in the course of her employment, and subsequent to her injury, was injured several times by the treating physician, the medical staff at facilities where she received treatment, her former plaintiff attorneys, the defense attorneys, the insurance company, and finally her employer, who fired her.
I let Ms. X speak in her own words so that the reader would understand the pain and suffering she was feeling was real, and not something that I made up to bolster my argument for transforming workers’ compensation. There are hundreds, if not thousands of Ms. X’s and Mr. X’s out there who are subjected to the dark side of the workers’ comp system in the US. And there are many others who file claims who never suffer abuse or fraud at the hands of the system.
But yet, there are still more vile and disgusting things happening to workers in this country, injured or not, legal or undocumented, native born or foreign, as David De Paolo discussed back in July in his article, How Dare They. David’s website, WorkCompCentral.com reported that over one hundred undocumented workers at a fruit packing plant in South Florida were arrested for workers’ compensation fraud, although only a few of them actually filed claims for workers’ compensation benefits. The company they worked for, Fruit Dynamics, hired the workers who were from Guatemala, Mexico, Honduras and El Salvador, knowing that they were undocumented.
The owners were never suspected in any complicity in the fraud, according to Maj. Geoffrey Branch of the Florida Division of Insurance Fraud. “At this time, we do not believe anybody affiliated with the ownership or management had any idea that any of these documents were fraudulent,” Branch said,…“We believe that they thought they were on their face value valid, authentic documents.” As David points out, the reason for the raid in the first place was because the original complaint was against the employer for intentionally hiring undocumented workers in a pattern of behavior and practice to underreport payroll and intimidate workers out of benefits for work injuries.
David also said that an attorney who had represented several of the workers over the years made the complaint to the Division because there was a pattern of practice that he noted. The attorney said that the employer’s hiring and management practices were intentionally done to minimize workers’ compensation liabilities and abuse immigrant workers. The employer faced no retribution whatsoever from the law even though there is documented evidence that the company knew what it was doing and its insurance carrier went along with the plan in complicity, David added.
In today’s article, David revisits the case in Florida from July, and reports that the undocumented workers were given “diversion“, which would allow the charges to be dropped assuming compliance by the accused. However, the employer is under investigation, according to a report by WorkCompCentral.com. At the time of the arrests, the Chief Financial Officer of Florida said that the lead the investigators were following would “result in dozens of workers’ compensation arrests and many arrests for identity theft that have been potentially devastating for victims.”
Yet, as David pointed out in his article, that was not the case. The fact is that the few workers’ compensation cases that were in process by workers injured at the Fruit Dynamics plant in Naples, FL resulted in termination of the workers – the employer clearly was sending a message to its undocumented workers: don’t file a claim for injury. Clearly, David continues, the employer threatened, and executed, retaliatory action in order to keep its undocumented workforce complicit, and quiet.
Back in July, David stated that the arrests were “lightly veiled discrimination based on race. The masters aren’t prosecuted for their fraud and deceit, but the powerless workers are punished for their enslavement.” On top of the fact that Fruit Dynamics engaged in immigration fraud, it is also under investigation for payroll fraud. David concluded that this is a case of racial discrimination bordering on enslavement.
Which brings us to the title of this article, The Fiefdoms of Fools. By that I mean that within the workers’ compensation system in the US, there are various fiefdoms that have been carved out and control the different spheres of influence each of them represent. As David discussed in his article about fraud in July, there are the fiefdoms of physicians and hospitals who commit fraud against the insurance companies and patients.
There are, as I discussed in my second article on the subject, fiefdoms of attorneys, both plaintiff and defense who abuse the system and the claimants, there are insurance companies who commit fraud against the employers, there are fiefdoms of medical facilities who commit fraud by falsifying medical records, there are fiefdoms of physicians who abuse and maim and injure the already injured for their own greed, and then there are the fiefdoms of employers, like Ms. X’s and Fruit Dynamics who terminate employees for filing a claim when they were legitimately injured, or in the case of Fruit Dynamics, unjustly terminated to cover up criminal activity of the company.
But we don’t have to look at what is going on in, or around the workers’ compensation system to see where there are other fiefdoms of employers who are abusing, intimidating, threatening, or retaliating against their employees. You only have to pick up a newspaper every now and then and read about a company like Wal-Mart eliminating health insurance for its employees, or the company that fired a worker who complained to his cable company Comcast, after Comcast contacted the employer.
It does not take much to learn that the American worker is being subjected to vile, disgusting, discriminating and obscene acts by their employer as a means to control and dominate them, in much the same way feudal serfs were controlled and dominated by their feudal masters hundreds of years ago. Each feudal lord had his own fiefdom that he ran as he saw fit. It is no different today with American employers and their employees. We have a former union president and his party to thank for that. The union movement has made many mistakes, but the Republican Party’s war on workers, in and out of unions is one reason why these fiefdoms exist.
Beyond the employee/employer dynamic, there are other kinds of fiefdoms that pertain to the subject of this blog. These fiefdoms are controlled by the various entities in workers’ compensation that have a stranglehold on the very way workers’ compensation claims are adjudicated, processed, treated and disposed of. The workers’ compensation third party administrator firms, claims management firms, pharmacy benefit management firms, bill review firms, and other service providers all have carved out their own little fiefdoms that they control and manipulate for their benefit and profit.
I began this article by defining the word “fiefdom”, but as the title implies, there can be more than one fiefdom, which is why it is plural in the title. As for the part about fools, what would you call people who insist on doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results; what would you call employers, carriers, physicians, hospitals, medical facilities, lawyers, service providers and the rest who prey upon, abuse, harass, intimidate, retaliate, threaten and terminate employees for no other reason than filing a claim for benefits they rightly deserve after being injured on the job; and what would you call people who knowingly commit fraud for profit? I’d call them fools.