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Posted On: May. 11, 1997 12:00 AM CST


SAN FRANCISCO-Newly revised ergonomics standards from the California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board are "confusing and will be costly to California business," an employer group says.

In a letter responding to Cal-OSHA's release last month of the revised standard, the Alexandria, Va.-based Center for Office Technology criticized three changes:

By removing the term "workplace" from the definition of repetitive motion injury, the board has broadened the standard and weakened the work-relatedness of the regulation.

Adding the specific tasks of "word processing, assembly and loading" implies a presumption that these tasks cause repetitive motion injuries.

The regulation does not state who should be responsible for determining whether the injury is predominantly caused by work.

Cal-OSHA was forced to revise the standard in January after it was rejected by the Office of Administrative Law for being disorganized and short on detail. It was the second time Cal-OSHA reworked the standard, which was required under 1993 workers compensation reform legislation.

If the OAL approves the revised standard this time, it will take effect by mid-January 1998, making California the first state with an ergonomic standard to protect workers.


CHICAGO-Statute of limitations provisions prevent an individual who learned of age discrimination against him two years after the alleged incident from suing, a judge for the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois ruled last month.

In 1994, Gary L. Gastineau interviewed for a position as a sales representative in the Chicago office of Austin, Nichols & Co. Mr. Gastineau was not offered a job, he was told, because ANCO superiors in New York refused to approve the hire, not because of his age, which he inquired about, according to court papers.

Two years later, Mr. Gastineau learned that indeed the wine and spirits distributor did not hire him because he was over 40.

Mr. Gastineau subsequently filed an age discrimination charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and later a lawsuit against ANCO alleging violations of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967.

In Illinois, and in every other state but two, a plaintiff seeking to pursue a civil action for age discrimination must first file a charge of discrimination with the EEOC within 300 days of the alleged unlawful employment practice. In Louisiana and Mississippi, plaintiffs have 180 days to file a charge. Mr. Gastineau filed his charge nearly 900 days after the alleged discrimination occurred.

Mr. Gastineau argued the statute of limitations should be delayed because it was not until two years after the incident occurred that he learned his age was the determining factor in ANCO's decision not to hire him.

In quoting a decision issued in another case, Judge David H. Coar ruled that "a mere denial of liability cannot be the foundation of an equitable estoppel. Otherwise statutes of limitations would be toothless.*.*.*.It is not the denial of liability or a refusal to cooperate in making the plaintiff's case that extends the statute of limitations but affirmative efforts to delay the plaintiff's bringing suit."


TOPEKA, Kan.-Kansas Gov. Bill Graves has signed a bill that deregulates commercial property/casualty insurance rates in the state.

The measure, H.B. 2081, will create a competitive rating system in Kansas, one of 15 or so states left with a prior-approval rating system.

Kansas' measure, which won the overwhelming approval of both houses of the Legislature, pertains only to commercial property/casualty rates in the state, not to personal lines.

The bill will preserve the Kansas Department of Insurance's authority to intervene if the state commissioner decides the market is not competitive.


CIGNA Corp. said that its subsidiary, CHC Acquisition Corp., is extending its offer to purchase all outstanding shares of common stock of Healthsource Inc. to May 30 from April 30 (BI, March 10). A CIGNA spokesman said the offer has been extended because the company has not yet received all of the required state regulatory approvals, though these "are progressing as we expected."

. . .S. 543, the Volunteer Protection Act, a congressional measure that would grant volunteers limited immunity against civil suits stemming from their charitable activity, won Senate approval May 1 by a 99-1 vote. . . .Zurich Insurance Co. does not have a duty to defend certain physicians under the company's contracts with silicone breast implant maker Dow Corning Corp., a Texas appellate court has ruled. The physicians had argued that they should be covered as additional policyholders under vendor endorsements to six insurance contracts Zurich entered into with Dow Corning between 1989 and 1994. However, the court ruled that the doctors were not covered under the endorsements because the sale of breast implants was not their sole occupation. . . .Legislation introduced earlier this month by Rep. Harris Fawell, R-Ill., and supported by several dozen business groups, would allow employers to band together and purchase or self-insure their health care benefits and be exempt from state-mandated benefits rules. . . .A Michigan circuit court recently declared First Security Casualty Co. of Madison Heights, Mich., insolvent and slated it for liquidation. The insurer wrote primarily auto and liquor liability coverages. . . .Ohio's new managed care program requires workers compensation claimants to obtain drugs through pharmacies or a mail-order service operated by RxNet Inc., a Fresno, Calif.-based subsidiary of ValueRx Inc. . . .The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is joining the Montana Chamber of Commerce to try to overturn a state law that prohibits businesses from spending corporate money to support or defeat ballot initiatives.