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Jury awards $117 million to man who got cancer from baby powder

On April 5, a jury awarded a New Jersey couple $37 million in compensation after finding that Johnson & Johnson baby powder contained asbestos. On April 11, the jury subsequently ordered J&J to pay an additional $80 million in punitive damages. 

Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that was used as insulation and for other purposes throughout the 20th century. Asbestos proved to be extremely dangerous. Asbestos dust, when inhaled, causes cancer. Asbestos exposure is the only known cause of mesothelioma, the terminal illness for which there is no cure. Thousands of people die every year from mesothelioma.

Is lane splitting on a motorcycle safe?

California is currently the only state in the U.S. that allows motorcycles to share lane space with cars. Called lane splitting, motorcyclists can weave around traffic by going around slow or stopped traffic.

When it works as intended, it is a safe way to allow for a better flow of traffic. However, the practice is controversial. This year, a number of states are considering allowing lane splitting. Attempts by lawmakers to allow lane splitting in the past have failed. It will be interesting to see whether the bills currently under consideration become law. 

An important immigration law update for DREAMers

Immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children can continue to renew their status under DACA - for now.

That is the result from the U.S. Supreme Court's recent refusal to decide a case involving the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, more commonly known as DACA.

Workplace fatalities continue to rise

14 workers a day lose their lives on the job, the most in eight years

The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics recently released data on work-related fatalities in the United States. The news was not good. The report notes that 5,190 workplace deaths occurred in 2016, 354 more than in 2015. This was the third year in a row workplace fatalities have increased. The last year on record with more than 5,000 deaths was in 2008. 

Hospitality workers suffering sexual harassment in silence

It is time for other industries to help stop sexual harassment

When we think of sexual harassment, recent news stories about entertainment industry icons and prominent political figures come to mind. But another segment of society has been contending with this issue for years. Media coverage of widespread sexual harassment scandals is finally giving them a platform to speak out. This overlooked group is comprised of low-wage employees in the hotel industry, especially those who work as housekeepers.

Insurer warns about potential for more construction injuries

California, like many states, is experiencing a shortfall in highly skilled construction workers. Spending on construction and development exceeded expectations this fall for residential, commercial and industrial projects. In northern California, particularly after the wildfires, there are numerous high-priority projects to undertake and residential development is expected to spike. Developers, owners and contractors are in need of workers, and often must hire inexperienced or untrained people to fill positions. The labor demand is expected to exceed staffing levels throughout 2018 and beyond. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates 800,000 jobs will be added to the construction industry by 2024.

All of the above means safety must be a top priority moving forward. The risk of injury on construction sites is greatest for newer workers. Unsafe jobsites result in devastating injuries. Many expect there to be a larger number of construction workers injured or killed on the job in the coming year.

Diagnostic tool could help identify CTE

Chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, is often associated with concussions among National League Football players. It is a degenerative and incurable brain disease caused by head trauma. In July, for example, researchers published autopsies of 111 former NFL players — revealing that 110 suffered from CTE. It has led to a far-reaching national discussion about the dangers of head trauma.

Currently, CTE is only diagnosable through an autopsy and is generally only looked for upon the request of the family. That means it is still unclear how many NFL players may get or currently have CTE. It is also hard to extrapolate data about NFL players to the public since hardly anyone who has not played professional football is examined for CTE.

Are U.S. workers at risk of losing workplace protections?

workplace safety.jpgSince it is rarely discussed, many people are surprised to learn just how dangerous U.S. workplaces can be. In fact, according to a recent article co-authored by Kathleen Rest, the executive director of the Union of Concerned Scientists, and David Michaels, a professor at the George Washington University School of Public Health, 13 people die every single day in the U.S. because of hazardous working conditions.

Even worse, ten times as many die after succumbing to work-related illnesses, including cancer, silicosis, mesothelioma and asbestosis, just to name a few. In total, work-related diseases claim an estimated 50,000 to 60,000 lives every year in the U.S.

LA Mayor says he will defy Trump administration on immigration

LA city hall.jpgDespite repeated threats that the city may lose federal funding, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has said he will not bend to the White House on immigration.

Just one day after Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a directive ordering cities to notify the Department of Homeland Security at least 48 hours before releasing uundocumented immigrant detainees, Garcetti told Buzzfeed Editor-in-Chief Ben Smith, "We will not change what we are doing and our values are not for sale." Garcetti added, "What they're asking the city to do is in violation of the Constitution."

Do CA's "old" laws protect workers injured in "new" gig economy?

gig economy.jpegEven though California already has some of the most comprehensive worker protection laws, there is definitely room for improvement -- particularly when it comes to workers' compensation benefits (or lack thereof) for those injured while working in the new "gig" economy.

What exactly is the "gig" economy you may ask? While there isn't an exact, universally-accepted definition, many consider a "gig" to be a single job or task for which a worker is hired, often through an app or the digital marketplace. Some of the most common examples of gig workers include drivers for Uber and Lyft.

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