Real 'BIG' news WTS sued biggie worker compensation

by DannyHaszard 210 Replies latest watchtower scandals

  • Oroborus21


    Again you misunderstand, by the way are you reading the actual transcript or just going off what is reported and your knowledge of law. I haven't read the actual transcript so I am just doing the latter also.

    The fundamental question is whether the relgious org, the WTS, is subject to WC requirements or exempt from them. To answer that question, which is the first question that must be answered, the status or activity of the workers is immaterial.

    If you hold that the WTS is subject to Worker's Compensation insurance requirements (which is really the "big news" part of the story here) THEN you can , for purposes of deciding the case before the judge, examine whether the person should be deemed an "employee" and eligible to benefit from WCompensation.

    Of course, what the employees are doing is important, whether they are paid or not is not important, but only in determining whether they may get WC or not. This aspect of the story was not the "big news" or important feature of the story which is what I am trying to stress.

    Evidently, the judge deemed that despite the claims from the WT that is is a religous order exempt from WC requirements, that 1) it is subject to WC in NY and 2) that the claimant Upton was an employee engaged in work related activity at the time of injury. without reading the transcript, or being present, no one can say whether the Society advanced any arguments on the second point, that Ms. Upton was not engaged in work.

    The newspaper article mentions that the lawyer Miller said the Uptons were "volunteer members of a religous order," but it didn't clarify and left ambiguous whether such an assertion was made by the Society to back it's claim that it, as an employer/corp. should be exempt from WC as a relgious order, under NY law, or whether the Society was also trying to dispute that the injury occurred while working. Perhaps it was both? We don't know.

    I would expect you to appreciate the subtleties of the discussion West.

    respectfully, Eduardo

  • Oroborus21


    From what I understand the medical bills have been paid, the article didn't mention whether further medical costs were ongoing, these continue in a WC situation, even when the claim is "disputed" (that is the usual term). I think that the cash award is held up, or if a lump-sum payment was made by the Insurance Carrier, during the review/appeal process at the Insurance Carrier's option but I could be wrong about that.

    There is only one other appeal level within the NY board, to a 3 member panel, which has to be requested within 30 days of the judge's decision. If the panel upholds the decision, the WTS could then appeal, I believe to the Superior Court for that area (I think I read that in my perusal of the regs there) and from there it enters into the normal court system. (this is actually how pretty much all admin law/law courts goes, very similarly like this.)

    From the normal court system, it would go (in California) from Sup. Ct. to a Ct of Appeals, and then to the State Supreme Ct. and possibly from there to the U.S. Supreme Court, depending on of course meeting certain requirements all along the way. New York is probably similar.

    I think this won't be held up by the panel, and if it is for some reason, that it won't hold up in Superior Court. If it is, I am not really sure whether the Society would invest the resources to push the issue further in the courts due to publicity and simply cost.

    It may be easier and less costly just to start carrying the insurance. Remember there are probably not a lot of claims anyway, since everything is done pretty safely, and you can bet that behind closed doors, the Society might put a lot of pressure on good Bethelites not to file a WC claim. Maybe not overtly but there would probably be some subtle hints about the correct way to handle the matter.


  • West70


    I am working from the news article only, which states:

    "I'm finding they were not religious volunteers," Goldstein said. "They were engaged, particularly Dr. Brenda Upton, in a number of work-like activities."

    The Witnesses vowed to appeal the ruling, saying Upton and the other 5,800 Witnesses who live and work in the church's New York operations are volunteers, not employees.

    Sounds to me as if Upton's "status" as an employee was the basis of this Judge's ruling.

  • AuldSoul

    I keyed in on the same statement as West70 and arrived at the same conclusion. And that statement IS in quotes.

    The ruling was determined based not on the status of the organization but the activity of the "volunteer." Now, if it is anyone's contention that this will be overturned on Goldstein's use of that basis (if that basis is in error), we will see in time.

    It could be that Goldstein owns property in the heights and has a bad taste in his mouth for the WTS. LOL.


  • Gerard
    Sounds to me as if Upton's "status" as an employee was the basis of this Judge's ruling.

    definition of Volunteers as Employees for the purposes of the Workers’ Compensation Coverage: Volunteer - Any non-compensated natural person while that person is subject to your (church) direction and control while performing essential employment functions/duties otherwise performed by paid staff or regular employees.

  • Oroborus21

    Right West, Which is why I was disappointed by the reporting. I have no doubt that the WTS must have claimed that is is exempt from the WC law.

    You see, no matter what a Judge says, if a religous order is exempt from the WC law under NY law, that judge cannot overturn the legislative's will and the law on his own authority.

    But we don't have the transcript to look at and it wasn't reported in the news article, as to that first major point. what happened on that question of whether the WTS is exempt or not? Obviously, from implication, by awarding Upton an award and finding her able to benefit from WC, the conclusion was that the WTS is subject to Worker's Comp in New York.

    THAT is the big news but the article didn't tell us WHY the judge ruled that the WTS despite being a recognized religous order is not exempt.

    What was reported in the article was the Judge's statements regarding the second question, whether Upton should be deemed and employee of the WTS.

    there the WTS also evidently argued (though we can only guess from the quote) that as a voluntary religious worker, Upton (nor any of its workers) shouldn't be considered an employee within the meaning of WC, which the Judge disagreed with.

    My point in my posts was not about this latter question, and again, what the person is doing is important and the "status" of whether they are an employee is of course the question to be answered in deciding whether someone can make a WC claim.

    But rather my point about this whole situation was that the really big question, the main point, the first point, is what needs to be settled. We don't have enough from the new article to speculate on why the judge evidently held that the WTS is subject to Worker's Compensation in New York.

    What I take issue with is that I think it is premature to make a lot of assumptions about the impact of this hearing until there is a final decision and secondly, that even assuming that the WTS is subject to WC system, the actual impact is minimal and not as earth-shattering as some may have hoped.


  • jgnat
    JgNat: I don't see how this action could impose retroactive responsibility upon the WTS. Clearly, as a certified non-profit religious charity, the Society had every reason to believe that it was or is exempt from Worker's Comp. If the board or a court decides differently and that is held up on appeal than it seems to be that it is a going forward issue. Really just a new cost of doing business.

    Not necessarily. Worker's Compensation legislation is different. Like here in Alberta, there is no statute of limitations, and a claim goes back as far as the injury. I have not been able to verify if this is the same or not in New York State, however. This woman was injured in 1998. Her claim would go back to the origin of the injury. At the very least I could see claims going forward from that date on. What could the courts say? In 1998 she was deemed an "employee" as far as her rights for worker's compensation, but her peers not?

  • Apostanator

    Just want to say Thanks to Danny for all his Watchtower exposure.

    HEY WATCHTOWER..........We know you like exposure, to bad most of it is negative lately !

    Keep Effing Up. We'll find it!!!

  • Oroborus21


    I understand what you are saying but there is a distinction.

    For an employer who should be under the WC laws, then of course, past claims can be made. After all, the legislature doesn't wish to encourage employers to try and go without WC coverage by allowing them to get away with not paying for past injuries. The NY board gives a schedule for the caps for periods of times prior but it also says that failing to file a timely claim may jeopardize recovery. In any case that is not what is in issue.

    My point is that NY law exempts religious orders. the WTS is a relgious order for purposes of the WC law. Thus it has had, until this decision, every reason and expectation not to establish WC insurance. It is not like a regular employer who knew or should have known that it was subject to the WC law. Thus I cannot see that it would be equitable or permitted to be held retroactively accountable for past injuries and there is nothing in the news article, nor I would venture to guess, in the actual decision that would try to make the Society have to pay for past injuries in the WC system.


  • wanda

    The Judge ruled the Watchtower Society is liable for paying workman's compensation in this instance and provided it stands then it means that others who did not get workman's compensation in the past from the WTS are also now able to get it except where an occurrence was too many years in the past. This has happened with other pseudo-religious companies in the past such as Jimmy Swaggart and it holds for the Watchtower Society too.

    See. There really was BIG news for 2006.

    Now, by extension they had better go from sending 1,500 Bethelites packing in Brooklyn to doing the same in other places such as their Alaska and Hawaii branches, their farms that are scattered about, their Watchtower companies in California, and the rest. Also, other nations may choose to follow this ruling. From talking with at least two others I know that 2006 some more books about sexual hanky-panky by Watchtower Society elders, district overseers and others will also be published and distributed. Lightning is flashing and soon the thunder will shudder under the Brooklyn boys' feet including Jaracz!

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