June 22, 2012
Scam alert: Individuals sent by law firms into kitchens posing as workers' comp reps
The California Restaurant Association (CRA) has recently learned of fraudulent tactics being used to promote the filing of workers' compensation lawsuits against restaurants.
Recently, representatives acting on behalf of Southern California law firms have walked into restaurant kitchens without invitation and, after ensuring a manager wasn’t present, questioned back-of-the-house staff about working conditions, any injuries they may have sustained or medical concerns they may have. Falsely identifying themselves as representatives from the company’s workers' comp insurer, the individuals asked workers to sign blank DWC1, or workers' comp claim, forms and related paperwork, promising the employees free health care and treatment for their work-related injuries and associated symptoms. In these scenarios, the involved workers have been non- or limited-English-speaking employees signing blank forms that were provided in English. Once the forms were signed, the “requested” information was subsequently entered by the representatives.
The law firms then used the signed documents as the basis to file lawsuits against the company on behalf of the workers, without their knowledge or approval. In each case, workers reported they understood they were signing paperwork for free medical treatment and insurance.
CRA Legal Center attorney Bob Harrison of Wilson Elser Moskowitz Edelman & Dicker LLP advises companies to alert their employees to this predatory and unethical practice, and reinforce proper workplace injury reporting procedures. Harrison also advises that in addition to engaging in the unethical solicitation of business, the individuals who entered the premises uninvited and under false pretenses have likely engaged in criminal trespass.
In addition, members are urged to ensure company representatives do not freely share workers' compensation information with unidentified callers, including the identity of the company’s insurer.
If you have questions, or have experienced similar activity at your company, call the CRA Helpline for assistance at 800.765.4842, Ext. 2743.