I maintain an extensive collection of resources to assist me in my practice, which nearly all consists of working to help consumers, elders, employees, and nonprofits. Rather than have these valuable resources sit idly, I make them available to nonprofit boards and executives in the Salem area. To check out my collection, go here, and search on items tagged with "nonprofits" to winnow down the collection to those helpful for nonprofit leaders.
Just when you think the corporate drive to avoid having to answer for wrongdoing can't get more insane or over the top
When I first read about this, I was certain that I was reading a sly parody from "The Onion" or some other satirical publication. But then I found that the jokers behind this are deadly serious about it. In other words, General Mills has decided to promote itself to General LeMay and bomb the Constitution and your rights as an American to little super-sugarsaturated bits.
General Mills has granted itself a license to break the law. The owner of grocery staples including Trix, Cheerios, Betty Crocker, and Pillsbury, has quietly updated its terms of service to include a forced arbitration clause that eliminates its customers’ rights.
This means if you get salmonella poisoning from your Cinnamon Toast Crunch, you will not be able to hold General Mills accountable in court, and if you are cut by Old El Paso salsa that contains chunks of glass, your access to justice is denied. And yes, these were real things that happened last year!
Forced arbitration clauses allow corporations like General Mills to kick customers out of court and funnel them into an un-American dispute mill that is rigged, secretive and final -- and that denies you ANY ability to appeal, no matter how abusive the process.
If General Mills is not accountable, their customers are not safe.
Take action now! Write to Congress to urge them to protect their constituents from the abusive practice of forced arbitration!
And because we aim to help consumers around here, here's a helpful list of products you will want to avoid if you value your Constitutional rights as an American:
Finally a story that might get people's attention to help explain how and why mandatory arbitration = abomination when used against consumers and employees
It's hard to get people to understand how they're being robbed and denied their rights when it happens without guns or violence.
But a lot of times, companies rip off customers and exploit their workers unfairly, and it's not until you try to do something about it that you find out that the company has built itself an "Accountability Shield" that does to the civil justice system what Kryptonite does to Superman -- allows the bad guys to escape the consequences of their wrongdoing, and leaves the good guys weakened or flat-out defeated.
Every story needs a hook to get and hold the reader's attention long enough for the message to be received. For a lot of guys, a story about hot young women being mistreated by their employer is a strong enough signal to get their attention, and then they can finally get the message. And, of course, young women, who are often mistreated horribly in the workplace, can understand that even the most superficially exciting jobs can really be terrible grinds -- made much worse by the arbitration clause that essentially lets the company get away with anything short of murder.
I just had a call from a very nice person who needs caregivers around-the-clock, 365 days a year. One of these caregivers recently stole money from from my friend. My friend said it happened about six weeks ago, and that the person was no longer serving as a caregiver, so she was just going to let it go.
I had to explain to her why it was so important that she call the police:
Because other people looking to hire caregivers are going to look at the home-care workers' registry and look at the results of the criminal background checks, and if she doesn't file a police report about the theft, this caregiver will appear to have both a lot of experience and no problems in her background.
My friend felt uncomfortable; the caregiver is young, and my friend doesn't see herself as vindictive. Basically, she does not want to get the other person in trouble.
But of course, it's not my friend who is responsible for the trouble — the thief did that. My friend needs to report to protect others from this person and ultimately to protect herself by making sure that the system for background checks is reliable and complete. Someone who will steal from a disabled person getting 24 hour care is not someone who should be able to find work as a caregiver for other vulnerable people.
So you're not being kind by overlooking abuse or thefts like this. Consider what you're doing to the person's next victim.
My friend was also concerned that, because it would be her word against the caregiver's, she would not be able to prove that the theft occurred. I made two points about that:
The situation is the same with nonprofits. Many times when nonprofits are ripped off, the tendency among the members as to keep it quiet and not make a big fuss about it. It's also very appealing for the board to say that they were partially at fault for allowing the thief to rip them off, and therefore they don't want the bad publicity to their organization etc. etc. The big problem with this logic is the same as in my friend's case: when crime victims don't report crimes, the criminals are allowed to find new victims and victimize them, because they have no reason to know about the person's past.
So, uncomfortable as it is, if someone rips you off, don't make it your job to help them cover it up. If someone abuses you or steals from you, whether you are an individual or as part of an organization, call the police. Let the police and the court system make the decisions on prosecution and any punishment that might occur if warranted.
Bottom line: don't help criminals victimize other people by failing to report past crimes.
UPDATE: A helpful assistant attorney general points out:
"Great points, John. You might also tell your friend and others that they can call the Medicaid Fraud Unit at the Oregon Department of Justice if the care occurs at home and the provider is paid by the State, or if the theft or financial exploitation occurred in a Medicaid-funded facility [note that nearly all nursing homes and assisted living facilities accept Medicaid funding - JMG] whether or not the victim is a Medicaid recipient."
Thanks, AAG! You can reach the Medicaid Fraud Unit (MFU) at 971-673-1971.
John Gear is a Salem attorney.
LAWYERLY FINE PRINT:
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