Lee Ann Lowe

WASHINGTON COLA INCREASES ON JULY 1ST

lee ann loweEffective Friday July 1, 2016 the annual cost of living adjustments (COLA) will take effect for the benefit period of July 1, 2016 through June 30, 2017. Washington’s statewide average wage increased from $54,829.00 in 2014 to $56,273.00 in 2015, an increase factor of 1.0263364278. As usual, there will be no COLA increase for dates of injury on or after July 1, 2011 until the second July after the date of injury, unless the time loss rate is set at the minimum or maximum rate, in which case the increase to the new minimum or maximum rate will apply. Effective July 1, 2016 the new maximum monthly time loss rate for dates of injury on or after July 1, 2016… Continue reading

New Oregon Sick Leave Law

Lowe, Lee AnnEffective January 1, 2016, all Oregon employers are required to implement sick leave for all employees. Here is what you need to know about the new law: All employers within the state of Oregon with 10 or more employees must have a policy allowing employees to accrue and use up to 40 hours of paid sick leave each year. Employers with less than 10 employees must allow employees to accrue and use up to 40 hours of unpaid sick leave per year. An employer can allow sick leave to be front-loaded rather than accrued. For workers employed on January 1, 2016 sick time can be used as it is earned. For workers who begin employment after… Continue reading

Washington Department of Labor and Industries Revises the Interlocutory Process

lee ann loweOn July 16, 2015 the Department issued a new set of guidelines for self-insured employers to obtain an interlocutory order. The 60-day period following the self-insured employer’s receipt of notice of a new claim, prior to when the claim is allowed or denied by the Department, is referred to as the interlocutory period. That period can be extended pursuant to a self-insured employer’s request to allow for additional time to investigate the claim and obtain additional information. Under the Department’s new interlocutory process, if an extension is requested there is a standard 30-day extension that will granted by a Department interlocutory order. The 30-day extension will begin from the date the initial 60-day period ends, regardless of… Continue reading

Washington Court of Appeals finally issues long-awaited Zimmerman opinion.

lee ann loweIn Board of Industrial Insurance Appeals v. South Kitsap School District and Daniel Zimmerman, issued today, the Court of Appeals addressed the extent of the Board’s authority to disapprove structured settlements. In February 2012 Mr. Zimmerman and the District entered into a structured settlement agreement in which he agreed to forfeit his right to future disability benefits in exchange for $60,000 issued in monthly payments. As required by statute, the structured settlement was presented to the Board for approval. The Board members rejected the structured settlement by a vote of two to one stating it did not meet the requirements of RCW 51.04.063(3)(b) because the information provided was not sufficient to determine whether the settlement was… Continue reading

L&I Responsible for Post-Pension Medical Treatment When Second Injury Fund Relief Has Been Granted

lee ann loweThe Court of Appeals has determined when Second Injury Fund relief has been granted, the Department, not the employer, is responsible for payment of post-closure medical treatment when the treatment is not solely due to the work injury. In The Boeing Co. v. Dep’t of Labor and Indus., ___ Wn. App. ___ (March 31, 2014), claimant was found permanently and totally disabled as a result of the combined effects of her industrial exposure and her preexisting condition. The Department awarded pension with Second Injury Fund relief and authorized ongoing medical treatment for claimant’s asthma. The Department, by letter, directed Boeing to pay the entire cost of the ongoing treatment. Boeing appealed. The Board affirmed the… Continue reading

New Washington Appellate decision limits Department discretion to authorize additional medical treatment under RCW 51.36.010 to cases closed with permanent total disability.

lee ann loweIn Dep’t of Labor and Indus. v. Slaugh, decided October 31, 2013, the Washington Court of Appeals, Division III reversed a BIIA Order allowing ongoing treatment after claim closure. The claim for occupational asthma and restrictive airways disease was closed in May 2010 with an award for PPD. Claimant requested that the Department supervisor exercise discretion to authorize continued life-sustaining asthma treatment under RCW 51.36.010. The Department denied the request, stating RCW 51.36.010 did not permit authorization of life-sustaining treatment unless the claim is closed with PTD. Claimant appealed to the Board. Relying on In re Reichlin, BIIA Dec., 00,15943 (2003), in which the Board held that RCW 51.36.010 permits the Department to consider extending life-sustaining… Continue reading

New Washington 2013 Benefits Schedule Effective Today

lee ann loweOn June 25, 2013 the Department announced the 2013 benefits schedule. The cost of living adjustment (COLA) rate increase is 1.03409, based on a statewide average wage of $51,595 for 2012, a slight increase from the $49,894 average wage in 2011. The new COLA rate will be effective July 1, 2013 through June 30, 2014. RCW 51.32.072 continues to apply, meaning for injuries on or after July 1, 2011 COLA does not apply under the second July after the date of injury. Other notable changes in the benefits schedule effective July 1, 2013 include: For dates of injury on or after July 1, 2013: *The maximum monthly time loss rate is $5,159.50 *15% of the… Continue reading

New Portland City Ordinance Requires Mandatory Sick Leave

lee ann loweToday the City of Portland passed a citywide ordinance which will take effect January 1, 2014 requiring all Portland businesses to provide sick leave to employees. A similar ordinance was instituted in Seattle last year. Under the new Portland ordinance, which applies to all businesses within Portland city limits, businesses with six or more employees will be required to provide employees up to forty hours of paid sick leave per year. Businesses with five or less employees must allow employees to take up to forty hours of unpaid sick leave per year. “Employee” under this ordinance is any individual who has worked at least 240 hours a year within the city limits. Portland employees will… Continue reading

Washington Court of Appeals Addresses Burdens of Proof in Occupational Disease Cases

lee ann lowePotter v. Department of Labor and Industries, a decision issued yesterday by the Division One Court of Appeals, is a good reminder that building strong medical evidence based on the applicable legal standards can be critical to a case. In June 2007 Ms. Potter’s employer moved into newly remodeled offices. In the first few weeks in her new office she noticed a strong chemical odor and a metallic taste in her mouth. She eventually started having a recurring bloody nose and intensifying feelings of disorientation and fatigue. By September 2007 she was working entirely from home. All the tests performed by her doctor were normal, but he suspected the chemicals involved in the remodel were… Continue reading

A Slim Connection Can Still be a Proximate Cause in Washington

lee ann loweYesterday, the Court of Appeals, Division 1, released its opinion in Dep’t of Labor and Indus. v. Shirley. Claimant’s low back claim was closed in 2005 with no PPD award. At the time of claim closure he was only taking ibuprofen and no physician was prescribing opioid medications. He never filed an application to reopen his claim. In 2007 he died after ingesting multiple prescription medications with alcohol. Some of the prescription medications in his system were for low back pain although none were prescribed to him at the time of claim closure. After his death his wife filed for survivor benefits, which the Department denied, and she appealed. On appeal,… Continue reading