As we all begin to return to work following the loosening of restrictions, it is important to take stock and prepare for the future. By now it should be clear to all of us that COVID will likely be with us for a while. Not only must employers prepare to conduct business in this new environment, it is also important to forecast potential legal challenges. To do so, businesses must take stock of practices and policies that have served us well and those that must be discarded or modified. Below I discuss the three most important actions you can take to protect your business and employees in a COVID world. Evaluate your Policies in Light of the “New Normal” As… Continue reading
On June 23, 2020, Governor Brown directed the Management-Labor Advisory Committee (MLAC) to explore any gaps in our current workers’ compensation system related to COVID-19, including at looking to whether a presumption of compensability is needed to ensure workers are protected under the current system. The governor instructed the committee to provide a response by mid-July to prepare for an upcoming legislative session. MLAC held six meetings to take testimony from workers, attorneys, employers, insurers, administrators, and state officials discussing a list of potential issues. The issues were categorized into worker’s compensation issues MLAC could address and health/safety issues that MLAC could make recommendations, but ultimately would need to be addressed by other agencies. Ultimately, MLAC could not reach a… Continue reading
Recently, Oregon OSHA announced it has begun work on temporary rules addressing the COVID-19 emergency. The target date for the rules is September 1st and is expected to remain in effect through February 2021. The rules will be completed in consultation with the Oregon Health Authority (OHA), Public Health and other technical advisors and affected stakeholders. Although Oregon OSHA has only begun its rule making process, it has been actively investigating COVID-19 related complaints. Since early March, Oregonians have filed approximately 5,500 workplace complaints related to the pandemic. For example, numerous complaints relate to employees not utilizing face coverings and not maintaining physical distancing. These complaints can translate into inspections and costly citations for employers. Oregon OSHA does not currently… Continue reading
SBH is excited to announce it will be producing a series of short videos addressing various issues employers are facing during the COVID-19 Crisis and beyond. Join Megan Vaniman as she discusses PPP loans and forgiveness. Slides used in the video are available here. The video is also available on SBH’s YouTube Channel.
Three months into the pandemic, we have all seen changes in both our daily lives and in our professional lives. One of these changes has been the cancellation of several conferences and seminars which provide the continuing education units (CEUs) required for recertification. Under OAR 436-055-0070, claims examiners are required to complete 24 hours of training within a three-year cycle. These CEUs include at least 6 hours on ORS chapter 656 and OAR chapter 436, at least one hour on interactions with IME providers, and additional training related to medical case management, communication skills, and claims processing skills. Thankfully, the administrative rules provide a 12-month grace period to renew certification. During the grace period, an examiner is still “certified” under… Continue reading
Course of Employment in Washington: What Factors are Considered When an Employee is Injured While Working from Home?
As the State of Washington slowly implements its four-phase recovery plan, many employees continue to work remotely from home in various capacities due to the social distancing requirements brought on by COVID-19. As employees continue to work from home, many employers are faced with new claims involving injuries sustained away from the employer’s premises. These unique claims can make it difficult for employers and third-party administrators to assess what constitutes a compensable injury or occupational disease. In Washington, workers acting in the “course of employment” are covered by the Industrial Insurance Act. Generally speaking, acting in the course of employment means the employee is acting at his or her employer’s direction or furthering the employer’s business. This is broad definition… Continue reading
On May 7, 2020, the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) released a series of sector-specific guidance as well as general guidance to assist employers in making decisions regarding reopening during the COVID-19 pandemic. Sector-specific guidance is available for Outdoor Recreation Organizations, Personal Services Providers, Retail Stores, Shopping Centers and Malls and Restaurants and Bars. “Phase One” of Governor Brown’s Oregon reopening plan may start as early as May 15 for approved counties with few or no COVID-19 cases. In anticipation of reopening, employers are encouraged to review the guidance and begin making plans consistent with these recommendations. Employers should also refer to the guidance issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) when determining the most appropriate actions to… Continue reading
As the impact of COVID-19 continues to reverberate through Washington, it has created numerous challenges for employers and claims managers who are working hard to process claims properly and as efficiently as possible. Within this ever-evolving situation in mind, this post discusses some of the common issues that have arisen to date and offers suggestions for how to navigate claims processing. Treatment Plans and Time Loss Certification With treating providers cancelling or postponing many non-emergency appointments, it has made it challenging for workers to submit proper time loss certification in a timely manner. To address this issue, Department’s Guidelines suggest workers schedule appointments via video or telephone to document ongoing eligibility for treatment and/or time loss benefits. For claims managers,… Continue reading
A lot of employers are having hard conversations right now. A part of those conversations inevitably includes employment decisions. Many companies are trying to decide what is best both for their employees and their companies during this uncertain time. The three big options we’ve seen from our clients is a potential reduction in hours due to decreased demand, furloughs, and layoffs. This post will address areas employers should consider when determining the best option for the business and its employees. Employment Agreements Employment agreements are not widely used. However, employers should review any employment agreements entered into with employees to ensure it is not violating any terms of the agreements. Agreement may include notice provisions where employers are required to… Continue reading
Needless to say, there have been a lot of changes recently, not just in our daily lives, but also in claim processing issues. The WCD has begun discussions to address a variety of issues that have arisen with Workers’ Compensation claims in light of COVID-19. Further, the WCD and WCB have continued forward with new rules. As SBH’s legislative liaison I have included some of the highlights below to help continue to process claims in a timely and proper manner during COVID-19. COVID-19 Potential Proposals I among others are working on identifying potential proposals to address many new issues arising from COVID-19 including: • Effect on claim processing deadlines due to lack of available IME and medical arbiter examiners. •… Continue reading