Statute and Rule Updates

Proposed Unemployment Rule May Impact Oregon Employers-Feedback Due by October 21

On September 3, 2020, the Employment Department issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking of Oregon Administrative Rule (OAR) 471-030-0071. The proposed rule (found here) gives the Department the authority during a declared state of emergency or public health emergency to change eligibility requirements to receive unemployment insurance benefits and the authority to make changes to the rate at what such benefits shall be paid. The proposed rule specifies that the Department shall give public notice of the new requirements to the extent reasonably possible and the public notice shall include the effective dates for the new requirements. Further, the proposed rule clarifies that the new requirements may not extend beyond 90 days from the end of the state of emergency… Continue reading

New Rules in Oregon Affecting Assessed Attorney Fees in Workers’ Compensation Cases

The Oregon Workers’ Compensation Board (“WCB”) met on August 18, 2020 to finalize two new rule proposals affecting attorney fees for claimant’s counsel. First, the WCB will allow information about the claimant’s attorney’s hourly rate to be considered when awarding an assessed fee. This will be an additional factor to the already enumerated factors (time devoted, complexity, value of case, etc.). Additionally, this is an optional factor meaning it does not have to be considered in every case. From the discussions, it sounds like many claimant’s attorneys will submit information from the Oregon Bar about hourly rates, affidavits from other attorneys, and other information to justify how they came to their hourly rate. This new rule will apply to… Continue reading

Washington: COVID 19 and Voluntary Termination/Unemployment Benefits

Workers’ Compensation Is time loss due if a worker performing modified duty takes a voluntary layoff in the context of COVID-19? According to RCW 51.32.090(4), if a worker is performing modified duty and that modified duty “comes to an end”, before his or her recovery is sufficient to permit a return to the job of injury or other available work offered by the employer of injury, time loss should be reinstated. The COVID-19 pandemic has led to many layoffs and company closures. If a worker performing modified duty loses his or her job due to a company shut down or involuntary layoff due to lack of business, the modified duty will have come to an end under RCW 51.32.090(4). Therefore,… Continue reading

Effective April 2nd: Employers Must Provide Paid Sick Leave and Paid FMLA Leave Related to COVID-19

On March 18, 2020, President Trump signed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (HR 6201) into enactment. These provisions are to take effect no later than April 2, 2020 and will expire on December 31, 2020. They cover employers with fewer than 500 employees including public and non-profit employers. The Secretary of Labor may enact regulations to exclude health care providers and emergency responders as well as exempt small businesses with fewer than 50 employees when providing leave would jeopardize the viability of the business as a going concern. Covered employers must post and provide notice to employees about their rights under the Act, which the Department of Labor shall provide along with further rules and guidance within the next… Continue reading

SBH Attorney Aaron Bass Testifies in Front of Washington State Senate

Attorney Aaron Bass testified on behalf of Washington Self-Insurers Association in opposition to SHB 2409. The bill not only increases the penalty amounts, it imposes a new vague “fair conduct” standard and includes a “per occurrence” multiplier on self-insurance penalties. Attorney Bass used his time to point out the grossly punitive and concerning language in Section 2 of the proposed bill. The bill would entitle claimants a penalty each time benefits were unreasonably delayed. Rather assessing a penalty of $500 or 25% of the aggregate amount of delayed or unpaid benefits, the proposed bill provides a maximum $1,700 penalty for each act of unreasonable delay. The consequence of a “per occurrence” penalty is catastrophic and extremely punitive. Attorney Bass outlined… Continue reading

Oregon Legislature Makes Sweeping changes with Workplace Fairness Act

In response to the national #metoo movement, the Oregon legislature passed the 2019 Oregon Workplace Fairness Act. The Workplace Fairness Act (the “Act”) takes aim at employer’s employment agreements, settlement agreements, anti-harassment and discrimination policies as well as increasing the statute of limitations for a number of unlawful employment actions. The Act was passed in the 2019 legislature and governs activity after September 29, 2019. However, employers are not required to implement the anti-harassment and discrimination policies discussed below until October 2020. Employment and Severance Agreements The Act prohibits employers from entering into employment agreements that contain a nondisclosure or non-disparagement provision that prevents employees from discussing workplace harassment or discrimination. In addition, the Act prohibits nondisclosure, non-disparagement, and no-rehire… Continue reading

WCD Issues New Rules Related to Medical Services

Kevin AndersonThe WCD has written new rules related to medial services that will go into effect April 1, 2019. While there are a number of changes, here are a couple of the most significant: MCO’s Requires MCO when less than 3 providers in a provider category in a geographical service area, to provide list of at least 3 physicians willing to treat claimant in given area. If the MCO does not provide the list or have anyone available, the worker is allowed to treat outside the MCO. Allows worker to continue treating with current provider for 14 days (formerly 7 days) after being enrolled in the MCO before having to establish with MCO provider.   Elective Surgery Removes statement that chart… Continue reading

WCD Reviewing Rules Pertaining to IME’s and WRME’s

Kevin AndersonThe WCD held a meeting to take public comment on the administrative rules related to Independent Medical Exams (IME’s) and Worker Requested Medical Exams (WRME’s).   Some of the more lively discussions centered around whether IME providers should be required to produce their report within a certain time frame with claimants’ attorneys arguing medical treatment, time-loss benefits, and permanent impairment can be all be delayed pending these reports. We provided ample testimony that the current rules were adequate to address these concerns.   The majority of the rules discussed pertain to the medical providers’ licensing and training. These discussions focused on confirming the WCD’s ability to sanction or remove an IME provider from the approved list of providers is consistent… Continue reading

New 801 Form and Medical Treatment

You may have noticed, the Oregon Workers’ Compensation Division has revised the standard Form-801 “Report of Job Injury or Illness.” This form is the normal starting place for many claims and used throughout the claims administration process. The new revisions include acknowledgements by both the worker and employer regarding the worker’s right to select their medical provider. Specifically, by signing the 801: The worker is agreeing “I understand I have a right to see a health care provider of my choice subject to certain restrictions under ORS 656.260 and ORS 656.325.” The employer is agreeing “I understand I may not restrict the worker’s choice of or access to a health care provider. If I do, it could result in… Continue reading

Changes to Oregon rules regarding Employer/Insurer Coverage Responsibility effective as of January 1, 2017

White, David_160x222OAR 436-050 governs the responsibility of employers and insurers to provide workers’ compensation coverage to subject workers for compensable injuries and illnesses. Many changes to an employer/insurers coverage responsibility went into effect at the start of the New Year. Some of these changes were stylistic and meant to provide improved clarity through better organization and use of plain language. Other changes were more substantive and are outlined below. OAR 436-050-0110/OAR 436-050-0210: Requires insurers/self-insurers to process and maintain claim records in the State of Oregon. However, insurers can receive claim reports and issue payments from outside the state so long as records are forwarded to or payments are directed from Oregon. OAR 436-050-0150(3): Requires employers to maintain a financial rating of… Continue reading