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.
Washington State Announces 2020 COLA Increase; Affects Temporary Disability Payments Starting July 1st
Under RCW 51.32.075 temporary disability benefits are recalculated July 1st of each year to reflect changes in the states average wage. According to the Washington State Employment Security Department, the statewide average wage for 2019 was $69,700. This represents a 6.7% increase from 2018 average wage of $65,301; the largest increase since 1999. The Department of Labor and Industries has provided updated information on how to apply the COLA here. Please note the COLA does not apply to temporary disability payments until the second July after the date of injury, unless a worker’s temporary disability rate is set at the minimum or maximum temporary disability rate. Have questions about this year’s COLA increase? Feel free to contact me at 503-595-6110 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
With everything else going on right now, the yearly increase in minimum wage may not be the first thing on any employer’s mind. Don’t forget to make those hourly rate adjustments, effective July 1, 2020. Oregon has a region-specific minimum wage, so confirm which region applies your employees here. The standard minimum wage increases to $12.00/hour. Those within the Portland metro area increase to $13.25/hour, and non-urban counties increase to $11.50/hour. If you have any questions about wage and hour issues, feel free to give me a call at 503-595-2134 or email at email@example.com
The Oregon Workers’ Compensation Board recently issued a revised Bulletin No. 1 addressing the maximum attorney fee under several statutes. The attorney fees affected by the revised bulletin are provided in ORS 656.262(11)(a) (unreasonable delay or refusal to pay compensation or accept or deny), ORS 656.262(14)(a) (claimant attorney participation in claimant’s statement or deposition), and ORS 656.308(2)(d) (responsibility denial). The maximum attorney fee amount is adjusted annually on July 1 by the same percentage increase, if any, as made to the state’s average weekly wage (SAWW) under ORS 656.211. The reasonable hourly rate for an attorney’s time spent during a claimant’s interview or deposition pursuant to ORS 656.262(14)(a) is also adjusted by the same percentage on July 1. Effective July… Continue reading
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
Back to Basics: While easy to overlook during the COVID-19 pandemic, double checking details in Washington Claims is still as important as ever
As the impacts of COVID-19 continue to occur and affect people and businesses, it is easy to get swept up in the breadth of complexities this pandemic has created. While businesses grapple with safety, financial, and personnel issues and decisions, day-to-day business details can get lost in the shuffle. Among these details, important items such as workers’ compensation time loss benefits and the proper calculation of amounts due to injured workers are certainly easily placed on the back burner or perhaps overlooked entirely. While it is understandable that issues such as worker safety and social distancing concerns, furloughs, and remote workers may take precedence right now, improper or simply incorrect time loss calculations in a Department of Labor & Industries… Continue reading
In the midst of COVID-19 pandemic, Oregon Court of Appeals issues troubling ruling for processing new/omitted condition claims
The Oregon Court of Appeals issued its decision in Coleman v. SAIF, 304 Or App 122 (2020) on May 13, 2020. Claimant filed a claim for a left knee injury on June 12, 2015. On June 29, 2015, claimant and his attending physician submitted an 827 form for a new/omitted condition claim for medial femoral chondral defect in the left knee. The carrier issued an initial notice of acceptance on August 11, 2015, accepting a left knee strain and contusion; there was no reference to the June 29, 2015 827 form. In a chart note dated October 15, 2015, claimant’s attending physician referenced the June 2015 827 form and indicated it needed to be addressed by the carrier. The carrier… 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
With the onset of COVID-19 and statewide stay-at-home orders, a high percentage of today’s workforce is operating from home, or in some variation of remote setup. Even as employees begin to return to a more traditional work setting, it is reasonable to anticipate that the pandemic-related response will have long-term effects on where and how some employers allow their employees to work. So, with the rise in remote workers will likely come a rise in remote workplace injuries. How do you respond? In Oregon the general rule is injuries occurring “in the course of” and “arising out of” employment are compensable. That remains the case for injuries occurring remotely, if the worker is within the course and scope of his… 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