Adjusting to the New Normal – Washington Claims Processing and COVID-19

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

L&I Offers Some Guidance on Active Retraining Plans through Office Careers as Moratorium On New Plans Remains in Place

In early March, the Washington Department of Labor of Industries announced a moratorium on approval of new vocational plans that include retraining by Office Careers. The move by L&I followed a three-part investigative series aired by King 5 which was highly critical of the Renton-based school, contending it did not provide adequate training to injured workers to prepare them to re-enter the workforce. The King 5 series spurred an investigation by the Washington Workforce Board, but even before the series aired, L&I had started its own audit of Office Careers. As an unaccredited school approved by L&I to offer vocational retraining, Office Careers has been a frequent target of plaintiff’s attorneys. However, its basic office skills classes, in areas such… Continue reading

Reductions in Hours, Furloughs, and Layoffs During COVID-19

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

Oregon Workers’ Compensation Rule Updates During COVID-19 Crisis

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

You still have time to register for SBH’s 2020 Washington Workshop!

It’s not too late to register for SBH’s 10th Annual Washington Workshop–Welcome to the Jungle! This year’s workshop is a live webinar hosted by SBH’s Washington Attorneys and special Guest Speakers, Jan Moss, RN, and Teresa Pacelli, USI Insurance. The webinar starts promptly at 8:30 am this Friday, April 10, 2020. The workshop is approved for 7.0 Washington claims management credits. The workshop is sure to be fun and informative, with topics such as: Blazing a New Trail: How to Handle Claims in a Post Maphet World Appellate Update Washington Workers’ Compensation Jeopardy Tips & Tricks to Closing a Claim Concussions – Discussed with “2020” Clarity How “Reserves” Affect Your Company, Your Claim, The Broker & Our Mutual Client… 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

Washington – COVID-19 Incident Reports, Workers’ Comp, Wage and Leave Issues

Krishna Balasubramani | Sather Byerly and Holloway, Oregon and Washington Employment Law, Workers Compensation, Longshore, and OSHA Defense AttorneysWith the recent news of Coronavirus (COVID-19) in Washington, we want to ensure everyone understands the guidelines for incident reports, workers’ compensation claims, and other employment-related concerns. We have created a Q&A to cover many questions Washington employers may have on this confusing and pressing issue.   When should an OSHA Injury and Illness incident report be filed? If an employer is aware of an exposure or an employee reports an exposure to a virus, this should be documented as a work incident. While the common cold and flu is exempt from OSHA recordkeeping requirements, COVID-19 is a recordable illness. OSHA COVID-19 Standards Employers should file an incident report if either: An employee has tested positive for COVID-19; or The… Continue reading

Oregon – COVID-19 Incident Reports, Workers’ Comp, Wage and Leave Issues

As Oregon employers continue to face unique issues in the wake of the COVID-19 coronavirus, SBH has assembled this list of commonly asked questions addressing workplace rights and responsibilities for incident reports, workers’ compensation claims, and other employment-related concerns.   When should an OSHA Injury and Illness Incident report be filed? OSHA has deemed COVID-19 a recordable illness when an employee of a covered employer is infected on the job. https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/covid-19/standards.html Employers should file an incident report if either: An employee has tested positive for COVID-19; or The employee was exposed at work to an individual who tested positive for COVID-19. Further, employers must report the death or in-patient hospitalization of any worker due to an on-the-job injury by calling… 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