On June 7, 2018 the First Responder Presumption, House Bill SB 6214 became law and changed the way workers and employers approach mental health claims filed by firefighters and law enforcement officers throughout the state of Washington. Before the First Responder Presumption, all workers, including first responders, were typically prevented from filing a claim for Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as an occupational disease. The new law changes this rule and carves out an exception for first responders. Now, when a firefighter or law enforcement officer files a claim for PTSD, it is presumed to be an occupational disease unless the employer proves otherwise. In other words, the new law shifts the burden of proof to the employer, who is now… Continue reading
The next annual rate increase for minimum wage goes into effect on July 1, 2018. The standard rate increases to $10.75 per hour. Those in the Portland Metro area increase to $12.00 per hour and for non-urban counties, the rate increases to $10.50 per hour. If you are not sure which category you fall into, check out BOLI’s website here for a link to the Portland Metro urban growth boundary and a county-by-county map of rates. If you have any questions regarding which rate you are obligated to pay, please contact me directly at (503) 595-2134.
The Workers’ Compensation Division recently issued new rules for calculating average weekly wage. The new rules will apply to claims with dates of injury on or after February 21, 2018. Under the new rule: When a worker is paid irregular wages and there is an increase or decrease in the worker’s pay rate in the previous 52 weeks before the injury/occupational disease, this will not constitute a “new wage earning agreement.” The insurer must calculate the worker’s average weekly hours worked at each pay rate since the last wage earning agreement (not to exceed 52 weeks). The average hours at each pay rate will then be multiplied by the pay rate at the time of injury/occupational disease. Any irregular… Continue reading
In Hendrickson v. Dep’t of Labor & Indus., the Washington Division One Court of Appeals reaffirmed what evidence must support a reopening application. Claimant injured her middle and lower back in October 2007. The Department closed her claim in May 2012 with a category 4 dorso-lumbar impairment award. Just prior to claim closure, claimant complained to Dr. Martin she was “having ongoing pain all over.” In September 2013, claimant filed a reopening application, which the Department denied in February 2014. Claimant appealed. At hearing, claimant’s medical expert, Dr. Martin, testified that claimant’s cervical and lumbar MRI scans taken prior to claim closure and those taken in 2014 “were essentially unchanged” and there were “no objective findings of worsening” in claimant’s… Continue reading
Starting January 1, 2018, Washington employers will have to provide paid sick leave to their employees. All employers are required to provide one hour of paid sick leave to an employee for every 40 hours worked, paid at an employee’s normal hourly compensation. Employees may use paid sick leave: (1) to care for themselves or their family members, (2) when an employee’s workplace or their child’s school or place of care has been closed by a public official for any health-related reason, or (3) for absences that qualify for leave under the state’s Domestic Violence Leave Act. Because you have likely heard or read about the law’s requirements, the focus of this post is to summarize the Department of Labor… Continue reading
The Workers’ Compensation Division issued an Addendum to Bulletin No. 377 on December 8, 2017. The Division issued the addendum to address House Bill 2338, which changed the computation of fatal benefits to children of deceased workers or “surviving children.” The addendum does not change the monthly benefit amounts for: Surviving children receiving benefits at 25 percent of the base or average weekly wage (whichever applies) before January 1, 2018; or Surviving children or dependents with no surviving parents who are completing secondary education, a GED, or a program of higher education. The addendum does change all monthly benefits being paid at the 10 percent level before January 1, 2018. Those benefits must be increased to 25 percent for benefits… Continue reading
There were several attorney fee decisions. All were unpublished and therefore only instructive rather than precedent. In Abassi v. Misson Essential Personnel and Yunis v. Academi, LLC, ALJ’s had based an award in part on fee awards from the district court. The Board directed the ALJ’s to explain how the district court decisions were selected, the market analysis provided in each, and how district court awards were for services by lawyers of comparable skill, experience, and reputation. In Anderson v. Hawaii Stevedores, Inc., the Board affirmed denial of costs when claimant’s attorneys failed to provide documentation verifying the amount, relevance, and necessity of costs. In Hardman v. Marine Terminals Corporation the claimant’s attorney performed services in… Continue reading
SBH is hosting its annual Oregon Claims Professional Workshop on November 3, 2017 at the Holiday Inn in Wilsonville. Topics covered include an appellate update, independent medical exams and post traumatic stress disorder, non-subject workers, and vocational rehabilitation. You do not want to miss this years magical event! To register and for more information click here.
Please join me on October 6, 2017 as I present with other panelists in a live webinar to discuss Washington’s new Paid Family & Medical Leave Insurance law. The webinar will discuss Washington’s newly adopted paid family leave insurance program including the origin of the law, the obligations on employers, benefits to employees, and options for self-insurers as well as interactions with workers’ compensation and other disability programs. The webinar will give you a better understanding of the new law and a chance to ask any questions before the state begins to collect premiums in 2019. This live webinar takes place on October 6th from 9:00 am to 11:00 am. You can register here. If you have any questions… Continue reading
As of October 1, 2017 any use of mobile devices will be prohibited while driving in Oregon. Like the law in Washington, which went into effect this summer, the new Oregon law prohibits drivers from holding or touching their mobile devices or using any function of the phone while driving or sitting in traffic. Here’s what you need to know. Drivers are prohibited from holding their device or touching it for more than a single touch or swipe to activate, deactivate, or initiate a function on the device. The law applies to all mobile devices including cell phones, tablets, laptops, and GPS devices. The law does exempt use of an electronic device to contact emergency services as long as no… Continue reading