On Sept. 1, 2021, the Division of Workers’ Compensation (DWC) announced that in-person hearings will resume starting Oct. 1, 2021, at almost all of the DWC district offices. The only exceptions are Eureka, which is now a completely virtual office, and satellite locations Bishop, Marysville, Chico and Ukiah, which will also remain virtual.
The in-person hearings will apply to trials, lien trials, expedited hearings and special adjudication unit (SAU) trials only. The DWC will continue to telephonically hear all mandatory settlement conferences, priority conferences, status conferences, SAU conferences, and lien conferences via the individually assigned judges’ conference lines.
The DWC’s hearing notices will be updated as of September 17, 2021. Parties are being notified that although a notice might state that the case is being heard telephonically, if it is one of the types of cases listed above and not at a satellite office, it will be held in-person at the assigned district office.
The DWC has notified parties to contact the DWC call center at (909) 383-4522 if they have any questions. The DWC also requires all visitors to DWC offices to wear face coverings regardless of vaccination status or county mandates, following recommendation from the California Department of Public Health (CDPH).
Please note that the WCAB is in the process of amending its Rules of Practice and Procedure to allow any type of hearing to be conducted electronically. Under the proposed regulations, the WCAB may, on its own motion, set any case for any type of hearing and may order that hearings be conducted electronically.
A party may object to an electronic hearing by filing a written objection showing good cause after service of a notice that a hearing will be conducted electronically. If there is an objection, the presiding workers' compensation judge of the district office with venue will decide whether the hearing will be conducted electronically.
The proposed regulations are still in the rule-making phase and a public hearing is scheduled for Sept. 24, 2021. There is no indication if the proposed regulations will be adopted in their current form or when they will be finalized. Therefore, at the present time, parties must be prepared to appear in-person for the types of hearings specified above starting Oct. 1, 2021.
In McKee v. Aerotek, Inc., 2021 Cal. Wrk. Comp. P.D. LEXIS 189, the panel majority held that a nurse case manager's injury when she fell off a loading dock that she failed to notice while walking to the cafeteria was sudden and extraordinary pursuant to LC 3208.3(d). It found that the applicant worked a desk job and her job duties did not necessitate using the loading dock. It concluded that this was not the type of routine physical injury that a person in the applicant's occupation would experience or expect within the first six months of employment, so her psychiatric injury was not barred by LC 3208.3(d). The dissenting commissioner believed that falling from an obvious ledge due to inattention was the kind of incident that reasonably could be expected to occur.
Hefley Law, APC