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SPECIAL UPDATE: WCAB AND EDD RELEASE IMPORTANT UPDATES ADDRESSING CORONAVIRUS AND SOCIAL DISTANCING
On account of the many public health recommendations and orders affecting society generally due to COVID-19, there are expected to be delays and changes in protocols in the handling of workers’ compensation claims while government agencies and health officials learn more and make further recommendations as to proper safety and health policies. Mullen and Filippi is committed during these times to providing our clients with all relevant updates and to continue providing excellent service and representation. We’re all in this together and whether we’re at home or elsewhere, we’ll be near our computers and phones to answer any questions you might have about how the developing situation is affecting your claims and workers’ compensation generally.
DWC AND WCAB ANNOUNCE MODIFIED HEARING CALENDAR AND FILING DEADLINES
The DWC and the WCAB, in order to balance their legislative and constitutional duties with concerns for the health and safety of their staff and the workers’ compensation community, has announced that in-person court appearances will be limited in line with the numerous public health orders that have issued recently.
From March 17, 2020 through March 20, 2020, the DWC will only hear Expedited Hearings at the district offices. The DWC is continuing all other hearings and sending notice of the new hearing dates within the next five business days.
For the period between March 23, 2020 and April 3, 2020, the DWC will continue to hear Expedited Hearings for parties that appear at the district offices. The DWC will hear Status Conferences, Mandatory Settlement Conferences, and Priority Conferences via CourtCall only. If parties fail to appear via CourtCall, the case will be continued and notice will be provided. All other hearings will be continued and no Trials or Lien Conferences will be heard during this period. While CourtCall is not always ideal for handling disputes that require Board attention, for the time being it will be a helpful stop-gap measure.
No filings will be accepted between March 17, 2020 and April 3, 2020. In light of that, all filing deadlines have been extended to Monday, April 6, 2020. The DWC will not accept walk-through documents or walk-in filings until the DWC reopen for filing purposes. Judges will be focused on reviewing settlement documents and ruling on petitions submitted by the parties during the closure. The DWC advises that EAMS may be used to file documents online and advises that parties may mail settlement documents or petitions to the district office where a case is filed. Parties can find the contact information for the district offices at the following link: https://www.dir.ca.gov/dwc/dir2.htm
EDD PROVIDES HELPFUL GUIDANCE TO EMPLOYERS AND EMPLOYEES ON STATE DISABILITY ELIGIBILITY FOR WORKERS AFFECTED BY THE CORONAVIRUS
In our last bulletin, we advised that workers’ compensation benefits are likely not owed by employers to employees affected by the coronavirus in most cases and suggested that other state agencies and benefit systems are likely better equipped to address absences from work caused by this public health situation. EDD has recently confirmed that coronavirus quarantined individuals and their caregivers who are missing work or facing reduced work hours are eligible for State Disability benefits. The Governor, by executive order, has waived the usual one-week waiting period for the commencement of benefits as well. Benefits are approximately 60-70% of wages and range from $50-1,300 per week. Employees who have to miss work to care for their children due to school closures could also be eligible for benefits if there are no other care options available and remote work is not possible. The availability of these benefits should help lessen the impact on affected employees. EDD has provide a lot of resources and services that will be helpful to employers as well, such as the UI Work Sharing Program that allows employers to seek alternatives to layoffs. Employers can potentially retain their employees by reducing their hours and wages while Unemployment Insurance offsets lost wages. Any employers planning a closure or major layoffs can obtain assistance through the Rapid Response Program. EDD can also provide employers facing a hardship due to COVID-19 with a possible 60-day time extension for filing of state payroll reports and the deposit of state payroll taxes.
Additional information and resources can be found at the following link: https://edd.ca.gov/about_edd/coronavirus-2019.htm.
CDC OFFERS AN UPDATE ON THE COVID-19 RESPONSE VIA WEBINAR
The Centers for Disease Control is offering a webinar on March 19, 2020 at 3:00 PM ET presented by Dr. Nancy Messonier, the Director of the CDC National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. Dr. Messonier will be providing guidance to the private sector for how to best address the developing situation. Anyone interested can register at the following link:
SIX BAY AREA COUNTIES GIVE “SHELTER IN PLACE” ORDERS
San Francisco, Santa Clara, San Mateo, Marin, Contra Costa, and Alameda counties are currently planning on releasing a “shelter in place” directive operative Tuesday, March 17, 2020. The order stops short of a full lockdown but requires individuals to remain home and not travel for any non-essential purposes. Travel to shop for necessary supplies and to access essential healthcare will be permitted. As far as work, working from home will be required of all individuals except those providing essential services. Such essential services include police, fire, and other emergency responders, utility providers, workers in health care, and presumably the employees necessary to keep supermarkets open and delivery services operational. The police and sheriff departments will likely be tasked with ensuring compliance. More information is available at the following link: https://www.sfchronicle.com/local-politics/article/Bay-Area-must-shelter-in-place-Only-15135014.php
This Bulletin was written by Jim Cotter, Associate Partner in our Oakland office.
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