On March 16, 2020, the Division of Workers’ Compensation (DWC) and the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board (WCAB) announced a modified hearing calendar and emergency rules for filing as a result of the COVID-19 crisis.[1] On April 3, 2020, the DWC and the WCAB announced that they were extending the procedures through April 10, 2020, and also announced new procedures effective April 13, 2020.

Procedures from April 6 – April 10, 2020

Expedited hearings will be conducted for parties that appear at the district offices. Status conferences, mandatory settlement conferences and priority conferences would be conducted via CourtCall only. All other hearings will be continued. No trials or lien conferences will be heard during this time. If all parties do not appear via CourtCall, the case will be continued and notice will be given. Parties are required to adhere to social distancing guidelines when visiting DWC district offices.

District offices will remain closed for filing purposes. All filing deadlines are extended to April 13. Walk-through documents, walk-in filings, or in-person requests will not be accepted. Parties may file documents online through the Electronic Adjudication Management System (EAMS). Parties also may mail settlement documents or petitions to the district office where the case is filed.

Procedures Effective April 13

District offices will hold no in-person hearings. All trials and lien conferences will be continued until further notice. Mandatory settlement conferences, priority conferences, status conferences and all expedited hearings will be heard telephonically. Rather than using CourtCall, all workers’ compensation judges will hear cases by an individually assigned toll-free conference line. A list of all conference line numbers will be posted on the DWC’s website prior to the effective date.

Parties should call the conference line for the assigned judge at the designated hearing time listed on the hearing notice. When prompted, parties enter the access code assigned to that line. DWC staff will instruct participants as to the procedure to follow during the call.

The DWC will reopen for filing purposes, but it will accept filings only via EAMS, JET file or by mail. DWC will not accept walk-in filings, walk-through documents or in-person requests until further notice. Injured workers who are unable to file utilizing these options or need assistance should contact the DWC’s call center at 909-383-4522.

Effective Immediately

Until further notified, the DWC will accept an electronic signature on any settlement documents, applications, pleadings, petitions or motions that are sent to the district offices or filed in EAMS. This is consistent with the WCAB’s en banc decision filed March 18, 2020.[2] For all e-forms, parties should utilize “S signature” as shown in the E-forms Filing Reference Guide and the JET File Business Rules.

The WCAB commissioners’ office will be closed to the public for in-person inquiries and requests until further notice.

The DWC’s Newsline of April 3, 2020 is available at: https://www.dir.ca.gov/DIRNews/2020/2020-29.html.

References

  1. The Newsline of March 16, 2020 is available at: https://www.dir.ca.gov/DIRNews/2020/2020-18.html. For a detailed discussion of it, see the article published by “Sullivan on Comp,” March 19, 2020, “WCAB Emergency Actions in Response to COVID-19” at https://app.sullivanoncomp.com/commentaries/2020-03-wcab-emergency-actions-in-response-to-covid-19.
  2. For a copy of this decision, see https://www.dir.ca.gov/wcab/EnBancdecisions2020/COVID-19.pdf.