Since March 2020, to protect the health and safety of staff and the community, the Division of Workers’ Compensation (DWC) closed the district offices for in-person filing. The DWC has only allowed documents to be filed by via EAMS, JET file or by mail.
On Dec. 15, 2020, the WCAB issued an en banc decision suspending CCR 10789(c), which applies to the assignment of judges for walk-through cases. The WCAB suspended CCR 10789(c) to allow district offices to schedule time frames for walk-through of documents as appropriate for their capacity. This decision was issued to prepare the district offices for walk-through documents.
On Jan. 7, 2021, the DWC announced that effective Jan. 11, 2021, district offices will be available for walk-throughs Monday through Friday, from 2 to 4 p.m., but walk-throughs are limited only to a Compromise and Release or a Stipulation with Request for Award. The DWC will still require the documents to be filed at least 24 hours ahead of the walk-through appearance, by either JET filing or e-filing. Documents filed by U.S. mail must be available to the judge in EAMS prior to the walk-through.
The DWC instructs that the walk-through procedure will be handled via LifeSize virtual courtroom, a web-conferencing application, which will be available for each office. The walk-through judge will handle as many walk-throughs as are feasible for the day. The judge is also given discretion regarding the order in which a judge will hear the walk-throughs. Parties are encouraged to file proposed orders to assist the judge with handling the matter more expeditiously. Only settlements may be walk-through at this time. The DWC will look to expand hours and documents allowed in the future based on staffing availability.
Note that while the DWC has opened the district offices for walk-through of settlement documents, the WCAB’s en banc decision gives district offices the ability to schedule the timeframes for walk-through of documents as appropriate for their capacity. It gives presiding judges full responsibility for assignment of cases to the workers’ compensation judges in each district office. It also empowers presiding judges to prioritize which documents may be assigned on a walk-through basis and to decide whether to permit a document to be assigned as a walk-through. Therefore, it may be that not all district offices will adhere to the expanded rules for walk-through documents.