Update Regarding IWCC Procedures and COVID-19
As expected, there was a legal challenge to the emergency amendment by the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission expanding the evidentiary rule regarding COVID-19 cases being rebuttably presumed to be related to an essential employee’s employment. The Illinois Manufacturers’ Association and Illinois Retail Merchants’ Association filed for a temporary restraining order in Sangamon County, arguing that the Commission’s action granted new rights to employees and infringed upon the protectable interests of employers which is a violation of the Illinois Administrative Procedure Act as the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission has not been given the authority to create new substantive rights. This was a power solely vested with the Illinois Legislature.
On April 23, 2020, Judge Madonia entered a temporary restraining order (TRO) enjoining enforcement of the Commissions’ amendment. We have not seen the order, but it is our understanding that it will state that the Workers’ Compensation/Occupational Diseases Act will continue to be enforced as it existed before the effective date of the emergency rule. The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission has been given until April 30, 2020 to file an answer. The Court set the matter for a teleconference on the May 4th to discuss further proceedings, including the possibility of an evidentiary hearing in conjunction with the request for the preliminary injunction.
In addition, the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission has also released its plan for May status calls.
- Arbitrators will conduct May arbitration calls telephonically.
- Arbitrators will set cases for hearing from the May, 2020 call sheets on trial dates for the month of June, 2020.
- Cases will only be set by agreement.
- No emergency §19(b)s or §19(b-1)s will be set on the calls. Emergency matters will be still be heard by the emergency Arbitrators during the month of May.
- Only cases that are ready be tried should be set.
- The number of cases set on any given date will be limited.
- For downstate venues, the cases set in each venue, will stay in each venue. For example, Arbitrator Lee will set cases in May for June, but they will be heard by the June Arbitrator. When they are returned to the call, they will then revert to Arbitrator Lee.
We will continue to keep you advised of further developments, both on the litigation over the Emergency Rule, and the procedural changes for hearings at the Commission. Please feel to contact us with any questions or concerns.