Workers’ Compensation Commissioner Changes, and Bills Affecting the Workers’ Compensation Act
I. – Workers’ Compensation Commission
- Chairman: Commissioner Michael Brennan replaces outgoing Chairman Joann Frattiani
- Commissioner Public Member: Arbitrator Barbara Flores replaces outgoing Commissioner Michael Brennan
- Commissioner Labor Member: Attorney Marc Parker replaces outgoing Commissioner Charles Devriendt
- Commissioner Public Member: Attorney Maria Portela replaces outgoing Commissioner Joshua Luskin
- Commissioner Labor Member: Arbitrator Doug McCarthy replaces outgoing Commissioner David Gore
- Commissioner Business Member: Commissioner Kevin Lamborn’s appointment expired. No replacement has been appointed yet.
II. – Workers’ Compensation Commission Act
Many bills have been filed with the House and the Senate and are pending disposition at this time. Two of these bills have moved and are of serious interest.
- Senate Bill 1596 has passed the Senate and the House and awaits the Governor’s veto or signature. The official synopsis is as follows: Amends the Workers’ Compensation Act and the Workers’ Occupational Diseases Act. Provides that specified Sections limiting recovery do not apply to injuries or death resulting from an occupational disease as to which the recovery of compensation benefits under the Act would be precluded due to the operation of any period of repose or repose provision. Provides that, as to any such injury occupational disease, the employee, the employee’s heirs, and any such person having the standing under law to bring a civil action at law has the nonwaivable right to bring such an action against any employer or employers. Effective immediately. Please note that SB 1596 weakens the exclusive remedy under the Workers’ Compensation Act. Additionally, there is a question of coverage for this new section under existing policies.
- House Bill 2480 is a bill that generally affects the rebuttable presumption principally dealing with the fire service, EMT and paramedic. The official synopsis is as follows:
Amends the Workers’ Compensation Act and the Workers’ Occupational Diseases Act. Includes Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) in the list of ailments giving rise to a rebuttable presumption that the ailment arose out of employment of firefighters, emergency medical technicians, and paramedics. Provides that the presumption is intended to shift the burden of proof and requires clear and convincing evidence to overcome the presumption. Contains applicability provisions. Excludes firefighters, emergency medical technicians, and paramedics from certain limitations on recovery for hearing loss. Effective immediately.
HB 2480 is in the House having passed out of Committee. This bill will enhance compensability in the already bedeviling rebuttable presumption section which presumes that cancer, vascular disease, etc. arise out of and in the course of employment and are causally related to the employment. With the advent of this section, the employer will be required to rebut the presumption with clear and convincing evidence. “Clear and convincing” is a higher standard of proof than our current standard of more likely than not, but less than beyond a reasonable doubt.
Stay tuned, we anticipate more activity on both of these fronts.