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States Shrink Workers’ Compensation Commissions

Labor & Industries claims continue to evolve across the States and a recent development in Michigan may signal an alarming trend in the downsizing of L & I Commissions that specialize in protecting injured worker rights in the face of business lobby interests.

Governor Rick Snyder pressed ahead in late May with his effort to trim State costs.  Among the many moves to downsize State bureaucracies and streamline government services and efficiency was the creation of the Michigan Compensation Appellate Commission.

According to Compnewsnetwork, “Gov. Snyder issued Executive Order 2011-6, which transfers the authorities and responsibilities of the Workers’ Compensation Appellate Commission and the Employment Security Board of Review to the new Michigan Compensation Appellate Commission.”

“With this reorganization, Michigan becomes a model of efficiency for appellate decisions in these two case areas,” Snyder said. “It provides greater flexibility in addressing fluctuating caseload levels and variations.”

The Michigan Compensation Appellate Commission will now consider appeals of decisions issued by magistrates and administrative law examiners, specifically in the realm of unemployment and workers’ compensation claims.

The most important, and perhaps most troubling, part of the creation of this new Commission, is that it takes on the workload that was previously performed by two separate Commissions: The Workers’ Compensation Appellate Commission and the Employment Security Board of Review. Although our economy is slowly recovering, what is striking about this consolidation of Commissions is that it does not seem to acknowledge the massive increase in unemployment and workers’ compensation claims the recession has engendered.

Further, while the Executive Order issued by the Governor requires that the new appellate commissioners be evaluated under defined standards to ensure that appeals are handled in a timely, knowledgeable and appropriate manner, the Order also requires that the commissioners adhere to productivity and timeliness standards.  In short, the effort here is to move claims and reviews through the Commission quickly, and as such, the important scrutiny that each individual injured worker’s claim should receive might be compromised.

Every experienced Washington workers compensation attorney is watching these developments across the country to ensure that injured workers in this state will continue to receive all the protections afforded to them by constantly evolving Labor & Industries law. Injured workers should first seek medical attention, then seek out the advice of an experienced L & I attorney at Emery Reddy as they pursue their claim.

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