The WSIA Weekly, 5.27.16

The WSIA Weekly returns from a brief hiatus. Today’s updates are for the last two weeks. 

Recruitment restarts for Board of Industrial Insurance Appeals Chair
Earlier this week, a position description was released announcing the renewal of recruitment efforts for the Chair of the Board of Industrial Insurance Appeals, the governor-appointed member of the BIIA who is nominated through a mutual process between worker and employer stakeholders. The Washington State Labor Council and Association of Washington Business have taken point on the nominating process. Interested individuals must submit materials to both organizations by June 10th. Interviews will take place on June 22nd. More information is available at this link.   

OSHA expands employer responsibility to provide access to reports
Last Friday, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) posted a “correction” to its previously-reported final rules released on May 12th (effective August 10th) providing additional detail with respect to employer requirements to provide access to the OSHA 300 and 301 reports. The rules now establish a regulatory right to these reports for employees, former employees, and their representatives and compel employers to provide the information with no cost in very short time frames. The no-cost immediate access to this information may result in increased litigation and workers’ compensation claims. See this link for the updated guidance.   

WSIA Liaison Committee notes up on the website
Members interested in following the work of the WSIA Liaison Committee, which meets bi-monthly with Labor & Industries’ Self-Insurance Program leadership to discuss operational and policy issues, can now access the minutes from our most recent meeting held earlier this month. Topics included an update on the development of the new Self-Insurance Risk Analysis System (SIRAS) and corresponding medical electronic data interchange, as well as a roundtable on furthering collaboration with L&I’s Office of Medical Director around evidence-based medicine occupational health best practices. Click here for the minutes and handouts.  

Washington Supreme Court clarifies workers’ comp coverage for franchisees
Last Thursday, the Washington Supreme Court released its decision in Department of Labor & Industries v. Lyons Enterprises, Inc., a case determining the scope of workers’ compensation coverage for franchisees. At issue was a commercial janitorial franchisor who resisted the Department’s determination that certain of its franchisees in Washington were covered employees of the franchisor, rather than separate businesses. In a decision sure to affect the broader franchising sector, the Supreme Court held that franchises without their own employees are covered workers of the franchisor for purposes of workers’ compensation. A copy of the court’s unanimous opinion is available here.     

Court of Appeals decides 2nd Injury Fund case
Also last Thursday, Division III of the Washington Court of Appeals, headquartered in Spokane, issued a ruling in Department of Labor & Industries v. Ortiz, involving self-insured employer United Frozen Foods. The issue in the case was whether the Department has a duty to pay a self-insured employer from the Second Injury Fund for a fairly substantial amount of overpaid time loss payments arising from a back-dated pension settlement. The Court of Appeals answered in the affirmative, affirming prior Board of Industrial Insurance Appeals case law. A copy of the court’s opinion is available here.      

Federal overtime revisions sure to foster workers’ comp wage complexity
On May 18th, the United States Department of Labor issued a much-anticipated rule revising the standards for overtime eligibility under the Fair Labor Standards Act, increasing the threshold for the law’s “white collar” exemptions to $47,476 per year, more than doubling the prior minimum. With more workers eligible for overtime, calculating time loss benefits under Washington’s already byzantine wage calculation system may become that much more difficult for claims handlers. For a reaction to the rule on, check this link, and for the actual text of the rule itself, click here

2016 Annual Conference Photos up on Facebook
If you were able to make this year’s Annual Conference or not, venture over to our Facebook page to enjoy some of the photos of the learning, networking, and fun we had earlier this month! 

Remembering Clif Finch, 1946-2016
The Washington Workers’ Compensation public policy community was saddened to learn last week of the passing of Clif Finch, an Olympia-based lobbyist who contributed to the development of workers’ compensation policy in Washington for nearly three decades. Clif was the General Counsel and Government Affairs Director for the Association of Washington Business from the late 1980s to 2003, a longtime member of the Workers’ Compensation Advisory Committee, and a staunch ally of WSIA. Through his later position in the Aequus public affairs firm, he later did some lobbying and consulting for WSIA as we explored the feasibility of an alternative surety program in Washington. Clif was a towering figure in Washington public policy circles and will be missed.