Update on Coronavirus Impact on PA Workers’ Compensation System

***UPDATE 3/17/20*** A statement was issued by Joseph DeRita, Director of the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Office of Adjudication:

As you are all aware, Governor Wolf ordered the closure of all Pennsylvania state government offices for 14 days effective Tuesday, March 17, 2020. All hearings and mediations scheduled during that time are cancelled and will be rescheduled as soon as practicable. Some of the WCJ’s, who are already equipped to work from home, have already reached out to discuss rescheduling arrangements for mediations. Those will go forward.  In addition, in an effort to provide some adjudicatory services, I have authorized the use of telephone hearings on a limited basis for Petitions to Approve C & R Agreements.  Requests to schedule C & R hearings will be accepted beginning March 17, 2020 in the Southeastern and Eastern district offices only as described below.  We hope to expand this limited service to the Central and Western districts by week’s end.  Beyond that, we will be expanding WCJ telework capabilities generally to conduct telephone hearings on other types of petitions.

For now, the protocol to request a special C & R telephone hearing during the time of government shutdown is as follows:  send an e-mail request to the Judge Manager of the district in which the case is pending (JM Karen Wertheimer, Eastern District,kwertheime@pa.gov and JM Holly San Angelo, Southeastern District, hsanangelo@pa.gov). Your request must include the case caption, dispute #, names and e-mail addresses of counsel and whether the case requires translation services (include language of testimony to be translated).  WCOA staff will schedule the court reporter.  The JM will re-assign the case to a specially selected WCJ who will then schedule and conduct the C & R hearing telephonically.  Claimant must be present in Claimant’s counsels office.  The C & R agreement must be notarized.  The WCJ assigned to hear the case will advise how the telephone conference is to be arranged and how the C & R documents are to be transmitted prior to the telephone hearing. 

This emergency C & R protocol is just a start.  We appreciate your patience during these difficult times.  No one can predict when normal operations will resume.  But we will continue to expand telephonic participation to include more WCJ’s for more types of petitions/hearings as resources permit.  Please refer to WCAIS Alerts on your Dashboard daily for updates.

***UPDATE 4:10 pm*** We were just notified that ALL of the Workers’ Compensation Hearing Offices are CLOSED until further notice.  We suspect that would be until AT LEAST March 30, 2020.  We will, of course, keep everyone informed.

***UPDATE 2:30 pm***  You can add the workers’ compensation hearings in Doylestown, Easton, Gettysburg, Chambersburg and York to the list of those cancelled until at least March 30, 2020.

 

Since last week, there have been several additional cancellations and closures in the PA workers’ compensation system due to the Coronavirus pandemic.  All Bureau of Workers’ Compensation Hearing Offices in Pennsylvania remain technically open, other than Dresher, Bristol, Harrisburg, Malvern, and Upper Darby.  However, many Workers’ Compensation Judges across the Commonwealth have cancelled his or her hearings.

In addition to the impact on the various workers’ compensation hearing offices, we have been informed that, “Due to the Governor’s order regarding COVID-19, the Bureau of Worker’s Compensation office is closed until March 30th.”  We also learned that the Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board has cancelled oral arguments scheduled for March 17, 2020 in Harrisburg.

We would urge injured workers and counsel to regularly check the home page of the WCAIS system, where the PA Bureau of Workers’ Compensation regularly updates the status.