COVID-19 Changes to Workers' Compensation Procedures
Thursday, March 26, 2020
Workers Compensation Commission is open for business: Clarification of Governor's Executive Order Suspension of Operation
The Governor has determined that a compelling state interest exists that the Workers Compensation Commission conduct only essential business in order to minimize the spread of COVID-19, and has issued an Executive Order which appears to suspend all operations of the Workers Compensation Commission.
Chairman Stephen Morrelli has clarified that the Commission is open for business: Specifically,
1. Commissioners will continue to conduct telephone hearings in all districts;
2. Staffing at the offices has been reduced to comply with the mandate of “social distancing” and work from home policies;
3. Parties are encouraged to discuss the issues of the claims prior to the hearing and to do everything to simplify the burden on the
Commission and its staff.
Governor’s Executive Order:
2. Suspension of Non-Critical Workers' Compensation Commission
Operations and Associated Requirements. Notwithstanding any provision of the Connecticut General Statutes or of any regulation, local rule or other
provision of law, I hereby suspend all:
(1) location or venue requirements;
(2) time requirements, statutes of limitation or other limitations or deadlines relating to chapter 568 and the statutes enumerated in (b) below; and
(3) all time requirements, or deadlines of the Workers' Compensation Commission relating to the Workers' Compensation Act and other statutory programs and schemes over which the Workers' Compensation Commission provides adjudication, dispute resolution, administrative oversight or support, including, but not limited to, the following:
a. Chapter 568, relating to the Connecticut Workers' Compensation Act;
b. Section 5-142, relating to disability compensation;
c. Section 5-l 42a, relating to injury or death of sheriff;
d. Section 5-l 45a, relating to hype1tension or heart disease in certain
university, aeronautics, State Capitol police, correction, mental health,
criminal justice or hazardous duty personnel;
e. Section 5-l 45b, relating to hypertension or heart disease in motor
f. Section 5-145c, relating to hypertension or heart disease in chief
inspectors or inspectors in the division of criminal justice;
g. Section 7-314a, relating to death, disability and injury benefits;
h. Section 7-314b, relating to collection of workers' compensation benefits by volunteer firefighters and members of volunteer ambulance services;
i. Section 7-322a, relating to benefits for volunteers rendering service to another fire company;
J. Section 7-322b, relating to volunteers serving in municipality where
k. Section 7-433c, relating to benefits for policemen or firemen due to
hypertension or hemi disease;
l. Section 28-14, relating to compensation for death, disability or injury;
m. Section 28-l 4a, relating to compensation of volunteers involved in
homeland security drills;
n. Section 29-4a, relating to death or disability from hypertension or heart disease;
o. Section 3 l-40a, relating to reports of occupational diseases;
p. Section 31-40v, relating to the establishment of safety and health
q. Section 31-283a, relating to rehabilitation programs
Executive Order Enabling Use of Remote Notarization
The communication technology must allow the signer and the notary to communicate simultaneously by sight and sound;
The signer must present satisfactory evidence of identity, unless personally known to the notary, in the form of:
· at least two current documents, one issued by a federal or state government and containing the individual's signature and either a photograph or physical description, and the other by an institution, business entity or state government or the federal government and containing at least the individual's signature, both of which must be presented while connected to the communication technology, or
· oath or affirmation of a credible person who is personally known to the notary public and who personally knows the individual;
The notary must record the notarial act and retain a copy of the recording for ten (10) years;
The signer must affirm that he or she is in Connecticut at the time of execution; and
The signer must send the notary the signed documents either by fax or electronic means on the same day the documents were signed.
If the above conditions are met, the notary may notarize the documents and transmit them back to the signer for use. The notary may also notarize the original document as of the date of execution if the notary receives the original document along with the executed electronic version within thirty (30) days of initial execution.
The Order clarifies that only attorneys authorized to practice law in the State of Connecticut may remotely conduct a real estate closing pursuant to Public Act 19-88 or administer a self-proving affidavit to a Last Will and Testament pursuant to Connecticut General Statutes § 45a-285.
This Order does not address the requirements for attestation of witnesses to the execution of conveyances of land under Connecticut General Statutes § 47-5. As such, witnesses must attest to such conveyances under this Order.
The Order is effective immediately and is effective through June 23, 2020, unless modified by the Governor.
New Stipulations Procedures for Workers Compensation Settlement
Effective immediately, considering the suspension of the 20-day deadlines in 31-303, the stipulation approval/hearing process for ALL district offices will be as follows:
· No one will be allowed to appear in person at any district office to sign or deliver stipulation documents. All documents must be signed prior to being sent to the Commission for approval.
· Out-of-state stipulation approval procedures are to be followed. For details, see the Stipulation Approval Procedures on the WCC website https://wcc.state.ct.us/download/acrobat/sap.pdf
· Per Executive Order 7K, remote notarization is now authorized. The documents must still be notarized, but a raised seal is not necessary (for more detail see the language in the EO). Documents may be notarized by a Notary Public OR a Commissioner of the Superior Court pursuant to Connecticut law.
· Parties may fax in a copy of the stipulation for the paralegal to review. The originals should be mailed the same day. The stipulation approval hearing will not be scheduled until all the original fully signed documents are received.
· Canvassing of the claimant will be done at the commissioner’s discretion. Commissioners are strongly encouraged to phone canvass pro se claimants in order to alleviate a potential floodgate of claimants attempting to reopen stipulations once this crisis has passed.
· Once the commissioner has approved a stipulation, the district office should fax or mail a copy of the approved stipulation to all parties.
As Executive Order 7K suspends the 20-day payment deadline, it is unnecessary for any party to pick up a fully signed copy of the stipulation in person.
WCC Form 36 Procedure Under Governor’s Executive Order
The Governor’s recent Executive Order suspending Chapter 568 statutory, regulatory and administrative deadlines (including the 15-day deadline to object to a Form 36 pursuant to Section 31-296). As a result, WCC will no longer be automatically approving Forms 36 administratively.
Currently, and going forward, commissioners are receiving a daily list of all Forms 36 that would have otherwise been administratively approved. Commissioners are then reviewing these Forms 36 to determine if approval, denial or a hearing is warranted.
Further, as the result of the suspension of the 15-day deadline to object, a Form 36 approved in the above manner will require a hearing if WCC receives notice of an objection after the expiration of 15 days.
Submission of WCC Forms During COVID-19 Pandemic
Given the directives and measures being taken to contain the spread of COVID-19, the requirements for certain forms to be sent via certified mail under the workers’ compensation act is hereby suspended per Section 31-321, effective March 25, 2020.
The Commission will now accept forms via standard mail delivery services or facsimile. It may be advisable to maintain copies and take any other measures which would support proof of the delivery and receipt of any forms should subsequent substantiation be necessary.
Additionally, given the Governor’s recent Executive Order allowing remote notarizations, the Commission will now be accepting documents notarized pursuant to Executive Order No. 7K.
Executive Order No. 7K can be found on the Governor’s website.
While many parties may have the contact information of WCC staff and wish to send in scanned forms via email which would ordinarily have been sent certified, please note that given the significant staff reductions and absences associated with the COVID-19 health crisis, the Commission cannot guarantee that a form submitted through email will be processed in a timely manner. Please do not submit any forms to the Office of the Chairman’s general email inbox.