Pennsylvania workers comp cases will begin having some in-person hearings to move work injury cases forward. As of right now, it appears that the in-person hearings will be limited to certain locations and to testimony type hearings only.
Effective June 19, 2020, the Workers’ Compensation Office of Adjudication will begin to conduct limited in-person hearings in counties that have been designated by the Governor as entering the “green” phase of reopening following the COVID-19 pandemic. Limited in-person hearings will be conducted at the following WCOA offices: Pittsburgh, New Castle, Brookville, Clearfield, Washington, Uniontown, Greensburg, Johnstown, Altoona, and Williamsport. Pennsylvania Department of Health and CDC safety guidelines will be strictly enforced at these hearing offices.
At this point, in our service area, Adams, Cumberland, and York counties have entered the green phase. Franklin and Dauphin counties will enter the green phase this coming Friday, June 19.
Since March when the state shutdown due to COVID-19, workers compensation hearings and proceedings have been conducted solely by phone. I must admit, some of these have been a struggle. First, testimony by phone is awkward at best. Also leads to questions about credibility determination, given the fact the Workers Compensation Judges can’t see the claimant during testimony. However, it becomes even more problematic when an interpreter is required. Mediation also have been awkward as well. Often times, mediation can be successful due to the mediating judge being able to talk one on one with the injured worker or a representative from the employer. Over the phone, it is much too difficult to make that happen.
We will keep our readers updated as the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry continues to modify hearing procedures and operations.