By DIANE S. WILLIAMS
As part of its union building activities, DC 37 hosted a virtual webinar on workers’ compensation for its nonprofit and private sector locals on Dec. 14.
DC 37 Associate General Counsel Steven Sykes moderated the webinar and led the Q&A session that followed. More than 90 local presidents, council reps, and executive board members of Locals 95, 205, 215, 253, and 389 attended. Safety and Health Director Deborah Williams and Barbara Ingram-Edmonds, Deputy Administrator of Local 1707, organized the online event.
DC 37 does not represent or refer members to Workers’ Comp attorneys. However, the Union has a list of well-established firms, including the panelists, available for members. Any member needing assistance in finding representation should contact the division representative assigned to their location.
Attorneys from three law firms that specialize in Workers’ Compensation claims provided an overview to help union members navigate the process step by step. Panelists included Robert Grey, Esq., Managing Partner, Grey & Grey, LLP; Scott Salmonson, Esq., partner at McIntyre, Donahue, Accardi, Salmonson & Riordan, LLP; and David Wolf, Esq., senior associate, and Ester Aronova, Esq., partner, at Aronova & Associates, PLLC.
“Workers’ Comp moved to a portal-based system in May 2022. Law firms that specialize in Workers’ Comp offer consultations free of charge when you’re injured on the job and they can help you determine whether you want to go forward with filing a case,” Wolf said.
The Workers’ Compensation Board determines if the injured worker receives temporary disability or total disability where one cannot work at all. There is no longer a permanent partial disability.
“The Board has become more conservative over the years and more employer-protective than it was 30 years ago,” Gray said.
The Workers’ Comp system runs based on medical records that are used as evidence in all cases. It’s important to see a doctor and to document an injury, and when and where it occurred.
“We urge workers who have contracted COVID-19 to file a Workers’ Comp claim to ensure they’ll have the help they need in the future, especially if they experience long term COVID-19 effects that are unknown,” Gray advised.
Workers’ Comp covers injuries at the workplace, when you’ve clocked in, are on a break, or on the property of your employer. It also covers you if you’re injured close to the property, or while having lunch on the property.
Workers’ Comp covers you if you travel between work locations, if you’re sent to a location by your employer, if you do remote work, and if you’re in a car accident while traveling between jobs. Workers’ Comp does not cover injuries that occur when you are traveling to work.
“It’s best to consult with an attorney of your choice when considering filing a claim,” Williams said. “This helps the union to enforce safety protocols that prevent injuries at work.”
Workers’ Comp covers trips, slips, and falls, repetitive trauma such as from lifting, carpal tunnel, exposures over time, workplace violence, and assaults. It also covers heart attacks and strokes that may be bought on by COVID-19 and exposures if you became ill or injured in your public-facing job, or if there’s an outbreak at work.
“You have two years to file a Workers’ Comp claim to protect yourself down the road,” Gray said. “If you had COVID in 2020, file a claim before it’s too late. If you have long-term COVID or repetitive bouts of COVID, you’re entitled to COVID pay and you should file a claim.”
Workers’ Comp pays a death benefit of 3/4 of a worker’s annual salary for for work-related COVID-19 or heart attacks. The death benefit is paid to the surviving spouse and children up to age 23 if in school. When the member has no survivors, Workers’ Comp pays a $50,000 lump sum benefit to the parents or the deceased worker’s estate.
In the Q&A session, panelists discussed how to change attorneys mid-claim.
“Maybe there’s a personality conflict between the attorney and yourself,” Wolf said. “You can file a notice of substitution to change attorneys. It’s always the claimant’s right to switch attorneys.”
While miscarriages, mental health, psychiatric, or other consequential traumatic workplace experiences are difficult to prove in a Workers’ Comp claim, if you are injured in the classroom by a student, you should complete an accident report and file a claim, Salmonson said. “When in doubt, fill it out!”
Local 389 President Margaret Glover said the Workers’ Compensation webinar was a great opportunity to get information and resources so all members of DC 37’s Non-Profit and Private Sector locals understand that on-the-job injuries, including COVID-19, should be reported using the workers compensation process.
“This is an important right we need to know about and act on in these challenging times,” she said.