The novel coronavirus, now called COVID-19, is spreading rapidly around the world. There are confirmed cases in every state in our union. Everyone has a duty to act proactively to prevent the spread of the disease.
In addition to other measures, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends "social distancing," which it defines as "remaining out of congregate settings, avoiding mass gatherings, and maintaining distance (approximately 6 feet or 2 meters) from others when possible." It defines "congregate settings" as "crowded public places where close contact with others may occur, such as shopping centers, movie theaters, stadiums."
Accordingly, the Division of Workers' Compensation (DWC) and the Workers' Compensation Appeals Board (WCAB) have taken emergency action to limit the number of people who appear at the WCAB district offices around the state.
On March 16, 2020, the DWC and WCAB announced a modified hearing calendar and emergency rules on filing. From March 17 through March 20, the DWC will hold only expedited hearings at the district offices. All other hearings will be continued and issue notices of new hearing dates.
From March 23 through April 3, the DWC will continue to hold expedited hearings at district offices. But status conferences, mandatory settlement conferences and priority conferences will be conducted only via CourtCall. Parties will not be penalized for failing to appear via CourtCall. Instead, if parties do not appear via CourtCall, the case will be continued with notice given. All other hearings will be continued, and no trial or lien conferences will be conducted during this period.
From March 17 through April 3, documents cannot be physically filed at the district offices. The DWC will not accept walk-through documents until the district offices are reopen for filing purposes. Parties may utilize EAMS to file documents online. Parties also may mail settlement documents and petitions to the district offices with venue.
On March 17, 2020, the DWC announced that it would temporarily close its San Jose, Oakland and San Francisco district offices. DWC headquarters, which includes the Medical Unit, Return-to-Work Supplement Program, Uninsured Employers Benefits Trust Fund and Legal Unit, also will be closed temporarily.
On March 18, 2020, the WCAB issued an en banc decision temporarily suspending specified WCAB Rules of Practice and Procedure. The suspension applies to all district offices and to these rules: