9-18-2017; Important Ruling Knocking out the Obama OT Rule; Brilliant IL WC Appellate Ruling on the Positional Risk Doctrine and more

Synopsis: No Go for Obama-era Federal Overtime Rule! Texas Federal Judge Strikes Down Federal Overtime Rule. Research and analysis by Bradley J. Smith, J.D.

 Editor's Comment: U.S. District Judge Amos Mazzant granted summary judgment to more than 55 business groups that challenged the Obama administration’s 2016 rule that more than doubled the minimum salary required to qualify for the Fair Labor Standards Act’s “white collar” exemptions. As you recall, I wrote an article in November of last year discussing the same court blocking the overtime rule from taking effect. The minimum annual salary would have increased in dramatic fashion, which would have crippled some businesses—it more than doubled from $23,660 to $47,476.00. The rule also required additional increases every three years. Instead, for now, the existing overtime regulations apply, which includes the $23,660.00 exempt salary threshold.

This means U.S. employers do not have to make any changes for now, because the ruling is final, rather than last year’s temporary injunction, which was only temporary. This decision creates more certainty for employers, because it assures employers the Obama rule will not see the light of day.

Although the ruling could be challenged, the new leadership in the U.S. Department of Labor will likely not challenge it. Alexander Acosta, Secretary of Labor under the Trump administration, already sent a request for information on the 2016 overtime rule to the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. Those types of requests generally signal a government agency is looking for information to determine whether there is a need for new rulemaking. Acosta said he recognizes the salary threshold needs to be increased. However, he seemingly understands the salary threshold for overtime should not be doubled.

One of the central arguments used by the business community in challenging the new rule was the threshold was increased too high. Plaintiffs also argued the 2016 overtime rule raised the minimum salary threshold so high it made the duties test irrelevant. This test also required employees to perform certain duties to qualify for the FLSA’s white collar (executive, administrative, and professional) exemption. The Federal District Court agreed in reasoning that, “Congress unambiguously intended the exemption to apply to employees who perform bona fide executive, administrative or professional capacity duties.” He further said the U.S. DOL does not have the authority to set a salary threshold that effectively eliminates the duties test. Instead, the District Court explained the DOL is supposed to set the minimum salary level as a floor in order to screen out obviously nonexempt employees.

Employers should prepare for an eventual increase to the salary threshold under FLSA. For now, employers can submit comments to the DOL, as the DOL’s request for information offers an additional opportunity for the public to submit comments about the salary threshold.

The research and writing of this article was performed by Bradley J. Smith, J.D. Bradley can be reached with any questions regarding the FLSA, employment law, and general liability defense at bsmith@keefe-law.com.

Synopsis: An IL Worker Needs to Show More than Simply Being at Work to Get WC Benefits—IL WC Appellate Court Upholds IL WC Commission decision Denying Benefits Again Rejecting the “Positional Risk” Doctrine. Analysis and research by Tim O’Gorman, J.D.

 

Editor’s comment: In Herff Jones v. Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission, 2017 IL App (4th) 160346WC-U, again confirms the IL Courts rejected the use of the “positional risk” doctrine in the Illinois WC System..

 

Claimant in Herff Jones alleged WC benefits were owed for a right hand injury as a result of an alleged fall while at work. Claimant testified initially she believed her fall was caused by a rock which she stepped on while taking a break from work and going on a walk on a normal city street with a co-worker. Claimant testified she felt she stepped on a rock however mentioned the probability of being too close to the edge of the walk. She admitted she could not recall seeing a rock and provided a prior recorded statement denying she saw any defects in the sidewalk or the walkway.

 

Respondent’s HR manager testified he spoke to Claimant after the incident where Claimant stated she was not sure what happened. Respondent’s HR manager inspected the area where the claimant fell and did not see any rocks and could not identify any defects in the sidewalk or the surrounding environs.

 

Respondent’s HR manager also testified he took photographs of the area in question. The photographs taken by Respondent’s HR manager were described as “lost forever” save for one, which was not provided at the time of hearing. Instead, photographs taken at an unknown date and unknown time were presented as evidence. It is odd to note the photos were admitted without objection.

 

The Arbitrator rendered a decision finding Claimant’s alleged injury did not arise out of or occurred in the course of Claimant’s employment. On review, the Commission affirmed unanimously.

 

On appeal to the Circuit Court, the Court reversed the Commission’s decision stating

 

There are disputed facts; namely what caused the fall [and] [t]his allows the court to consider this a question of law." The ruling goes on to state: "In this case, it is clear to this court that whether or not the [claimant] employee tripped on a rock is immaterial. The fact is that she was on an official break during her employment and remained on the [employer’s] premises. Thus, her accident arose out of and was in the course of her employment.

 

The IL WC Appellate Court’s decision on this statement speaks for itself:

 

The Circuit Court was correct in stating that the cause of the claimant's fall was a disputed question of fact. But that did not justify the circuit court considering the issue "as a question of law." It is the Commission that resolves disputed issues of fact (O'Dette v. Industrial Comm'n, 79 Ill. 2d 249, 253 (1980)), not courts on review of its decisions. The Commission's resolution of a factual issue will not be disturbed on review unless it is against the manifest weight of the evidence. Orsini v. Industrial Comm'n, 117 Ill. 2d 38, 44 (1987). Compounding the error was the circuit court's conclusion that, simply because the claimant was on a scheduled work break and on Herff's premises when she fell, her injury arose out of her employment and "automatic liability applies." The circuit court seems to have adopted positional risk whenever an employee is on the employer's premises and engaging in activities of personal comfort. The positional risk doctrine has been rejected in this State as being inconsistent with the requirements of the Act, and specifically the requirement that to be compensable an employee's injury must arise out of her employment. Brady v. Louis Ruffolo & Sons Construction Co., 143 Ill. 2d 542, 552 (1991) (emphasis added). Herff Jones v. IWCC, at pg. 8 para 17.

 

In disagreeing with the Circuit Court’s seeming application of the “positional risk” doctrine, the IL WC Appellate Court found

 

1. Claimant’s alleged injury was not a result of a personal risk,

2. Claimant’s alleged injury occurring while walking across a sidewalk did not establish a risk greater than that faced by the general public and

3. Claimant’s alleged injury was not a risk incidental to her employment.

 

The Appellate Court examined the third potential risk in greatest detail. Claimant was not carrying anything in furtherance of her employment with Respondent. Claimant was not traveling from one place to another in furtherance of her employment with Respondent. Based on Claimant’s testimony, she was unable to establish that a defect occurring on Respondent’s premises was the cause of her alleged accident. As such, the Appellate Court vacated the decision of the Circuit Court and affirmed the decision of the Commission denying any and all benefits.

 

We salute the Court for following the traditional precepts of IL WC law and practice.

 

We appreciate your thoughts and comments. Please post them on our award-winning blog. This article was researched and written by Tim O’Gorman, JD and your editor.

 

Synopsis: Join KCBA at the IL Chamber of Commerce 2017 Workers' Compensation and Safety Conference! Wednesday, October 25, 2017 at the Hilton l 3003 Corporate Drive West l Lisle, IL 60532.  The program runs from 8:30 am – 3:30 pm.

 

Editor’s Comment: As part of the program, there are several Workshops which will include a presentation on Ethical Management of Disability & Employment Law Concerns Arising in Workers’ Comp Claims presented by our own John Campbell, Shawn Biery, & Brad Smith

 

The IL State Chamber also wants you to know:

 

This is the most important annual Workers’ Compensation Conference for Illinois employers!

·        The 10th Annual Workers’ Compensation and Safety Conference will include valuableinformation for all Illinois Employers with all new topics and fresh presenters.  

 

Workers' Comp. Reform is being debated at the state Capitol.

·        Get the latest analysis and thoughts on WC reform at the conference, along with cost-controlling measures, safety issues to prevent workers’ injuries, and discussion of court cases as well as much more.

 

Continuing Education Available!

·        This conference has been pre-approved to offer 3 HRCI credits.

·        This conference has been pre-approved to offer 4 SHRM Professional Development credits.

·        This conference has been submitted for approval to offer 4 CLE credits for attorneys.

 

- Learn More -

 

 

You may also contact Shawn Biery at 312-756-3701 or sbiery@keefe-law.com or the Chamber directly via Laurie Silvey at (217) 522-5512 ext 223 or lsilvey@ilchamber.org

9-11-2017; New WCRC Contractor Takes Over for CMS and Recovery Statistics Presented: Gene Keefe's Wish List for IL WC Arbitrators and more

Synopsis: New WCRC Contractor Takes Over for CMS and Recovery Statistics Presented. Research and analysis by Shawn R. Biery, J.D., M.S.C.C.

Editor’s comment: As our readers are already aware, The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services had been accepting bids for and now has hired a new contractor who will assist in the review of Medicare set-aside proposals submitted to CMS. As we have become accustomed with CMS, the award of the contract was delayed and implementation is behind schedule…….if anyone truly followed the CMS anticipated schedule.

The CMS contract for Workers’ Compensation Review Contractor, or WCRC, has been awarded to Capitol Bridge LLC of Arlington, Virginia. Capitol Bridge will replace the previous contractor, Provider Resources Inc., of Erie, Pennsylvania.

Generally, the federal contractor will independently price the future medical costs of workers’ compensation claims, (future anticipated treatment, any anticipated prescription drugs and durable medical equipment) and then provide the information to CMS. This allows CMS to accurately determine when amounts offered to be set aside for medical expenses in a workers’ compensation settlement ensure Medicare doesn’t end up paying for work injury related medical charges. Taxpayers—you and I--save money.

The hope for all involved will be a more efficient processing of MSAs to provide more identifiable timeframes when seeking approvals. As in most changes, it is usually one step back to take two steps forward and we anticipate approval times will increase in the short term. The prior contractor had been clearing a backlog and was providing much swifter response times. It is generally expected the prior contractor will finalize file submissions currently under review.

We also hope to see the new contractor process MSAs efficiently while incorporating changes in a new CMS reference guide which include an option for re-review of an MSA when a case has not yet settled and there’s been a substantial change to projected medical costs.

Generally unrelated to the change in WCRC, CMS has also released figures noting amounts recovered in Medicare conditional payments from primary payers, including workers’ comp insurers in fiscal year 2016. As you may recall, in October 2015, CMS expanded the responsibilities of its Commercial Repayment Center, or CRC, to seek out workers’ compensation carriers and other “first” payers who owe conditional payments.

The amount recovered by CRC decreased actually, likely because they are no longer paying for payments which they had in the past now that more extensive reporting has been implemented.  

Net collections of $106 million were confirmed for the Medicare program. Collection efforts will continue on the remaining identified debt which totaled $244 million, it is unclear how much was from workers’ compensation alone. The $106 million is down from the $150 million in net collections in fiscal year 2015. That number was substantially higher than the $59 million in net collections reported for fiscal year 2014.

As insurance carriers/TPA’s continue to report claims as required, the amount paid by Medicare should continue to decrease which in turn should decrease recovery amounts.  

As they determine fewer targets, you can be sure if your company is not paying before Medicare, you will begin to see conditional payment letters which give you 30 days to dispute the bill—and if you miss the deadline, CRC considers your non-response to be agreement with the charges. We are aware of letters from the U.S. Dept of Treasury seeking significant amounts for recovery of charges which do not appear to be actual conditional payments. The hope is that these are avoided as well with more detailed early reporting.

As always, MAKE SURE YOU CONSIDER MEDICARE’S INTERESTS! This article was researched and written by Shawn R. Biery. If you have questions about workers’ compensation issues (Medicare related or otherwise), simply reply to Shawn at sbiery@keefe-law.com and stay ahead of the Feds!

 

Synopsis: My Illinois WC Arbitrator Wish List – Thoughts, Comment and Opinions from Gene Keefe, J.D.

Editor’s comment: I want my readers to know my thoughts Illinois government is closing in on a financial turning point. The way things have been done in the past may not get our nutty State government to the future. I truly feel we have to start doing things better and more effectively, if we are to have any hope or expectations at all.

 

Governor Rauner just politically reappointed/appointed a number of new IL WC Arbitrators. I believe his appointments have to be rubber-stamped by the IL Senate. We salute all the newbies and reappointments and don’t feel there are any clinkers in a solid, professional group.

 

I have criticized the system for locating and selection of this hearing officers for years as being secretive and moderately dysfunctional. I had sources tell me the system to source and select IL WC Arbitrators is more open and fair that I might think. I want my sources and readers to all remember Oscar Wilde’s quote about secrecy—“The commonest thing is delightful if one only hides it.” With respect to the insiders at the IWCC and elsewhere, I still feel government is supposed to be done in the light of day.

 

When I talk about secrecy in selecting IL WC Arbitrators, I confirm I have been in this job for over 37 years. I have never once seen an ad or job posting for an IL WC Arbitrator. They used to do an “Arbitrator’s exam” to give normal folks the impression there was an independent vetting process. The exam was as phony as a three-dollar bill. Thankfully, someone ended that charade about fifteen years ago. Still, I have no current idea who to talk to or beg or even ask about getting on the short list to be an IL WC Arbitrator. I bet I could find out by asking all the right folks—that is precisely what I feel is objectionable about the secret process. Even under a Republican administration, headed by a maverick Governor in Bruce Rauner, you still have to know someone who knows someone who knows someone else. The problem with my complaints about secrecy is everyone in the vetting process was chosen due to their adherence to secrecy and they are all certain the only way to select the “right stuff” is to keep the process secret. If you don’t like secrecy, they are certain to block/exclude you because you simply “don’t know.”

 

So enough whining by me about the Secret Squirrels who select IL WC Arbitrators. If you are going to do it secretly, please admit to the Governor you and your troops are responsible for the HIGH WC costs in this State. You can’t have it both ways!

 

Here are three bona fide things I want our existing, re-appointed and newly appointed Arbs to do.

 

Follow the Rules on Ending Ancient IL WC Claims!!!

 

I randomly picked three call sheets for this coming week from the IWCC website. The oldest claim I quickly saw was from 1999 or almost two decades ago. The second claim I saw was from 2002. The next three claims were from 2003. In any given IWCC call sheet, there are numerous claims that are well over ten years old. I consider that a national disgrace and feel something has to be done to get such claims current. The Secret Squirrels clearly but quietly don’t agree.

 

Illinois workers’ comp claims are supposed to be relatively easy to resolve—there are lots and lots of stipulations/agreements the parties are required to enter into as part of resolution. At some point, claims are allowed to sit and grow cobwebs and go literally nowhere. Some of the reasons are due to Claimant attorneys not wanting to deal with nutty or dangerous claimants. That is why motions to withdraw as counsel were created. Some of the reasons for delays in closure are also due to never-ending medical care—that is what UR and IME’s are for. We urge the new and re-newed Arbitrators to start moving ancient claims off the hyeroglyphics and into the present day on the status of medical and lost time.

 

My other problem is I occasionally see IL WC Arbitrators not caring and not doing nearly enough to get oldie moldie claims closed. I can’t continue to accept that approach.

 

The IWCC’s favorite “stall” or dodge is the never-ending need for medical records and/or medical bills. For most Arbitrators, if you say you don’t have medical records/bills, the words “case continued” quickly follows. The problem with that concept is many doctors and healthcare givers are moving to electronic records where you can get the records as fast as the speed of light, if the provider is willing to cooperate. FYI, if they are properly served, subpoenas have to be properly enforced to command response. I have only see one Arbitrator in 37 years demand compliance with subpoenas.

 

One suggestion I have is to create a new and special Arbitrator job—give one or maybe two Arbitrators the job of efficiently and effectively ending any claim over five (or whatever) years old. Have them do only that work. Put all such claims on a computer calendar system designed to put/force any issues on to a reasonable time spreadsheet with accountability for all sides. If the parties know they have to produce or they claim will be defaulted or dismissed, I promise things will start to move faster and we won’t have 10-20 year old WC claims that don’t help anyone.

 

Another suggestion is to steal an idea from the IN WC Board—they have a rule where the parties don’t have to get a hearing date, but if they do, the claim has to change to trial, settlement or dismissal. This approach might stop the incessant back and forth of attorneys moving for hearing and getting the claim kicked to move again and get it kicked again into almost infinity.

 

Do you have any ideas on how to make this system work more effectively? Please send them along.

 

Cut IL WC Costs Before Oregon’s 2018 Premium Ratings Come Out Next Year!!

Many folks feel IL WC costs should be “trimmed” somewhat to make our State more amenable to CEO’s and others who care about making money here. I have some simple thoughts to get our costs lower and more competitive with our sister States. Please note I don’t feel we need to win the “Race to the Bottom” to leave Illinois’ injured workers out in the cold when seriously injured, like some of the other insensitive States do. Work comp has to be moderate and reasonable—happy to provide examples.

 

First, I recommend/suggest Governor Rauner or his staff and IWCC Chair Fratianni and whoever else cares set an informal meeting with all Arbitrators/Commissioners who would voluntarily attend.

 

Number One on the agenda is to confirm we need to get IL WC costs to the middle of the pack. To my understanding, we only need to cut IL WC costs/awards by about 7% or so to get to the middle of the 2018 Oregon WC Premium rankings.

 

In the last reported ranking in 2016, Illinois’ workers’ comp premium ranking was Number 7 at 2.23. Alabama was the middle or 25th at 1.85. Take a look for yourself at http://www.oregon.gov/DCBS/reports/Documents/general/prem-sum/16-2082.pdf

 

The ranking comes out in about 13 months or around October 2018. At the meeting I suggest above, I would challenge for our Arbs is to cut our WC premium rating from 2.23 to 1.85 or thereabouts. They can do it, if they try.

 

I suggest the Governor or his staff start to watch rulings/decisions to get the “bottom line” on what is happening with his ongoing and future appointees. If they aren’t bringing our IL WC costs in line, consider others for the jobs. Stop re-appointing folks because they are “nice” people and get along with the Secret Squirrels but don’t show verified lower outcomes.

 

At the meeting, I would strongly confirm the Governor will be happier with the Arbitrators that can demonstrate somewhat lower PPD awards/settlements/pro se approvals. I suggest these thoughts be clearly stated to avoid any confusion.

 

I also suggest they review and converse on claims where there clearly is no PPD or permanency present. For one example, in years past, hernia claims used to be worth nothing for PPD. Since the Blago years, they have been worth 2-10% BAW. That can be a LOT of money for high wage workers when surgically repaired hernias typically don’t cause “permanent” or measurable loss. For any claimant attorney who feels compelled to tell me hernias cause impairment, please note I have had such surgery and you are wasting your time to tell me there is any sequalae from it. If you want more examples of claims that don’t merit PPD, send a reply.

 

Consider an IL WC Arbitrator’s Decision Complaint Box

 

A final thought would be to have someone named to take in IL WC rulings that aren’t just high or challenged but truly a mess.

 

For one example, I had a claim I defended where the worker had a burn to her thumb from a spark while plugging in an appliance at work. She might already have been a narcotic drug addict. She then clearly had addiction issues. Her job was truly sedentary. My client brought her back to work and quickly noted she was completely buzzed out on narcotics. They simply sent her home and told her to kick the stuff.

 

A still-sitting IL WC Arbitrator found Claimant was unemployable and provided her a total and permanent disability award for a barely visible burn to her thumb. The value of the award was $2.4M! When I read the award, I not only wanted the claim reversed on appeal, I wanted this Arbitrator to return to the private sector and get out of adjudicating IL WC claims.

 

I got the claim reversed on appeal and salute the IWCC panel for doing so. In traditional IWCC fashion, the panel did not criticize the Arbitrator in drafting his/her inexplicable ruling.

 

There needs to be a place to listen to complaints about completely crazy rulings. I am happy to volunteer to review/read and save any IL WC Arbitration award any of my readers feel is controversial for either side of the IL WC matrix. If you send it to me quietly, I will analyze and if I feel it appropriate send it to the powers that be for their consideration. Controversial or crazy decisions should be part of the Arbitrator re-appointment process.

 

If IWCC Chair Fratianni or her Counsel Ron Rascia or someone else with Secret Squirrel influence wants to do this, I would ask them to let me know. Something makes me think that won’t happen but you never know.

 

I appreciate your thoughts and comments. Please post them on our award-winning blog.

9-4-2017; Did the IL Appellate Court, WC Div Just Reverse Interstate Scaffolding?; Several IL WC Arbitrator Reappointments and Three New IL WC Hearing Officers Come In and more

Synopsis: Did The IL WC Appellate Court Just Reverse Interstate Scaffolding?

Editor’s comments: The Illinois Appellate Court, WC Division has taken another look at whether TTD is warranted when a Claimant with work restrictions is fired.

In Holocker v. Illinois Workers’ Comp. Comm’n, 2017 IL App (3d) 160363WC, the Court’s members appear to have departed significantly from established case law. In this claim, the Court upheld the decision to not award TTD ruling Claimant’s restrictions did not significantly interfere with his ability to find a new job after being terminated.

In the claim at bar, Claimant was a transportation operator who suffered an accident operating a crane, when a broken strap from the crane struck him in the face and chest, causing broken teeth, multiple facial fractures, and chest bruises. After being released to full duty work, Claimant asserted he began experiencing anxiety and panic attacks at the prospect of having to operate any crane at work. Claimant underwent psychological treatment for this anxiety and was restricted from operating cranes. Respondent accommodated these restrictions, providing him with other non-crane duties. Respondent had 40 technical operator jobs, many of which did not require use of cranes, so Petitioner continued working as a transportation operator, but was not required to operate cranes.

Claimant was eventually fired for failing to show up for work and not calling in for three days in a row—the termination was consistent with the collective bargaining agreement in place. TTD was not restarted following termination, even though the work restrictions implicitly continued. We point out there are a LOT of jobs that don’t require using cranes.

Based on the restriction prohibiting him from operating cranes, Claimant asserted entitlement to reinstatement of TTD after being fired. The IL WC Commission and later the IL WC Appellate Court disagreed. The Appellate Court gave significant weight to the employer’s vocational expert, who testified that being restricted from operating cranes did not impact the claimant’s ability to find a new job. Of crucial importance, the Court here distinguished this case from Interstate Scaffolding and Matuszczak (two cases where TTD was awarded after a claimant with restrictions was fired), stating that, “in each of those cases, it was undisputed that, at the time of termination, claimant’s condition had not stabilized, claimant was unable to perform the job he had been performing for the employer prior to the work accident, and when claimant returned to work after the accident, it was in a light duty capacity. Thus, in each case, it was undisputed that the claimant’s work injury had diminished his ability to work, thereby entitling him to collect TTD benefits at the time of his termination.”

In Holocker the Court further held by the time claimant was terminated, his work injuries had what the ruling indicated was “no effect” on his employment situation. The Court emphasized while determining entitlement to TTD “the test is whether the employee remains temporarily totally disabled as a result of a work-related jury and whether the employee is capable of returning to the work force.

Comparing the rulings—in Interstate Scaffolding, the IL Supreme Court provided TTD to a worker on restrictions/light duty who was terminated for defacing company property. The only true difference between the decisions is the Holocker plaintiff/petitioner had a psych restriction that would not be a factor in looking for literally thousands of jobs outside the crane industry. In short, we feel the same facts and defenses to TTD are present in both claims.

We also believe this ruling is an important development in case law regarding TTD and hints at an increased willingness of the Courts to not merely ask whether or not a claimant has work restrictions, but to instead examine and analyze the type of restrictions that a claimant had, and whether it realistically impacted their employment situation, mandating TTD.

Be sure to stay tuned to the KCB&A blog for regular updates on the changes and clarifications affecting Workers’ Compensation law throughout the Midwest!

This article was researched and written by Pankhuri Parti, J.D. and your editor. Please post comments on our award-winning blog.

 

 

Synopsis: IL WC Arbitrator Secret Appointment Process Sadly Continues.

 

Editor’s comment: As I have told my readers in the past, the method by which IL WC Arbitrators are selected, measured and fired or reappointed is a process that takes on the secrecy of nuclear armament. I have no idea why or how this always has to be done under a veil of silence that challenges information going into and out of Fort Knox.

 

In my view, Governor Rauner bought into this process the way he has bought into most processes the State of Illinois continues to bungle under his watch. As I have told my readers and will continue to say—we don’t need and can’t afford all these hearing officers, no matter how solid they may be. I remain amazed Governor Rauner spent about $50M of his own money to get the job and has then made precisely the same challenging decisions/processes of his predecessors to overstaff our virtually-bankrupt State Gov’t.

 

That said, last week Governor Rauner reappointed the following Arbitrators for the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission: Anthony C. Erbacci, Steven J. Fruth, David A. Kane, Michael K. Nowak, Ketki Shroff Steffen. I consider these veteran Arbitrators to be generally solid and professional hearing officers.

 

Joining the Illinois Workers' Compensation Commission as newly appointed Arbitrators are Thomas Ciecko, Robert M. Harris and Robert E. Luedke. If you keep reading, you may note it appears to be a relatively moderate/conservative bunch.

 

1.    New Arbitrator Thomas Ciecko doesn’t appear to have any workers’ comp trial experience that we know of—his resume indicates he will probably catch up fairly quickly. Our research indicates he was General Counsel for the Suburban Bus Division of the Regional Transportation Authority, senior attorney with Oak Brook-based McDonald's Corp, a former Assistant Illinois Attorney General, former Chief of the Organized Crime Division of the Will County State’s Attorney’s Office and former Special Assistant United States Attorney.

2.    New Arbitrator Robert Harris is a defense attorney and previously held administrative positions at the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission from 1990–2004. He was Manager of Insurance Compliance (1996 – 2004), Executive Assistant to the Chairman (1996 – 2003) and Senior Staff Attorney (1990 – 1996). Robert also taught classes as an adjunct faculty member at Triton Community College. He is a trained and certified mediator and arbitrator and arbitrated over 100 cases for the Better Business Bureau since 1994 and was recipient of the 1998 Arbitrator of the Year award. Robert is accredited as a Medicare Set-Aside Certified Consultant by the International Commission on Health Care Certification (2012, re-certified 2015) and is a designated Registered Workers’ Compensation Specialist by the National Registry of Workers’ Compensation Specialists (2015).

3.    New Arbitrator Robert Luedke is also a defense attorney and has been defending Illinois Workers' Compensation claims for over 25 years. He is a frequent author and lecturer regarding Illinois workers' compensation issues. He is a member of the Workers' Compensation Lawyer's Association. He has made presentations regarding legal issues to the Winnebago County Bar Association and the Chicago Bar Association. Mr. Luedke has presented seminars to insurance carriers and self-insured employers. Mr. Luedke has argued numerous workers' compensation cases before the Illinois Appellate Court, WC Division.

 

We wish all of them the best in their work at the IWCC.