(A) The industrial commission shall adopt rules as to the conduct of all hearings before the commission and its staff and district hearing officers and the rendering of a decision and shall focus such rules on managing, directing, and otherwise ensuring a fair, equitable, and uniform hearing process. These rules shall provide for at least the following steps and procedures:
(1) Adequate notice to all parties and their representatives to ensure that no hearing is conducted unless all parties have the opportunity to be present and to present evidence and arguments in support of their positions or in rebuttal to the evidence or arguments of other parties;
(2) A public hearing;
(3) Written decisions;
(4) Impartial assignment of staff and district hearing officers and assignment of appeals from a decision of the administrator of workers' compensation to a district hearing officer located at the commission service office that is the closest in geographic proximity to the claimant's residence;
(5) Publication of a docket;
(6) The securing of the attendance or testimony of witnesses;
(7) Prehearing rules, including rules relative to discovery, the taking of depositions, and exchange of information relevant to a claim prior to the conduct of a hearing;
(8) The issuance of orders by the district or staff hearing officer who renders the decision.
(B) Every decision by a staff or district hearing officer or the commission shall be in writing and contain all of the following elements:
(1) A concise statement of the order or award;
(2) A notation as to notice provided and as to appearance of parties;
(3) Signatures of each commissioner or appropriate hearing officer on the original copy of the decision only, verifying the commissioner's or hearing officer's vote;
(4) Description of the part of the body and nature of the disability recognized in the claim.
(C) The commission shall adopt rules that require the regular rotation of district hearing officers with respect to the types of matters under consideration and that ensure that no district or staff hearing officer or the commission hears a claim unless all interested and affected parties have the opportunity to be present and to present evidence and arguments in support of their positions or in rebuttal to the evidence or arguments of other parties.
(D) All matters which, at the request of one of the parties or on the initiative of the administrator and any commissioner, are to be expedited, shall require at least forty-eight hours' notice, a public hearing, and a statement in any order of the circumstances that justified such expeditious hearings.
(E) All meetings of the commission and district and staff hearing officers shall be public with adequate notice, including if necessary, to the claimant, the employer, their representatives, and the administrator. Confidentiality of medical evidence presented at a hearing does not constitute a sufficient ground to relieve the requirement of a public hearing, but the presentation of privileged or confidential evidence shall not create any greater right of public inspection of evidence than presently exists.
(F) The commission shall compile all of its original memorandums, orders, and decisions in a journal and make the journal available to the public with sufficient indexing to allow orderly review of documents. The journal shall indicate the vote of each commissioner.
(1) All original orders, rules, and memoranda, and decisions of the commission shall contain the signatures of two of the three commissioners and state whether adopted at a meeting of the commission or by circulation to individual commissioners. Any facsimile or secretarial signature, initials of commissioners, and delegated employees, and any printed record of the "yes" and "no" vote of a commission member or of a hearing officer on such original is invalid.
(2) Written copies of final decisions of district or staff hearing officers or the commission that are mailed to the administrator, employee, employer, and their respective representatives need not contain the signatures of the hearing officer or commission members if the hearing officer or commission members have complied with divisions (B)(3) and (G)(1) of this section.
(H) The commission shall do both of the following:
(1) Appoint an individual as a hearing officer trainer who is in the unclassified civil service of the state and who serves at the pleasure of the commission. The trainer shall be an attorney registered to practice law in this state and have experience in training or education, and the ability to furnish the necessary training for district and staff hearing officers.
The hearing officer trainer shall develop and periodically update a training manual and such other training materials and courses as will adequately prepare district and staff hearing officers for their duties under this chapter and Chapter 4123. of the Revised Code. All district and staff hearing officers shall undergo the training courses developed by the hearing officer trainer, the cost of which the commission shall pay. The commission shall make the hearing officer manual and all revisions thereto available to the public at cost.
The commission shall have the final right of approval over all training manuals, courses, and other materials the hearing officer trainer develops and updates.
(2) Appoint a hearing administrator, who shall be in the classified civil service of the state, for each bureau service office, and sufficient support personnel for each hearing administrator, which support personnel shall be under the direct supervision of the hearing administrator. The hearing administrator shall do all of the following:
(a) Assist the commission in ensuring that district hearing officers comply with the time limitations for the holding of hearings and issuance of orders under section 4123.511 of the Revised Code. For that purpose, each hearing administrator shall prepare a monthly report identifying the status of all claims in its office and identifying specifically the claims which have not been decided within the time limits set forth in section 4123.511 of the Revised Code. The commission shall submit an annual report of all such reports to the standing committees of the house of representatives and of the state to which matters concerning workers' compensation are normally referred.
(b) Provide information to requesting parties or their representatives on the status of their claim;
(c) Issue compliance letters, upon a finding of good cause and without a formal hearing in all of the following areas:
(ii) Requests for the taking of depositions of bureau and commission physicians;
(iii) The issuance of subpoenas;
(iv) The granting or denying of requests for continuances;
(vi) Requests for conducting telephone pre-hearing conferences;
(vii) Any other matter that will cause a free exchange of information prior to the formal hearing.
(d) Ensure that claim files are reviewed by the district hearing officer prior to the hearing to ensure that there is sufficient information to proceed to a hearing;
(f) Take the necessary steps to prepare a claim to proceed to a hearing where the parties agree and advise the hearing administrator that the claim is not ready for a hearing.
(I) The commission shall permit any person direct access to information contained in electronic data processing equipment regarding the status of a claim in the hearing process. The information shall indicate the number of days that the claim has been in process, the number of days the claim has been in its current location, and the number of days in the current point of the process within that location.
(1) The industrial commission may establish an alternative dispute resolution process for workers' compensation claims that are within the commission's jurisdiction under Chapters 4121., 4123., 4127., and 4131. of the Revised Code when the commission determines that such a process is necessary. Notwithstanding sections 4121.34 and 4121.35 of the Revised Code, the commission may enter into personal service contracts with individuals who are qualified because of their education and experience to act as facilitators in the commission's alternative dispute resolution process.
(2) The parties' use of the alternative dispute resolution process is voluntary, and requires the agreement of all necessary parties. The use of the alternative dispute resolution process does not alter the rights or obligations of the parties, nor does it delay the timelines set forth in section 4123.511 of the Revised Code.
(3) The commission shall prepare monthly reports and submit those reports to the governor, the president of the senate, and the speaker of the house of representatives describing all of the following:
(a) The names of each facilitator employed under a personal service contract;
(b) The hourly amount of money and the total amount of money paid to each facilitator;
(c) The number of disputed issues resolved during that month by each facilitator;
(d) The number of decisions of each facilitator that were appealed by a party;
(4) The commission may adopt rules in accordance with Chapter 119. of the Revised Code for the administration of any alternative dispute resolution process that the commission establishes.
Effective Date: 1996 HB413 10-01-1996 .