MACo Executive Director Michael Sanderson testified in support of legislation (SB 174) addressing workers’ compensation change of venue requests before the Senate Finance Committee on February 9, 2016. Senator Brian Feldman introduced the bill.
Under current law, for workers’ compensation claims where a government agency is the employer, the Workers’ Compensation Commission (WCC) will normally conduct a hearing in either the county where the agency is located or at the nearest regional hearing location. However, the covered employee may object to the location for any reason and then the WCC will typically move the hearing to the hearing location nearest to the employee. SB 174 would require that the WCC may conduct a hearing at an alternate location only if the covered employee demonstrates a medical necessity through a detailed medical report.
From the MACo testimony:
Given Maryland’s high commuter population, [the existing law] has led to situations where a county workers’ compensation attorney (or their insurer representative) has been scheduled for multiple hearing locations across the state on the same day, resulting in hearing delays or missed hearings. WCC has advised in the bill’s fiscal note that there have been 128 change of venue requests so far in FY 2016 and there likely will be 250 total requests by the end of the year. …
MACo believes [the bill’s provisions strike] a fair balance between having the limited government agency staff (which is sometimes a single person) attend and participate in the hearing versus acknowledging when a covered employee has a valid reason for not being able to travel to a location they normally commute to in the course of their job.
Sanderson was joined by Montgomery County Associate County Attorney Wendy Karpel.