If your initial claim for workers' comp in Ohio was denied by the Bureau of Workers' Compensation (BWC) and you filed a timely appeal, your next step will be a hearing with the Ohio Industrial Commission (IC). Once upon a time in the good old days before CoronaPalooza, these hearings were held in person. Since starting back up after the initial shut down, however, hearings before the IC have been held by phone. It seems likely this will continue for the foreseeable future, given that the IC has made a significant investment in having their hearing officers work from home. We want our clients to understand the importance of these hearings and be prepared to do their best.
Tips for a Successful Virtual Hearing
Beginning in mid-April of 2021, the IC will begin transitioning to a program called Webex for virtual hearings. While most people are probably unfamiliar with this platform, it is a lot like Zoom but is used primarily in business settings. The reason for the change is to fix the problems the IC has been having with dropped calls and other issues on their current phone-based platform. However, unlike your pandemic poker parties and family reunions on Zoom, the IC will not be using the video feature of Webex. Participants can call in by phone or connect through their computers, but cameras will not be used unless video is needed for a specific reason, such as for the hearing impaired. The meeting will proceed entirely by audio, just like the current phone system.
As my client, you will be informed of every step of the claim process. I will make sure you know your hearing's date and time and that you are comfortable with the procedure for calling in, typing in your code, and accessing the hearing. Also, I want all my clients to be prepared with these tips for success:
- If you are using a cell phone, make sure it is charged, you have a strong signal, and you have enough minutes to cover the call. The time allotted for your hearing is indicated on your hearing notice.
- If you have good internet access and a computer, you might want to connect that way instead of by phone.
- Join from a quiet place where you will not be interrupted—preferably at home.
- Set aside plenty of time for the hearing. The IC conducts several hearings each hour. You might have to wait for your turn, so allow them time and be patient.
- Do not use your phone's speaker or poor quality headphones or earbuds (some hearing officers do not permit headphones or earbuds; they will tell you this at the beginning of the hearing). Talk into the phone like a normal phone call.
- Call in five minutes early. You will be placed in a virtual waiting room. If everyone involved in your case is there on time, your hearing could be first, and you will be done that much faster.
- Do not interrupt when someone else is talking.
- Answer the questions that are asked of you succinctly.
- If you have trouble hearing, say so politely and respectfully. Do not pretend you can hear just to keep things moving.
In general, remember all the rules you were taught (or should have been taught!) as a child. Be respectful—using "Sir" or "Ma'am" is appropriate. Don't speak unless you are spoken to. Speak clearly and confidently. You want the hearing officer on your side, so you do not want to offend or anger them. Let common sense prevail!
Monast Law Office Is Ready for Anything
Had you told me a year ago that we would be conducting Industrial Commission business by telephone, I would have said you were crazy. So much has changed in a year, but the BWC and the IC have pivoted to keep the workers' comp train chugging, and my team has rolled with the punches. We will help you put your best foot forward no matter what is thrown at us. Meanwhile, please download a free copy of my e-book, The Worker's Guide to Injury Compensation in Ohio, to learn more about workers' comp issues in Ohio.