Last month, WILG FECA Section members from around the country, including me, met in Washington, DC for a seminar that included a presentation by the Chief Judge and an Associate Judge of the Employees’ Compensation Appeals Board (ECAB). The judges gave updates on what is happening at the Board, as well as pointers to practitioners on how to best draft their appeals.
We were not able this year to meet with OWCP (U. S. Department of Labor Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs) leaders in Washington, as many of them were out of town for training. We did, however, have seminar participation by high-ranking officials of DOL’s Solicitor’s Office, who came and gave a presentation on coordination between FECA benefits and third-party (tort) recoveries for the same injury.
WILG’s FECA Section leaders, including my partner Daniel Goodkin, continue their frequent contacts with OWCP District Directors and other OWCP officials in various regions of the country. These contacts have proven helpful when dealing with claims adjudication problems where there appears to be a clear violation of FECA regulations or procedures. Mr. Goodkin is Co-Chair of the WILG FECA Section.
Meanwhile, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) Administrative Judge in New York who is in charge of the McConnell case — the National Reassessment Process (NRP) class action — is holding monthly status conferences in her attempt to move these thousands of cases along. Our office is representing twenty (20) of the approximately 30,000 claimants in this matter, and is actively pursuing remedies for them. The case involves disability discrimination by the U. S. Postal Service against industrially-injured postal workers. This discrimination took various forms – denials of reasonable accommodation, forced resignations/retirements, hostile work environments, improper release of personal medical information, etc.
The Postal Service has already lost the liability phase, and we are now in the remedy phase. The Postal Service initially denied nearly all of these damage claims, but the EEOC voided all those denials and required the Postal Service to state the grounds for the denial of each claim and present all relevant evidence in its possession when doing so. Instead, the Postal Service issued blanket denials again, most without any evidence attached. Currently there is a motion pending for sanctions about this, as well as a motion again requiring the Postal Service to produce all relevant evidence it has on each claim. The next scheduled status conference will be held on 05/13/2019.
NOTE: I also represented the WILG FECA Section last month on Capitol Hill in meetings with Congressional legislative staff to discuss upcoming issues affecting FECA. In particular, it is anticipated there will be yet another legislative proposal for reform of the Postal Service this year, and those packages in the past have typically included provisions making substantial changes to FECA. We will keep you informed of any developments in this area.