Since the start of the pandemic in March 2020, the Ohio Industrial Commission (IC) has conducted all hearings remotely. In mid-April 2021, the IC switched from a telephone bridge to the WebEx platform which has video capability. We wrote about this change in this blog post.
According to its website, the IC was able to utilize these technologies and conduct remote hearings through enabling legislation that permitted boards, commissions and agencies to conduct business and public hearings remotely. On June 30, the legislation enabling the IC to conduct hearings remotely expires. The legislature removed language from the omnibus budget bill that would have extended the ability to continue remote hearings through Dec. 31. Accordingly, the IC will return to in-person hearings on July 6. To facilitate the transition, there will be no hearings on Thursday, July 1 and Friday, July 2.
In apparent recognition of the continued health concerns posed by the pandemic, the WebEx option will remain. Hearing notices will advise the parties and representatives that they may participate either in person or via WebEx. Notices for hearings on July 6 and going forward contain an advisement that parties will be asked by the hearing officer to affirm that the party knowingly and voluntarily waives the right to appear in person. Similarly, representatives will be asked by the hearing officer to affirm they have the express authority from their client to appear via WebEx. Hearing orders will indicate the responses.
The IC has not indicated whether the WebEx option will be permanent or just until health concerns related to the pandemic are alleviated. At least in the short term, individuals who do not want to participate in person may continue to utilize the WebEx option.
As the Industrial Commission updates its procedures, we will continue to keep you advised.