After a year of conducting workers’ compensation hearings in Ohio via a teleconference bridge, on April 19, 2021, the Ohio Industrial Commission switched its hearing format to the WebEx platform. The format switch was necessitated by connection problems with the previous teleconference bridge.
Due to privacy concerns, among other issues, the hearing officers are only using the WebEx audio service. Full video hearings will only take place if a party is hearing impaired and needs to be able to see an American Sign Language interpreter. Parties and counsel have the option of using the WebEx video services, but in our experience, most people are choosing not to use this option. The WebEx video option has its limitations – parties cannot share their screen or show documents and surveillance videos cannot be shown during a hearing.
With the change in hearing format, some hearing officers are putting those waiting for their hearing to begin in a “waiting room,” while other hearing officers are leaving all parties in the hearing room to listen as other hearings proceed.
Presently, the Industrial Commission is conducting three hearings per hour for seven hours a day. The rate of hearings is not expected to be significantly altered due to the switch to the new format. However, it is anticipated the Industrial Commission will discontinue scheduling hearings for the 4:00 p.m. hour.
With the change in hearing format, it may be a good time for employers and potential witnesses to revisit best practices for attending virtual hearings. Please remember to:
- Keep outside noises to a minimum
- Ensure you are using a good internet connection
- Keep your line muted unless speaking
You should be prepared to use video if others in the hearing are using it and you decide you’re at a disadvantage using audio only. If you do use the video option, keep in mind that your workspace will be visible and be sure to protect any confidential or proprietary documents or other computer screens that may be visible.
As of now, the Industrial Commission has not given any guidance as to when in-person hearings may resume. We will continue to keep you updated as to any changes in Ohio workers’ compensation hearings.