Worker participation in Appeals Resolution Officer hearing of an employer appeal

A worker representative complained to the Commission about the fairness of the process he and his client experienced at the beginning of an Appeals Resolution Officer (ARO) hearing.

The employer’s representative had appealed a decision to grant the employer 75 per cent Secondary Injury Enhancement Fund (SIEF) relief. The employer was seeking 90 per cent relief. The employer also appealed the worker’s entitlement to benefits along with a number of other issues. The worker and her representative prepared for the hearing. When they arrived for the hearing, they found the employer representative and the ARO having a closed-door discussion. After that discussion, the ARO told the worker and representative an oral hearing was not needed because he had decided to allow the 90 per cent SIEF claim and the employer decided to withdraw the appeal of the other issues. The worker representative thought the worker was treated unfairly when she was not allowed to participate in the process at the hearing that resulted in a final decision.

The Commission spoke to the manager, who did not think there was any prejudice to the worker because the outcome did not affect her benefits. However, after some discussion, the manager agreed fair process required that both parties to an appeal must be able to participate in a meaningful way in the process. That would include any discussions with the ARO on the day of the hearing, particularly when those discussions result in the ARO reaching a final decision. The manager agreed to discuss the worker’s concern with the ARO and to raise the issue in a meeting with the appeals branch managers so that they could remind the other AROs of this principle.