Director of Alabama Department of Labor Workers’ Compensation Division Issues Memorandum Concerning Ombudsman Program
On March 18, 2020, the Director of the Alabama Department of Labor (ADOL) Workers’ Compensation Division, Steve Garrett, released a Memorandum concerning the Ombudsman Program. ADOL Ombudsmen travel the state and assist with finalizing settlements and also act as mediators at no cost to the parties. Per the Memorandum, the ADOL is constantly monitoring the ongoing developments of COVID-19 and the effect it’s having on the ADOL and the services it provides. Although the Ombudsman Program is continuing to operate, the ADOL is making the following modifications to the procedures normally in place.
- Whenever possible, the ADOL is asking attorneys, employers and claimants to postpone any previously scheduled mediations and benefit review conferences that are currently set through April 6, 2020. This date may be extended, however, due to COVID-19 related restrictions still in place at that time.
- For any mediations or benefit review conferences that cannot be rescheduled, the ADOL is asking for those mediations to be held by telephone whenever possible. There are no waivers currently in place from the Alabama Supreme Court that would allow for mediations or benefit review conferences with pro se litigants to proceed without the required notarized advisements under Ala. Code §25-5-290(f)(1). The advisement of the pro se litigant’s right to be represented by counsel and of his or her right to have any settlement reviewed must still be followed with notarized signatures.
- If either of the above options is not possible, then the ADOL requests that any face-to-face mediations be held only in offices that allow for social distancing as recommended by medical professionals and to monitor the presence of any participant that may meet one of the high-risk criteria (i.e. those with compromised immune systems, etc.)
To reschedule mediation dates or to alter plans for scheduled mediations during this time, it is asked that you contact your ombudsman. For a list of ombudsman with contact information and the areas of the state that they cover, please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will be happy to send you one.
About the Author
This blog submission was prepared by Mike Fish, an attorney with Fish Nelson & Holden, LLC, a law firm dedicated to representing self-insured employers, insurance carriers, and third party administrators in all matters related to workers’ compensation. Fish Nelson & Holden is a member of the National Workers’ Compensation Defense Network. If you have any questions about this submission or Alabama workers’ compensation in general, please contact Fish by e-mailing him at email@example.com or by calling him directly at 205-332-1448.