The Longshore Division of the U.S. Department of Labor saw an increase in new claims reported in fiscal year 2017. According to the Division, 27,122 new claims were reported in 2017, a jump from the 24,276 claims reported in 2016. The majority of new claims, 52 percent, were reported in traditional longshore cases. Claims arising under the Defense Base Act formed the next largest group of new claims. Offshore cases arising under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act comprised less than one percent of all new claims.
The Longshore Division of the U.S. Department of Labor has announced that it will now accept initial filings in new claims by facsimile. As of March 1, 2018, initial "case create" forms may be submitted to the Longshore Division through a new fax number, (202) 513-6814. The "case create," forms, which initiate a claim in the Longshore Division, include Form LS-201 (Notice of Employee's Injury or Death); LS-202 (Employer's First Report of Injury or Occupational Illness); LS-203 (Employee's Claim for Compensation) and the LS-262 (Claim for Death Benefits).
In another change, the case create forms may be submitted by mail to the Jacksonville Office. Prior to March 1, 2018, all case create forms had to be mailed to the New York District Office. The Jacksonville Office address for submitting case create forms is:
U.S. Department of Labor
Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs
Division of Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation
400 West Bay Street, Suite 63A, Box 28
Jacksonville, FL 32202
After a case is created and assigned an OWCP number, all forms and other correspondence and documentation may be submitted through the Division's online portal, SEAPortal. Submissions by mail should go to the Jacksonville Office address.
These new procedures apply to all new claims filed under the Longshore Act and all its extensions. The Longshore Division published an industry notice describing these new procedures in detail, which may be read here.
More than $1.4 billion in compensation and medical benefits were paid under the Longshore Act and its extensions in 2015, according to a recent report prepared by the Congressional Research Service. In the same year, 23,543 lost-time injuries were reported to the Longshore Division of the Department of Labor. This new report updates earlier versions of the report, prepared by the Congressional Research Service, an arm of the Library of Congress, for members of Congress. The report, which may be read here, provides a convenient overview of the Longshore Act and its extensions.
DOL Increases Penalties
Certain penalties under the Longshore Act have increased effective January 2, 2018. The penalty under Section 14(g) of the Act, for failure of an employer to report the termination of payments, has increased to $285 from $279. The penalty under Section 30 for failure to report an injury now has a maximum penalty of $23,426, up from $22,957. In assessing this penalty, the District Director may consider certain aggravating or mitigating factors, and may rely upon a graduated schedule of penalty amounts. Finally, the penalty under Section 48a, for discrimination against employees who bring compensation proceedings, ranges from a maximum of $11,712 and a minimum of $2,343. These increases were prompted by the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act Improvements Act of 2015, which requires agencies to adjust the levels of existing civil monetary penalties annually based on inflation. The Division of Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation of the Department of Labor provided notice of these increases in Industry Notice 163, which may be viewed here.
The Department of Labor, Division of Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation, recently determined the annual updates to the maximum and minimum compensation rates. The maximum rate is $1,471.78, and the minimum rate is $367.94. The annual Section 10(f) cost of living increase is 2.46 percent. The Department's full notice may be viewed here.
The Office of Administrative Law Judges adopted new Rules of Procedure effective June 18, 2015. The OALJ published certain corrections to the new rule on July 1, 2015, and the text of the new rules, with corrections, may be found here. According to the OALJ, the "revisions make the regulations more accessible and useful to parties. The revisions also harmonize administrative hearing procedures with the current FRCP and with the types of claims now heard by OALJ, which increasingly involve whistleblower and other workplace retaliation claims, in addition to a longstanding caseload of occupational disease and injury claims."
Parties in proceedings before the District Directors may now receive service of orders by email. Under Section 19(e) of the Act, parties are entitled to service of compensation orders by certified or registered mail. On June 12, 2015, the Department announced that parties may waive their right to certified mail notice of orders and opt instead to receive notice of orders by email. A copy of the industry notice explaining this process may be read here. To sign up to waive certified mail service and receive orders by email, parties must complete, sign and file one of two new forms, an LS-801 (for employers and carriers) or LS-802 (for claimant's or their representatives. The Department's regulations were revised, at 20 C.F.R. § 702.349, to accommodate this new practice.
Baltimore District Office Closing
The Baltimore Longshore District Office will physically close on September 30, 2014. It will be consolidated into the Norfolk District Office. Prior to the physical closure of the Baltimore District Office, the case work will transition to the Norfolk District Office for maximum efficiency.
Therefore, effective September 1, 2014, the Norfolk District Office has jurisdiction over past and future cases under the LHWCA, and its extensions, arising in the states of Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia and the District of Columbia.
All forms submitted for the creation of a new case should still be submitted to the Longshore Central Case Create site in New York City. After a case has been created, all case-specific mail should still be sent to the Longshore Central Mail Receipt site in Jacksonville, FL.
Please see the attached Industry Notice for further detail.
© 2018 Ira J. Rosenzweig