In March, 2020 with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission made changes that kept the Commission operational. The ISIA recognizes the swift action taken by the Chairman, Michael Brennan, and his staff. The Commission remained operational throughout the crisis. As COVID-19 restrictions and guidance have evolved, the Commission continued to adjust. New protocols remain in place at the Commission. Arbitrators continue to conduct their monthly status call virtually. Cases that are properly motioned under Section 19(b) and motions for trial are set for a pre-trial conference during the same month as the status call. Pre-trials also continue to be held virtually. Arbitrators then schedule trial dates during the next calendar month following the status call. Trial dates are held in-person with appropriate health and safety policies in place.
Like the status calls, the Commission Review Calls are also proceeding virtually. Cases needing a hearing before a Commissioner are scheduled and are in-person. For now, oral arguments continue virtually. When appropriate, oral arguments will return to in person. In Summer, 2021, the Commission moved its Chicago administrative and hearing location from the 8th Floor of the Thompson Center to new office and hearing space. Hearings are now held in the lower level of the Daley Center. Administrative, Arbitrator and Commissioner offices are located at 69 West Washington Street, Suite 900, Chicago, 60602. The new hearing location offers updated technology and more efficient use of space.
The Commission moved quickly to a paperless environment by upgrading its hardware and software. Rolled out initially for settlement contract approval, the CompFile system now allows all filing to be by e-filing. The next roll-out will include application for, and management of, self insurance.
There are many new Arbitrator appointments. The ISIA welcomes the new Arbitrators. All Arbitrator slots are filled, which should help move more cases through the system. In 2021, approximately 900 cases proceeded to trial and decision. With a full roster of Arbitrators and the current procedures in place, this number is expected to rise in 2022.
Finally, the ISIA would like to acknowledge the announced retirement of Arbitrator Molly Mason. Arbitrator Mason has presided over cases assigned to the Chicago docket. The ISIA thanks Arbitrator Mason for her years of dedicated service and wishes her well in her new life chapter.