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Keefe: Do We Really Need So Many WC Arbitrators?

By Eugene Keefe

Friday, September 29, 2017 | 645 | 0 | min read

Almost as fast as I stopped whining about the secret process to select Illinois workers' compensation arbitrators, I learn we just added two more.

Eugene Keefe

Eugene Keefe

Again, no one tells me or any other Workers' Compensation Commission watcher when the secret powers that be who run the commission decide they need even more arbitrators, or why that decision might be made.

It was my impression that the numerous workers' comp advisory panels don’t want to openly discuss who to pick for the arbitrator jobs. I am sure my readers know I disagree with that concept but I can and will live with it.

My beef this week is why we are adding two more new arbitrators without any open discussion by any advisory panel or the IWCC itself of what the right number might be and/or what benefit new arbitrators will mean to Illinois business that pay every penny of the cost of the IWCC.

I consider hiding that process from me, my clients and the entire industry to be objectionable and inappropriate. I point out that, about 10 to 15 years ago, there were almost 250,000 pending comp claims at the IWCC. Today, there are around 110,000. If we put our minds to it, we could easily work hard to get that pending number under 100,000.

In short, with unquestionably fewer claims, why do we have so many more arbitrators? Either way, Gov. Bruce Rauner just appointed attorneys Tiffany Kay and Charlie Watts as our newest workers' compensation arbitrators. I am sure their appointments have to be approved by the Senate.

I looked them up, and Kay was Labor & Employment Counsel at the State of Illinois-Illinois Department of Central Management Services. She attended John Marshall Law School in Chicago, as I did. She will clearly add to much-needed diversity among IWCC hearing officers. She was licensed in May 2012. We wish new arbitrator Kay all the best in her new position.

The other new arbitrator is Charlie Watts, who apparently goes by the name “Charlie Watts” because that is what is in the IWCC News on their website. I don’t want to in any way upset new arbitrator Watts, but I can’t locate any social media or other information about this new hearing officer other than to be able to confirm his business address is with the Illinois House Republicans and appears to have a home office in Chicago. He was licensed in 2001. We also wish Watts all the best in his new position.

Eugene Keefe is a founding partner of Keefe, Campbell, Biery and Associates, a Chicago-based workers' compensation defense firm. This column was reprinted with his permission from the firm's client newsletter.

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