The Department of Labor and Industry (DLI) offers an alternative to formal litigation in resolving workers' compensation disputes. Parties may choose to be represented by an attorney in alternative dispute-resolution or may participate without representation.
DLI Alternative Dispute Resolution strives to prevent or resolve disputes by assisting parties early in the workers' compensation claim process. Early involvement has proven to be effective for vocational rehabilitation disputes. Therefore, effective immediately, the department will be expediting the scheduling of all rehabilitation conferences.
The efforts to expedite these conferences are consistent with the intent and spirit of the workers' compensation statute, which defines an administrative conference as "... a meeting ... where parties can discuss on an expedited basis and in an informal setting their viewpoints concerning disputed issues ..."
Conferences will be conducted within 20 days of the request whenever possible (and earlier than that, by agreement of the parties). After a conference is scheduled, continuances will be granted only in accordance with Minnesota Rules, part 5220.2610, subp. 7. During the conference, a DLI dispute prevention and resolution specialist makes every effort to facilitate an agreement among the parties. If an agreement is not possible, an order will be issued by the specialist within five business days of the conference.
Also effective immediately, the department will respond to requests for vocational evaluations to be performed by a registered rehabilitation provider other than the assigned rehabilitation consultant and order such evaluation when reasonable, pursuant to Minnesota Statutes 176.102, subd. 13 and Minn. Rules 5220.1801, subp. 5. Requests for such evaluations may be made on the Rehabilitation Request form. Anyone requesting an evaluation should be specific in the narrative portion of the request form about the nature of the requested evaluation and why the evaluation is necessary to determine the need for and details of a rehabilitation plan.
Immediately upon receipt of a Rehabilitation Request form, the department does one or more of the following: issues a decision based on written submissions of information; intervenes and resolves the dispute; schedules an expedited conference; or schedules a mediation session.
It is the sincere hope of the department that by adding expedited conferences and quick issuance of decisions to its longstanding practice of early intervention, it can avoid adding costs to the workers' compensation system, while at the same time providing that the commissioner swiftly issues orders to facilitate effective rehabilitation.