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Grinberg: WCAB: No Authority From WCJ to Issue Gag Order

  • State: California
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Typically, when a person uses the words “gag” and “workers’ compensation,” it is to describe a certain amount of disapproval with our beloved system of administering benefits (and inflicting costs). 

But, in a significantly rarer use of the term, the Workers' Compensation Appeals Board recently reversed a workers' compensation judge's imposition of sanctions when an applicant-hockey player continued to speak to the media about this claim.

WorkCompCentral recently reported that the WCAB reversed a judge's imposition of sanctions against Michael Peluso’s attorney after his client continued to speak to the media regarding his claim. The WCJ had requested an end to media interviews out of concern of media reports influencing a neurologist set to examine Peluso.

Well, the WCAB apparently did not recognize the WCJ’s authority to order or enforce a gag ordered and reversed the imposition of sanctions.

Aside from this particular case, gag orders are often enough contemplated in workers’ compensation cases. Many employers (and insurers) have rightful concerns that they are locked in battle with a Lernaean Hydra. Cut off one of its heads to watch two more regrow in its place.

Defendants are often tempted to settle a case to seal off potential liability and stop leaking litigation funds. However, when coworkers see their “injured” colleague go home with a big payday, the same employer suddenly has more hydra-heads to deal with, each spitting poison: “Uh … yeah … I’m real hurt … when I close my eyes, I can’t see … and, like, sometimes, I get tired after work. So can I have the money now?”

Perhaps defendants would be more willing to settle if the WCAB were empowered to issue and enforce gag orders (particularly requiring applicants not to disclose the sum of their settlement awards).

Gregory Grinberg is workers' compensation defense attorney at the Law Office of Gregory Grinberg, based in the San Francisco Bay Area. This post is reprinted with permission from Grinberg's WCDefenseCA blog.

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