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Citing savings to the State, the DWC announced last month that the Goleta WCAB District Office will close and merge with the Oxnard office on November 30. The last day that hearings will be scheduled in Goleta will be Friday, November 29.

All cases currently in Goleta will be transferred to the Oxnard District Office, approximately 45 miles south. The seven DWC employees in Goleta will also transfer to the Oxnard office. The DWC claims that Goleta closure will consolidate resources and create savings for future DWC needs, including hiring. Oxnard has sufficient space to accommodate the Goleta staff, who will begin work there on Monday, December 2.

And the California Applicant Attorneys Association is not thrilled with the consolidation. It has called upon the DWC to either reverse its decision to close the Goleta WCAB at the end of November, or, at a minimum, continue to hold hearings in Goleta on injured workers’ insurance claims.

“The planned closure of the Goleta WCAB will impose considerable hardship on injured workers, particularly those without the ability to travel nearly one hour to Ventura or San Luis Obispo counties to pursue their insurance claims. For example, there is no public transportation that would get injured workers to Oxnard for an 8:30am hearing, which is customary,” said Jill Singer, CAAA Central Coast Chapter president. “We call for the DWC to keep this board office open, or at a minimum, continue to hold hearings in Goleta, so that workers have access to the justice they deserve.”

Singer said that area workers would now have no office in the area’s largest population center, the Santa Barbara area, and would have to travel up to 100 miles to pursue their workers’ compensation insurance claims for medical care and disability compensation for their work injuries, “There was no public notice of this decision. The area’s largest employer is UC Santa Barbara, so closing the Goleta board will affect employers who will also have to spend hours traveling to and from a faraway board for every case hearing. The closure would have great financial consequences for small businesses. Instead of taking an hour or two, or even being on call if their testimony is necessary, employers are now going to have to take up to a day or more off work to travel to Oxnard for hearings and trials.”

Newly elected CAAA President Jim Butler said, “The DWC reduced employers’ assessments to pay for the system of reviewing injured workers’ claims, and is now closing this regional board. This reduces injured workers’ access to the State’s system to pursue medical care and disability compensation. We call upon the DWC to reverse this decision, or to follow its precedent in Palm Springs, Ukiah and Bishop, and continue to hold hearings on work injury cases in Goleta after closing its permanent office there.”

CAAA said the closure will impact the poorest and most seriously injured workers the most, as there is no adequate or efficient transportation for those without cars. The closure would especially harm the large number of farmworkers – and farmers – in this agricultural area. “Injured workers would have to spend multiple hours on public transportation to travel to Oxnard or San Luis Obispo, which is most difficult for the most severely injured,” said Singer.