Anthony Dennis sustained an industrial injury to his right wrist on October 29, 2013 while working as an inmate laborer for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. His claim settled via Stipulation and Award for 31 % permanent disability on September 11, 2017.
Prior to the settlement, on May 15, 2017 the Department of Corrections sent a Notice of Offer of Modified Work stating that applicant had voluntarily terminated his employment since he had been released from prison after .the injury occurred. Dennis disputed the offer of work and requested a dispute resolution before the Administrative Director on September 19, 2017.
The parties never received a response from the AD. Thus Dennis filed a DOR to address the matter on February 5, 2018 as well as a “Petition for Grant of Supplemental Job Displacement Benefit.”
Defendant claimed at trial that if applicant’s DOR/Appeal of the Administrative Directors presumed denial was not timely. The WCJ found that it was not and thus, the ADs determination ( denial) was final, and denied the Petition for the SJDB Benefit.
Dennis filed for Reconsideration of this finding and also arguing that he is eligible to the voucher. The WCAB granted the Petition and ordered that he be provided with a SJDB Voucher in the case of Dennis v. California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
The parties never received a finding from the Administrative Director; therefore the request was deemed denied on December 8, 2017 pursuant to 17 8 CCR 10133.54(±). An appeal of the denial was to be filed by December 28, 2017 per 8 CCR 10133.54(g).
Applicant filed his Petition for Grant of Supplemental Job Displacement Benefit on February 5, 2018, well after the time allotted per the regulations. 8 CCR 10133.54(g) states “Either party may appeal the determination of the administrative director by filing a written petition together with a declaration of readiness to proceed pursuant to section 10250 within twenty days after a request is deemed denied” .
The WCJ found that applicant is barred from SJDB because applicant failed to timely appeal the Administrative Director’s presumed denial of his request.
However, section 5300 statutorily vests the Appeals Board with the exclusive jurisdiction to adjudicate claims regarding the “recovery of compensation, or concerning any right or liability arising out of or incidental thereto” of injuries that “arise out of and in the course” of employment This exclusive jurisdiction extends to inmates who sustained injury arising out of and in the course of assigned employment. (§ 3370.)
Furthermore, section 4658.7(h) does nqt abrogate the Appeals Board ability to adjudicate disputes that arise under this subdivision. Section 4658.7(h) limits the Administrative Director to adopting regulations “for the administration of this section” and does not extent the Administrative Director’s authority to adjudicate SJDB disputes.
Thus, irrespective of Rule 10133.54, the Appeals Board maintains exclusive jurisdiction, to adjudicate the issue of whether applicant is entitled to the benefits under the SJDB program.
While defendant timely sent applicant a Notice offering regular, modified, or alternative work, such offer was not a bona fide job offer because applicant was released from prison and could not return to prison for employment.
This decision may have further implications in terms of other dispute resolution functions of the AD, such as IMR.