CAN’T TOUCH THIS!
JCC has no jurisdiction to affect a §440.211 collective bargaining agreement arbitration determination in any way (language of later-added 440.1926 notwithstanding). Claimant’s efforts/JCC’s Order changing the status quo: thwarted! (Hence the ‘minor’ Landmark designation).
Holding in a nutshell:
Injured workers contractually bound to process job-injury claims through collective-bargaining agreements must stay within the CBA environment: JCC has no jurisdiction to vacate arbitrator’s denial of benefits (and denial of rehearing) as was attempted here.
Claimant, who originally filed a PFB which E/C denied based on CBA compelling resolution of claims by arbitration, agreed and voluntarily dismissed PFB. Arbitration resulted in denial of all benefits. Claimant’s arbitration rehearing was denied.
Then, Claimant did something unusual, the success of which, E/C argued, would destabilize the entire CBA world! Claimant sought relief by filing motion to vacate, with the JCC!
The JCC went for it, ruling: §440.1926 (permitting parties to a pending PFB to seek arbitration, and allowing JCC to impact outcome) allows a JCC to serve as “Judge” (contemplated by mediation rules within §682.13) in a §440.211 case too, and thereby also impact the outcomes of CBA determinations.
Accordingly, the JCC vacated the arbitration determination and ordered rehearing.
1st DCA HELD: You Can’t touch this.
The Court effectively embraced E/C’s statutory construction barring JCC from impacting the CBA environment in any way. (A hypothetical CBA could expressly empower a JCC to do so: parties have great leeway drafting CBAs, but this one contained no such provision).
The JCC’s construction of the law raised alarm bells. If permitted to stand, the whole CBA world could be reduced to merely one bite of an apple in which claimants get two: if arbitration doesn’t go so well, just file with the JCC for relief and get a 2nd bite.
Fortunately, the undersigned believes, the Court recognized there was no permeable wall between CBAs under long-standing §440.211, and arbitration agreements reached under the newer §440.1926. The easiest way to visualize the difference is to recognize claims under the former are governed by a CBA that predates the accident (and often the employment), whereas arbitration agreements arising under 1926 are always the subject of a pending PFB, post-accident, and overseen by the JCC, starting with JCC approval to undertake same in the first instance.
Judge M. K. Thomas’ opinion (B. L. Thomas and Makar concurring) commendably preserved the status quo, reversing the order purporting to vacate a §440.211 arbitration determination and concluding: a JCC lacks subject matter jurisdiction over CBA dispute resolutions (unless expressly written into the CBA, something parties to a given claim can never do). Bullet, as they say, dodged!
Status: Not final until time for rehearing/possible Supreme Court review expires.
H. George Kagan is once again proud to be part of an Employer/Carrier claims team that, as a system stakeholder, perceives an obligation to defend its vision of the law on behalf of Florida industry, and then does so!
My very best regards to all.
H. George Kagan, P.A.