The Lieutenant Governor in Council shall, on the recommendation of the minister, appoint to the review division a panel of persons to act as review commissioners. The panel shall not exceed 7 persons, 1 of whom shall be appointed by the Lieutenant Governor in Council as Chief Review Commissioner. The terms of office, remuneration, benefits and expenses of the review commissioners shall be determined by the Lieutenant Governor in Council. A review commissioner shall hold office during good behaviour for a term that the Lieutenant Governor in Council may establish.
The Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation Review Division (WHSCRD) is an independent, quasi-judicial body that considers appeals arising from decisions of WorkplaceNL. The appeals process for clients of WorkplaceNL is vital to the overall service provided to employers and to workers who sustain workplace injuries in Newfoundland and Labrador. It is the final level of appeal within the workers’ compensation system.
The WHSCRD occupies an important jurisprudential role and a significant diversionary function in determining matters which would otherwise be heard by the Courts, placing an expectation on the review commissioner to produce written decisions that are comprehensive, unbiased, well-reasoned and complete and meet a quasi-judicial standard. Appointees to the review commissioner panel must be unbiased and must be perceived as unbiased.
Section 22 of the Workplace Health Safety and Compensation Act (Act) provides that the Lieutenant-Governor in Council, on the recommendation of the Minister, appoint to the review division a panel of persons to act as review commissioners.
The panel of review commissioners cannot exceed seven members, one of which is appointed by the Lieutenant-Governor in Council as the Chief Review Commissioner. Presently, the Chief Review Commissioner is a full-time salaried position on the executive pay scale and also serves as the organization’s CEO with related administrative responsibilities. Another full-time review commissioner has been approved on an annual contract and the remaining five positions are part-time review commissioners.
All review commissioners report to the Chief Review Commissioner who reports directly to the Minister responsible for WorkplaceNL.
Though not required, ideally, the panel of review commissioners should reflect the gender and regional representation of the Province’s population.
Each review commissioner acts independently. Therefore, each review commissioner must possess the same minimum competencies as identified below:
Candidates for review commissioner appointments should demonstrate the competencies identified above as well as the following qualifications:
Part-time review commissioners should be available to hear four to six cases per month. Each oral hearing requires approximately two hours. In preparation for each hearing, a review commissioner can expect to spend two or three hours to review each claim file which contains an average of 500 pages but may contain over 2,000 pages. Following a hearing, a review commissioner can expect to spend eight to ten hours to draft, edit and finalize a decision.
According to the Act, a review commissioner shall hold office during good behaviour for a term that the Lieutenant-Governor in Council may establish. Currently, the terms of appointments are as follows:
There are currently four existing/pending vacancies for Review Commissioners.
The full time Review Commissioner’s contract is expiring July 5, 2016. Expressions of interest are being sought to fill this contractual position until March 31, 2017 (with possibility of extension).
For the remaining 3 part-time vacancies, one Review Commissioner appointment would ideally be located in the Western Region of the Province and available to conduct review hearings in Corner Brook. Occasional travel to Labrador to conduct hearings in Goose Bay and Labrador City may also be required. The remaining two Review Commissioners would ideally be located in the northeast Avalon region of the province and available to conduct hearings at the WHSCRD offices in Mount Pearl.
The role of Review Commissioner is both unique and challenging. Reporting to the Chief Review Commissioner, a Review Commissioner acts as an independent, appellate-level adjudicator and works within a fast-paced and challenging environment.
S/he is responsible for reviewing Request for Review applications, claim files and decisions of the WorkplaceNL to ensure the decisions are compliant with the Act and policies of WorkplaceNL. Appeals often involve novel, complex and contentious issues (e.g. occupational disease, medical claims, return to work disputes, employer penalties and assessments, etc.) S/he will preside over and control the forum for appeal hearings, ensuring a fair process for all hearing participants while maintaining integrity in the appeal process. The position carries a full caseload consisting of sensitive and complex cases, requiring detailed analysis in the preparation of complete, written, well-reasoned and sound decisions. This requires the identification and application of the relevant law and policies to the issues in the appeal. The review commissioner may consider precedent-setting matters in legislative and policy interpretation which often prompt policy changes within WorkplaceNL. The review commissioner is required to make unbiased decisions based on merits of the case(s), within the framework of the Act. Review commissioners are supported by the staff of the Review Division which consists of Legal Counsel, Manager of Operations, Appeals Officer and administrative support.