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SB 116: "An Act offering mediation of disputed workers' compensation claims by a hearing officer or other classified employee of the division of workers' compensation and allowing collective bargaining agreements to supersede certain provisions of the Alaska Workers' Compensation Act; and providing for an effective date."

00                             SENATE BILL NO. 116                                                                         
01 "An Act offering mediation of disputed workers' compensation claims by a hearing                                        
02 officer or other classified employee of the division of workers' compensation and                                       
03 allowing collective bargaining agreements to supersede certain provisions of the Alaska                                 
04 Workers' Compensation Act; and providing for an effective date."                                                        
05 BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF ALASKA:                                                                
06    * Section 1. AS 23.30.110 is amended by adding a new subsection to read:                                           
07            (i)  If the employee and the employer disagree with respect to the issues                                    
08       relating to a claim under this chapter, the employee and the employer and their                                   
09       respective representatives and agents may attend mediation, subject to the following:                             
10                 (1)  mediation under this section                                                                       
11                      (A)  is intended to facilitate settlement of a disputed claim, but                                 
12            the mediator does not have the power to compel a settlement;                                                 
13                      (B)  shall be conducted by a hearing officer or other classified                                   
14            employee of the division of workers' compensation;                                                           
01                      (C)  shall be conducted informally as one or more in-person or                                     
02            telephonic conferences, as determined by the mediator;                                                       
03                      (D)  shall be confidential; and                                                                    
04                      (E)  may not be recorded;                                                                          
05                 (2)  notwithstanding AS 23.30.135, evidence of efforts to compromise                                    
06       or settle disputed claims and conduct or statements made during mediation may not be                              
07       used as evidence at a hearing under this chapter;                                                                 
08                 (3)  after the first conference, either party may withdraw, or the                                      
09       mediator may terminate mediation if the mediator determines that further mediation                                
10       efforts would be unproductive;                                                                                    
11                 (4)  if, at any time, the mediator determines that mediation efforts are                                
12       unsuccessful, the mediator shall terminate mediation and notify the board that                                    
13       mediation efforts have failed;                                                                                    
14                 (5)  if the mediation is successful, the mediator may assist the employer                               
15       and the employee in preparing a memorandum of agreement for filing with the board                                 
16       or approval by the board under AS 23.30.012;                                                                      
17                 (6)  if the employer and employee fail to reach an agreement by                                         
18       mediation, the procedure for a hearing under this section shall continue;                                         
19                 (7)  the expense of the mediation may not be assessed against the                                       
20       participants.                                                                                                     
21    * Sec. 2. AS 23.30 is amended by adding a new section to read:                                                     
22            Sec. 23.30.285. Collective bargaining agreements. (a) A collective                                         
23       bargaining agreement negotiated between an employer or a group of employers and a                                 
24       labor organization that represents employees may                                                                  
25                 (1)  establish a process for alternative dispute resolution, including                                  
26       mediation and arbitration by a hearing officer or other classified employee of the                                
27       division of workers' compensation, that governs disputes between an employee and an                               
28       employer or the employer's insurer and that supplements or replaces a part or all of a                            
29       dispute resolution process under this chapter; the alternative dispute resolution process                         
30       under this paragraph must provide that a finding of fact, award, order, or decision of                            
31       an arbitrator                                                                                                     
01                      (A)  has the same force and effect as a finding of fact, award,                                    
02            order, or decision of a hearing officer under AS 23.30.005; and                                              
03                      (B)  is subject to appeal in the same manner and using the same                                    
04            procedures as provided for review of a finding of fact, award, order, or                                     
05            decision made by a hearing officer or the Workers' Compensation Appeal                                       
06            Commission under AS 23.30.008;                                                                               
07                 (2)  identify health care providers who are the exclusive source of                                     
08       medical treatment provided under this chapter; in this paragraph, "health care                                    
09       provider" has the meaning given in AS 09.55.560;                                                                  
10                 (3)  identify medical evaluators who are the exclusive source of                                        
11       medical evaluations authorized under this chapter;                                                                
12                 (4)  identify vocational rehabilitation specialists who are the exclusive                               
13       source of vocational rehabilitation services regulated under this chapter;                                        
14                 (5)  establish a joint safety committee with representatives from the                                   
15       employer and the labor organization; and                                                                          
16                 (6)  establish a program for light-duty employment or employment that                                   
17       is modified according to limitations or restrictions imposed by a physician or                                    
18       chiropractor.                                                                                                     
19            (b)  A collective bargaining agreement negotiated under the authority set out in                             
20       (a) of this section may not reduce an employee benefit set out in this chapter.                                   
21            (c)  In this section, "labor organization" means a labor or employee                                         
22       organization of any kind in which employees participate and that exists for the primary                           
23       purpose of dealing with employers concerning grievances, labor disputes, wages, rates                             
24       of pay, hours of employment, and conditions of employment.                                                        
25    * Sec. 3. This Act takes effect July 1, 2012.