Oregon Court of Appeals Addresses Use of DOT Codes in Permanent Disability Calculations

Central Oregon Intergovernmental Council-COIC v. Tyrel Albert (A150222; 01/23/2014)

The Oregon Court of Appeals published its decision in this permanent partial disability case on January 23, 2014.  The operative issue addressed claimant’s entitlement to work disability benefits, as originally determined by the appellate review unit (ARU), which necessarily involved consideration of claimant’s job at injury.  The Workers’ Compensation Board relied on the Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT) codes in order to determine whether claimant was released to his regular work for purposes of evaluating entitlement to a work disability award.  The Court of Appeals held “[i]nstead of relying on the ARU’s conclusion about which DOT code best reflected claimant’s pre-injury physical capacity, the board should have determined whether claimant had been released to his at-injury job based on evidence in the record, which includes medical records describing the work that claimant was performing when he was injured, claimant’s own description of his work history, employer’s Regular Duty Job Analysis, and the evidence about claimant’s post-injury capacity.”

The Court of Appeals acknowledged DOT codes are typically used in calculating the amount of a work disability award; however, the Court specifically did not hold that DOT codes could not be utilized in determining entitlement to a work disability award.  In fact, this decision outlines the circumstances under which DOT codes could serve as evidence of a workers’ actual job duties.  In remanding this claim to the Board, the Court of Appeals has clarified the parameters for future Notices of Closure and, specifically, entitlement to work disability benefits.  Contact any of the attorneys in our Oregon practice group to discuss this decision and the implications it may have on future processing.