Fri Sep 19th, 2014
SU Tribal Attorneys
Starting October 1, the Tribe will have two new laws on the books. One law, the Administrative Appeals and Hearings Office Code, establishes a new non-judicial body to oversee appeals and conduct hearings, and the other law, the Workers’ Compensation Code, establishes a workers compensation system to govern employees’ job-related injuries.
Under the Administrative Appeals and Hearings Office Code, anyone who has a hearing or appeal under certain tribal codes and policies will now work with the new Administrative Appeals and Hearings Office, which is a separate independent body that replaces the forums that currently decide appeals under codes such as the Traffic Code, the Casino Board of Review Process, the Permanent Fund Grievance and Appeal Process, the Debt Collection Code, and the Tribal Member Health Benefit Plan.
In the past, appeals under these codes were decided by Tribal Council or ad hoc hearing bodies comprised of tribal employees. The rationale for the new code was to establish a consistent and more efficient process for hearings. With the new system, administrative appeals will be handled by a single, centralized office, headed by a professional with the experience and expertise necessary to conduct hearings with consistency. Because the office would handle all such disputes, the office would be able to execute hearing procedures with familiarity and confidence. Appeals of the Hearing Officer’s decision would go to the Tribal Court.
The second new code governs the workers compensation process for tribal employees. It establishes a process and rules for administering and paying workers’ compensation claims against the Tribe.
The Tribe provides workers’ compensation coverage to its employees, but because the Tribe is a federally recognized Indian tribe, it is not subject to and does not participate in the State workers compensation system. Without a Code, claims were processed in accordance with the policies of the Tribe’s third party administrator, Tribal First. The Tribe’s new Workers’ Compensation Code uses the same benefit levels available under the Colorado state workers compensation system as a guideline for the benefits payable to tribal employees. The code addresses when an employee is entitled to workers’ compensation.
In addition, it establishes claim procedures, including deadlines for reporting injury; the statute of limitations for claim filing; timelines for administrator review; allowable benefits levels; claims management practices; when and how claims will be closed; and how disputes will be resolved.
Tribal Council is currently working on revisions and updates to other tribal codes, and the tribal membership will have an opportunity to comment on those codes before they are enacted.