Erie County Exec, Workers Battle Over Compensation Checks Heats Up

July 9, 2010 Updated Jul 13, 2010 at 10:50 AM EDT

By Laura Gray

July 9, 2010 Updated Jul 13, 2010 at 10:50 AM EDT

Buffalo, NY (WKBW) -- Some Erie County workers were scheduled to pick up their workers compensation checks in person today for the first time. Erie County decided stop mailing them about a month ago. A judge has ruled that the county's decision do that is illegal. But County Executive Chris Collins' office telling us today it is not changing the policy.

A representative for Erie County tells us that workers will still have to pick up their checks in person. The NYS Workers' Compensation Board tells me if that policy continues, Erie County will be breaking the law.

A letter going out in early June, warning some workers in compensation cases that they will no longer get their checks in the mail. "It's terrible harrassment, absolutely. To face your boss and pick up your check when there's already been a court saying you're entitled to it." says Mel Hurwitz. He represents seven injured Erie County workers who have received these letters.

Hurwitz took his cases to the Workers' Compensation Board, and those judges ruling that Erie County violated the law. After that ruling, the county sent out another letter telling workers that the pickup policy will be postponed.

Today, Chris Collins' office sent us this statement:
"As always, Erie County Executive Chris Collins' top priority is protecting taxpayers. The County will continue to implement its policy of requiring employees on workers compensation to pick up their checks in person. The workers compensation board, which is comprised of political appointees, does not have the legal authority to stop the County Executive's efforts to protect taxpayers."

I did receive a statement from the NYS Workers Compensation Board in response to the County Executive's statement:
"The NYS Workers' Compensation Board, not Erie County, determines questions of law in the workers' compensation system. Our judges have issued decisions that clearly state Erie County is violating the workers' compensation law and given this, it would be alarming if the County ignores these rulings and continues with their policy. " A spokesperson also adds that judges are civil service not politically appointed.