NY State Workers' Comp Board Rules Collins Check Policy Illegal

July 28, 2010 Updated Jul 29, 2010 at 4:05 PM EDT

By Laura Gray

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July 28, 2010 Updated Jul 29, 2010 at 4:05 PM EDT

Buffalo, NY (WKBW) -- County Executive Chris Collins' office says the policy requiring newly injured workers to pick up their checks from a supervisor will continue tomorrow. Collins believes the program could save taxpayer money. "We need to be able to explain to them every two weeks opportunities to come back to work on light duty, so they can transition back to their jobs. It's not punitive."

The New York State Workers' Compensation Board voted unanimously last week that Erie County's plan violates the Workers' Compensation Law. Collins tells us, "It doesn't matter to us what the Workers Compensation Board says. Quite frankly, they don't matter."

Collins office today says only a small portion of the 300 disabled workers will be required to pick up their checks in person. "(The Board) can express displeasure, but they have no control in this. We are well within the law to say that people need to pick up their checks."

Attorney Anne Dimatteo represents about 10 severely injured county employees. "As it stands right now if the County violate this (ruling), they would be subject to fines and penalties." Dimatteo says the penalties could add up. Just yesterday, the County Executive announcing that Erie County is facing a 36 million dollar budget deficit.

Dimatteo advises clients to decline picking up a workers compensation check in person, and says she is not aware of any injured county worker who has. "Despite Mr. Collins tough talk, the last we knew the county put the policy on hold. Though they say they are still going to enforce it."

Brian Keegan of the New York State Workers' Compensation Board tells us quote:
"I find it alarming that someone who has sworn to uphold the laws of New York State would be so cavalier in his disregard for New York law. The fact remains, Erie County's policy has been ruled illegal and the county has no authority to ignore the law."

Dimatteo says a senior law judge in Buffalo has talked to the New York State Attorney General. She says if the county violates the law tomorrow, they could seek an order from the State Supreme court to enforce the ruling. A call to Erie County's attorney was not returned today.