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District of Columbia Public Schools v. District of Columbia Department of Employment Services

Court of Appeals of Columbia District

August 27, 2015

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA PUBLIC SCHOOLS, PETITIONER,
v.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA DEPARTMENT OF EMPLOYMENT SERVICES, RESPONDENT, AND GLORIA MITCHELL, INTERVENOR

Argued March 19, 2014

On Petition for Review of an Order of the Compensation Review Board of the District of Columbia Department of Employment Services. (CRB-007-11).

Mary L. Wilson, Senior Assistant Attorney General, with whom Irvin B. Nathan, Attorney General for the District of Columbia at the time the brief was filed, Todd S. Kim, Solicitor General, Loren L. AliKhan, Deputy Solicitor General, and Donna M. Murasky, Deputy Solicitor General, were on the brief, for petitioner.

Ronald Wick, with whom Jonathan M. Grossman and Chad E. Kurtz, were on the brief, for intervenor.

Tonya A. Sapp filed a statement in lieu of brief for respondent.

Before WASHINGTON, Chief Judge, BECKWITH, Associate Judge, and REID, Senior Judge.

OPINION

Page 948

Washington, Chief Judge

This appeal arises out of a workers' compensation claim filed by intervenor, Gloria Mitchell (" Ms. Mitchell" ), against her former employer, District of Columbia Public Schools (" DCPS" ). On April 9, 2008, while working for DCPS as a special education teacher, Ms. Mitchell slipped on baby oil that a student had spilled on the floor. Ms. Mitchell was unable to work for a period of time as a result of her injuries and received temporary total disability (" TTD" ) benefits, including wages and medical services, for over two years. In the summer of 2010, two independent medical evaluations determined that Ms. Mitchell had reached maximum medical improvement, could return to work, and needed no additional treatment. DCPS notified her that it would be terminating her benefits, and Ms. Mitchell appealed to the Department of Employment Services (" DOES" ). After a hearing, the Administrative Law Judge (" ALJ" ) determined that Ms. Mitchell was still temporarily totally disabled and ordered reinstatement of her benefits " to the present and continuing, causally related medicals, and interest." DCPS appealed to the DOES Compensation Review Board (" CRB" ) contesting only the award of interest, and the CRB affirmed. DCPS now appeals only the interest award to this court.

The question before the court is whether, if the District terminates a claimant's disability compensation benefits and the claimant subsequently wins reinstatement of the terminated benefits on appeal, DOES is permitted to award interest on accrued benefits that were not paid to the employee pending the appeal. In deciding this question, we must determine whether the CRB's construction of the Compensation Merit Personnel Act (" CMPA" ), D.C. Code § 1-623.01 et seq. (2012 Repl.), is reasonable and consistent with the statute's language and purpose. We hold that the CRB's interpretation of the CMPA as authorizing interest to be paid on workers' compensation benefits is not inconsistent with the statute, or our case law, and we therefore affirm.

I. Facts

The undisputed facts are as follows. On April 9, 2008, Ms. Mitchell was working as a special education teacher for DCPS when she slipped and fell on a hallway

Page 949

floor, sustaining injuries to her head and shoulders. DCPS began paying Ms. Mitchell temporary total disability benefits from the date of her injury. On July 20, 2010, the Office of Risk Management (" ORM" ), which administers the District's disability benefits program for public-sector employees, 7 DCMR ยง 3100.1, sent Ms. Mitchell a notice indicating that the District intended to terminate her benefits on August 20, 2010. DCPS made the decision to terminate the benefits after two independent medical evaluations concluded that Ms. Mitchell had attained maximum medical improvement, could return to work without restriction, and did not require any further treatment. The notice also explained that she could either ask for reconsideration of that decision or appeal to DOES. Ms. Mitchell chose to appeal to DOES, which ultimately credited her treating physician's opinion that she remained temporarily totally disabled as a consequence of the injuries to her head, and thus ordered reinstatement of her benefits. In so doing, the ALJ awarded Ms. Mitchell TTD benefits " to the present ...


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