Workers Comp Commissioners Take Friday Afternoons Off
Friday isn’t “casual dress” day for state workers’
commissioners; it appears to be “take the entire afternoon off while
still on the clock” day.
In a telephone survey that Journal
Inquirer reporters conducted on three nonconsecutive Fridays in March
and April, nearly all of the 12 commissioners assigned to the panel’s
six regional offices were said to have left for the day by 1:30 p.m.
“trial” commissioners serve five-year terms and are paid between
$140,779 and $145,780 per year, while the Workers’ Compensation
Commission chairman, who acts as chief administrator and does not try
cases, is paid $155,779 annually.
By custom and tradition, the
“trial” commissioners, who are charged with ensuring that workers get
prompt payment of lost-time work benefits and medical expenses for
on-the-job injuries, are supposed to use Friday afternoons to read
briefs and write their opinions in the cases they’ve heard.
the staffers who answered telephone calls placed to the commission’s
offices across the state responded to requests to speak with each of
the commissioners assigned to those offices by saying he or she had
“gone for the weekend” or “gone for the day,” that the commissioner was
“not here this afternoon,” “unavailable,” or “not in today,” or that
the official would be “back Monday.”
In the single instance
that a commissioner did come to the telephone, Leonard S. Paoletta
explained that he was retiring that very day.
In another try, a
staffer initially volunteered that she thought Commissioner Jack
Goldberg was in the Middletown office “writing decisions” and put the
reporter on hold. She resumed the conversation without confirming that
Goldberg actually was there, but added that she had been “instructed to
tell you to call the chairman’s office.”
That was a reference
to John A. Mastropietro of Watertown, a former Republican state
chairman who was named to lead the commission by ex-Gov. John G.
Rowland. Mastropietro had served as Rowland’s campaign manager.
asked about the commissioners’ repeated afternoon absences, cautioned
that the commissioners would assume the reporters’ calls were about
cases before them and that they are not permitted to have such
Told that the reporters identified
themselves as such when asked, and if prompted further, said they
didn’t want to speak to the commissioners about specific cases but
rather poll them about their opinions on pending legislation,
Mastropietro said that “most of the commissioners probably would
respond by saying, ‘Call the chairman’s office.”’
asked why all but one of the commissioners didn’t respond at all,
Mastropietro suggested that they might have been out of the office on
personal or vacation time.
“With respect to anyone not there on
a Friday afternoon, as long as they have accredited that time — meaning
either to their personal leave time or their vacation time — if they
have done that, they are meeting their obligations and requirements,”
But when asked if any of the commissioners said to
have left on each of the three Fridays had notified his office that
they had put in for either personal or vacation time off, Mastropietro
However, he had just written a memo to the
commissioners lauding them for their efforts at reducing a case backlog
in recent years by “double docketing” proceedings and taking work home.
Meanwhile, one commission employee, who requested
said regional office staffers had complained to their bosses about the
early exits on Fridays — and, in one instance, lodged a whistleblower
complaint challenging the hours a supervisor claimed to have worked.
hearing trial, injured worker fined