The Court also went into some detail in dismissing a jurisdictional argument. The employer argued that the only way to challenge the validity of the Department of Labor rule was through a Declaratory Judgment action brought in Superior Court with the Department of Labor as an opposing party.
Raymond Cover had challenged the validity of Lab 504.05(6)(3) before the Department of Labor Hearing Officer initially and the Compensation Appeals Board on appeal. RSA 541-A:24 provides that parties “may” challenge a Department of Labor administrative rule at the Superior Court via a Declaratory Judgment action, including the Department of Labor as a party. The employer argued “that the word ‘may’… is meant to express a right … to challenge a rule’s validity [and] if that right is exercised, then the action must be filed” in Superior Court and include as a party the agency that adopted the rule. The Court disagreed. The Court focused on the definition of the word “may” to mean “permissive, not mandatory” and cited three prior cases in which the Court had reviewed the validity of agency rules under similar circumstances. The Court found that it could exercise subject matter jurisdiction over Mr. Cover’s appeal.
Employers should know that all full-time and part-time employees are likely eligible for reinstatement to their job within 18 months of a compensable workplace injury. Some qualifications still apply, and your labor and employment or workers’ compensation attorney can likely provide helpful counsel on this issue.
**Bernard & Merrill represents employers, insurance carriers, and third-party administrators in workers’ compensation cases, civil litigation, and insurance defense. The firm has offices in Manchester, NH, and represents clients across the state of New Hampshire.**