As you know, I am all about solutions. So naturally, when I read in this here website about the challenges of getting reasonable wages for Florida Comp judges, I knew I would have to weigh in. There is a fairly easy fix to the problem they face.
In case you missed the article by our own Nancy Grover, the Florida Office of Judges of Compensation Claims has been attempting to get the state legislature to authorize an increase in salaries for its beleaguered judges. They haven’t had any significant increase in well over a decade. According to a 2017-18 Annual Report issued by the OJCC, “The JCC salary, in actual purchasing power, has diminished over $27,000 compared to the Consumer Price Index (CPI).”
In fact, Florida workers’ comp judges make on average just 82% of what County Judges in the state earn, and just 77% of what Circuit Judges earn. When you are trying to entice the best and brightest legal minds to take these positions, those lower than average salaries make it a very difficult task.
This should not be an issue. The money that covers these judges’ salaries comes directly from the Workers’ Compensation Administrative Trust Fund, which is funded entirely by assessments on workers’ compensation premiums and contributions by self-insured employers. The OJCC Report explains that “No general revenue is contributed to the WCATF. A salary increase in the OJCC would have no impact on general revenue expenditures.”
So, it must be very irritating to hear every year that the budget is tight, and “we have no money.”
There are two bills currently being proposed this year that would resolve the issue, HB 795 and SB 780. However, at last report these bills had been buried in not one, but two sub-committees. That is unfortunately the legislative equivalent of double clubbing baby seals, in the event just one club isn’t sufficient to do the job. Believe me, our Florida legislators are experienced at killing anything that contains a lick of sense. Sponsors of the bill probably should’ve attached shiny baubles to their proposed legislation; that might of held their attention just long enough to keep them out of those sub-committees.
Not to worry. As I indicated, I have the perfect solution to this problem.
The judges of the OJCC can just put tip jars on their table. If a party feels that a judge has done a particularly diligent job during the disposition of their hearing, they can leave a little “thank you” that signifies a job well done. They could even decorate them with cute little sayings, kind of like they do at places like Moe’s and other counter service establishments. The signs could read “Gas Money,” or “TIP ain’t just a town in Mississippi.” My local car wash has a bell you can ring by the tip station, letting all around know that you were pleased with the service you received. I see no reason why the same principle could not be employed in a hearing room.
I am sure some guideline could be worked out. The standard 15% rule might be applied to an ordered award, or even possibly an equivalent amount of benefits denied. 20% for an exceptional decision would of course be considered appropriate. Truly, if they follow this plan, literally anything is possible. Service would likely improve, and the judges would finally be making a livable wage. A win-win for everyone – or at least the biggest tipper.
Some people may have an issue with making jurists tipped employees, but it is a solution that would solve the problem. Seeing that our dunderheads in Tallahassee can’t figure out that it’s not even coming from their budget, it is probably our best bet for a prompt and speedy solution.
No need to thank me. It is just what I do.