(a) SOAH shall ensure that the confidentiality provisions of Labor Code, §§ 402.082-402.092, 411.034, 413.0513, and 413.0514 and the Code of Federal Regulations, Title 20, § 603.6 and § 603.7 (for information obtained from the Texas Workforce Commission or its successor agencies) will be followed, including requests for release of documents or information made confidential under the Act or other applicable law.
(b) Unless authorized by law, SOAH will not identify the name of a claimant for workers’ compensation coverage under the Act or other information contained in or derived from the division’s claim file for such a claimant in listings of docketed cases or in other documents distributed to persons other than to the division and the parties to a contested case involving that claimant.
(c) If a party or a member of the public files a written request with the Chief Clerk of Proceedings and with SOAH that a hearing be conducted as a hearing open to the public, the ALJ shall consider that request and issue a ruling prior to the opening of the hearing to the public.
(d) Any request for a hearing open to the public shall be filed with the Chief Clerk of Proceedings and with SOAH at least seven days prior to the first day of the hearing unless the ALJ allows a shorter filing period upon a showing of good cause.
(e) When considering a request that a hearing be open to the public, the ALJ’s considerations shall include, but are not limited to, whether the hearing would contain information made confidential under the Act or other applicable laws. If confidential information would be included, then the ALJ may consider whether any procedure could be devised and utilized which would allow a hearing to be open to the public without violating the confidentiality provisions of the Act, other applicable laws, other applicable regulations, and agreements required by those laws or regulations or without causing an undue burden on the division or the parties to the hearing.
(f) While SOAH will have temporary custody of the hearing records, the commissioner retains statutory authority as custodian of records and is ultimately responsible, as the originating agency, for the release or non-release of the information. Therefore, should any information, which may be confidential under the Act, division rules, or other law, be requested from SOAH by any person or entity, SOAH shall follow all legal requirements necessary to ensure that the confidential information or document is not released, unless specifically required by law, and shall provide such request to the commissioner immediately upon receipt.
(g) Pursuant to Labor Code § 413.031(c), the division shall be responsible for publishing any SOAH decisions required to be published by that section on the department’s website. SOAH shall as soon as practicable deliver to the division a version of the decision in an electronic format.
(h) SOAH and the division have responsibilities for compliance with the Texas Public Information Act, Government Code, Chapter 552. Each agency maintains information that may be considered confidential or exempt from disclosure under laws administered by that agency. To the extent required by law, each agency is responsible for replying to all public information requests for information maintained by that agency. Each agency will promptly notify the other agency of the receipt of a Texas Public Information Act request relating to confidential or exempt records obtained from the other agency and will coordinate responses as necessary.
The provisions of this §148.24 adopted to be effective July 27, 2014, 39 TexReg 5608.