CSAC Bulletin Article

2021-22 Workers’ Compensation Legislation: Additional County Costs, Further Administrative Time Constraints, and Little Data to Support the Efforts.

Consistent with recent years in the California Legislature, an array of Workers’ Compensation bills have been introduced that aim to further expand presumptions, create additional time constraints for reviews, and increase financial costs and penalties to employers – all with little to no data to support what effectively erodes the workers’ compensation no-fault system in California. CSAC will continue to advocate on behalf of counties to mitigate detrimental administrative and financial impacts while endeavoring to find a balance between workers and employers that is data-driven.

AB 1751 (Daly): This bill would extend the COVID-19 workers’ compensation presumptions provided under SB 1159 (Hill) until January 1, 2025.  Current law (as provided for in SB 1159) creates a disputable presumption that a COVID-19 injury arose out of, and in the course of, the employment. Additionally, current law expedites the claim review process to 30 or 45 days (depending upon the classification of the employee), from 90 days, or presumes it is compensable.  Finally, current law provides that employees must first exhaust their paid sick leave benefits specifically available in response to COVID-19 and meet specific requirements before receiving temporary disability benefits or a leave of absence (for police officers, firefighters, and other specified employees).  This bill aims to extend those provisions until January 1, 2025.

SB 213 (Cortese): After being held in the Senate by a single vote in 2021, after reconsideration, this 2-year bill passed out of the Senate by one vote and now sits in the Assembly.  This bill imposes a permanent presumption for all hospital employees that provide direct patient care who manifest a blood-borne infectious disease, tuberculosis, meningitis, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), cancer, musculoskeletal injury, post-traumatic stress disorder, or respiratory disease both during their employment and for up to 10 years after their employment.

SB 1127 (Atkins): This bill does three main things for specified firefighters and peace officers for certain categories of illnesses. First, this bill substantially reduces the current 90-day review period for employers to 60 days for all injuries and employees, and for certain injuries and illnesses, including hernia, heart trouble, pneumonia, or tuberculosis, among others. For specified members of law enforcement or specified first responses, this bill would reduce those time periods to only 30 days.  Second, for specified firefighters and peace officers with a cancer claim, this bill would increase the number of compensable disability payments to 240 weeks without limitation as to the time from the date of injury. That is up from current law which limits the number of compensable weeks from extending more than 104 weeks within a period of 5 years from the date of injury.  Third, this bill requires that if liability has been unreasonably rejected (as determined by the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board) for specific claims, including hernia, heart trouble, pneumonia, or tuberculosis, among others, for specific members of law enforcement or first responses, the penalty be 5-times the amount of benefits unreasonably delayed to the rejection, capping liability at $100,000. Current law authorizes an increased payment of up to 25% or $10,000, whichever is less.

SB 1458 (Limon): This bill would increase the payment of disability benefits by the percentage of disparity in earning between genders for injuries occurring on or after January 1, 2023.  The percentage of disparity in earnings between genders would be calculated by the applicant’s employer in its pay data report to the Department of Fair Employment and Housing if the applicant’s average weekly wage is less than the average weekly wage of the opposite gender. An applicant whose employer has not submitted a pay data report shall have the average weekly wage disparity adjustment increased by the percentage of disparity in earning between genders as set forth in the United States Department of Labor Statistics: Employment and Earnings by Occupation.

If you would like to offer county feedback or have additional questions on any workers’ compensation or labor legislation, please contact Ryan Souza, Legislative Representative, at RSouza@counties.org.

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