SACRAMENTO, February 27, 2009 – A bill that would ban denial of a workers’ compensation claim because the motivation that caused the victim’s injury or death was related to an “immutable” personal characteristic – such as race, age or gender – was introduced on the floor of the California Assembly today.
State Assemblymember Mariko Yamada (D-Davis) introduced AB-1093 in response to the death of Taneka Talley, a 26-year-old woman who was stabbed to death in 2006 at her retail clerk’s job at a Dollar Tree Store in Fairfield. The company’s insurer denied the workers’ compensation death benefits to Ms. Talley’s surviving 11-year-old son, claiming that because the killing was racially motivated it was not subject to a workers’ compensation claim.
Following a public outcry last November and widespread media coverage, Dollar Tree’s insurance company agreed to pay death benefits to the family – nearly three years after Ms. Talley’s death.
Yamada’s bill provides that no workers’ compensation claim shall be denied solely because the motivation behind what caused the employees’ injury or death was related to an “immutable personal characteristic of that employee.”
“By introducing ‘Taneka’s Law,’ I hope that no other family in California will ever have to endure the unspeakable pain that the Talleys have experienced,” Yamada said.
“When we found out they were denying those benefits because of Taneka’s race, we were deeply hurt,” said Carol Frazier, the grandmother and guardian of Larry Olden, the 11-year-old son her daughter Taneka Talley left behind. “This has been an agonizing ordeal. We are grateful for Assemblymember Yamada’s efforts to make sure that insurance companies will not be allowed to deny benefits to someone because of the color of their skin, or their religion, or their age; because of who they are.”
The attorney representing Talley’s family brought the issue to the attention of Assemblymember Yamada in an effort to close a legal loophole that could discriminate against a worker based on their race or other protected status. “Assemblymember Yamada’s bill would make it clear that no such discrimination will be allowed, that no workers’ compensation claim can be denied because the injury or death was motivated by personal hatred,” said Moira Stagliano, the attorney with the Oakland law firm of Boxer & Gerson. “Taneka Talley’s family and Boxer & Gerson applaud Assemblymember Yamada for her efforts in righting this wrong and ensuring that no other family has to go through the pain of having benefits denied on top of the pain of losing a family member.”
The bill amends Section 3600 of the Labor Code, relating to workers’ compensation. It adds, “(c) No workers’ compensation claim shall be denied because the motivation behind what caused the employee’s injury or death was solely related to an immutable personal characteristic of that employee.”
Assemblymember Yamada represents the state’s 8th District, where the attack on Ms. Talley occurred. Ms. Talley’s accused killer, Tommy Joe Thompson of West Sacramento, has a murder trial scheduled for April in Solano County.