Boxer & Gerson in the News

Taneka’s Law goes to Governor

Assemblymember Yamada’s AB clarifies Workers’ Comp law to prevent denial of a claim based on personal characteristic such as race, religion or gender

SACRAMENTO, CA – A bill that would clarify that a workers’ comp claim cannot be denied to an employee-victim based solely on a personal characteristic of the victim and a third party’s hatred of that characteristic – such as race, religion, or gender – has cleared the State Legislature and is headed to the Governor’s desk.

The bill was approved Aug. 27 in the Senate on a 29-4 vote. It now moves to the Governor’s office, where he has until Oct.11 to act on legislation.

State Assemblymember Mariko Yamada (D-Davis) introduced AB 1093 in February in response to the death of Taneka Talley, a 26-year-old African American woman who was stabbed to death in 2006 while working at a Dollar Tree Store in Fairfield. The company’s insurer denied the workers’ compensation death benefits to Ms. Talley’s son, who was 8 years old at the time, claiming that because the perpetrator intended to “kill a black person that day” there was a personal connection between Ms. Talley and her aggressor.

Following a public outcry last November and widespread media coverage, Dollar Tree’s insurance company paid death benefits to the family nearly three years after Ms. Talley’s death. Ms. Talley’s family was represented by the Oakland law firm of Boxer & Gerson.

“This important worker protection bill will ensure that hate motivation alone cannot be used to deny a workers’ comp claim,” said Assemblymember Mariko Yamada, who authored the bill at the request of Boxer & Gerson attorney Moira Stagliano, who represented the family of Taneka Talley.

Stagliagno was instrumental in helping craft the bill and testified on behalf of the legislation during Assembly committee hearings, along with members of Talley’s family.

“When Taneka Talley was murdered at work, her family lost a mother, a daughter and a sister,” said Stagliano. “They suffered further when workers’ compensation benefits were denied to Taneka’s 8-year-old son because her death may have been racially motivated. Assemblymember Yamada’s bill prevents an insurance company from denying a workers’ compensation claim for injury or death when the motivation was discriminatory.”

She hopes that Governor Schwarzenegger will sign the bill into law. “We urge the governor to do the right thing and sign this bill, ensuring that no family will have to go through the added pain that the Talley family had to endure,” said Stagliano.

AB 1093 seeks to resolve the vagueness in worker’s comp law that allowed the Dollar Tree’s insurer to initially deny Ms. Talley’s family’s claim. “AB 1093 will guarantee that no other California family will have to suffer the dual trauma of losing a loved one and having a benefits claim denied based on one person’s personal hatred of another because of who they are,” stated Yamada.

Assemblymember Yamada represents the state’s 8th District, where the attack on Ms. Talley occurred. The accused killer, Tommy Joe Thompson of West Sacramento, was tried and convicted of Talley’s murder in April in Solano County.