Bill sponsored by Assemblymember Mariko Yamada clarifies Workers’ Comp law to prevent denial of a claim based on personal characteristic such as race, religion or gender
SACRAMENTO, CA – A bill to guarantee 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 been signed into law by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
The bill, which was passed unanimously in the State Assembly and by a 29-4 vote in the State Senate, was signed into law on Oct. 11.
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.
“Today, with the signing of AB 1093, Taneka Talley’s senseless death has a bittersweet epilogue,” said Yamada. “Justice has been served for the Talley family, and her son should know that a California law in his mother’s name will live on to protect others who might find themselves in such tragic circumstances.”
Yamada authored the bill at the request of Boxer & Gerson attorney Moira Stagliano, who represented the family of Taneka Talley. Stagliano 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.
“The Talley family lost a mother, a daughter, a sister and a friend in an act of senseless violence. After her death, they suffered additional pain when her 11-year-old son was denied benefits by the insurance company because her death may have been motivated by a hate crime,” said Stagliano. “We are grateful that Assemblymember Yamada was so quick to help us right this wrong, and that they, the entire legislature, and finally the governor, have ensured that no other family will have their claims denied solely because the injury or death was caused by a hate crime.”
AB 1093 resolves 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 guarantees 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.