Workers Comp Zone


As the legislature gets ready to wrap up for the year, what’s up for California workers’ comp?

I’ll comment on AB 1124 (Perea), the formulary bill in a separate post. But what about some of the other important but less high profile workers’ comp bills?

On September 9 Governor Brown signed SB 623 (Lara), which was never  a contentious bill.

Here is the Assembly legislative analysis of SB 623:

SUMMARY: Expressly overrules regulations, which are contrary to current statutory law, that provide that undocumented workers are not eligible for certain workers’ compensation benefits. Specifically, this bill:

  1. 1)  States that a person shall not be prohibited from receiving benefits from the Uninsured Employers Benefits Trust Fund or the Subsequent Injuries Benefits Trust Fund (Funds) solely because of his or her citizenship or immigration status.
  2. 2)  States that it is the intent of the Legislature to override specified provisions in the California Code of Regulations that are contrary to the rule stated, above.
  3. 3)  Makes findings that the state has an interest in making the benefits described above available to people not lawfully in the United States, within the meaning of specified federal statutes that authorize states to make these benefits available.
  4. 4)  Provides that this bill’s statement of the right to benefits from the Funds is declaratory of existing law.”

On the other hand, AB 305 (Lorena Gonzalez), now headed toward Brown’s desk, has been a very contentious bill.

AB 305, aimed at preventing  gender discrimination in workers’ comp, has been watered down somewhat after multiple amendments.

An analysis of the  final version can be found here:

Brown’s own administrative appointees do not favor the bill, but the legislation remained popular in the Capitol.

Here is the AB 305 final 60 to 20 Assembly vote tally:

Voting in favor of the bill were the following:

Achadjian, Alejo, Baker, Bloom, Bonilla, Bonta, Brown, Burke, Calderon, Campos, Chang, Chau, Chiu, Chu, Cooley, Cooper, Dababneh, Daly, Dodd, Eggman, Frazier, Cristina Garcia, Eduardo Garcia, Gatto, Gipson, Gomez, Gonzalez, Gordon, Gray, Hadley, Roger Hernández, Holden, Irwin, Jones-Sawyer, Lackey, Levine, Linder, Lopez, Low, Maienschein, McCarty, Medina, Mullin, Nazarian, O’Donnell, Perea, Quirk, Rendon, Ridley-Thomas, Rodriguez, Salas, Santiago, Steinorth, Mark Stone, Thurmond, Ting, Weber, Williams, Wood, Atkins

Voting no were the following:

Travis Allen, Bigelow, Brough, Chávez, Dahle, Beth Gaines, Gallagher, Grove, Harper, Jones, Kim, Mathis, Mayes, Melendez, Obernolte, Olsen, Patterson, Wagner, Waldron, and Wilk

The conclusion of the Assembly analysis claims that:“Rather than addressing the use of protected characteristics, the bill proposes to prohibit precisely what the AB 1155 Veto Message notes that courts currently recognize: that apportionment to actual, factual prior industrial or non-industrial causation is acceptable. This bill identifies specific factors that proponents argue are inappropriate apportionment factors, and prohibits their use regardless of whether there is factual causation.”Because Brown did veto apportionment bills in recent years, it seems that AB 305 faces an uncertain future.

Another bill headed to Brown is AB 438 (Chiu), a bill that would require translation of some notices into several languages.Here is the link to the final version of AB 438 (Chiu):

And here is the link to the Assembly floor analysis of AB 43: 438 passed out of the Senate on a 37 to 3 vote.

At the Assembly, the vote was 78 to 2 in concurrence with Senate amendments. That is nearly unanimous.

It is hard to imagine that Brown will oppose the legislature on this one, particularly since translating forms into major languages seems the right thing to do. And it’s something that the DWC has failed to address voluntarily.

But then again we have a DWC leadership that has not advocated for the bill. And we have an unpredictable guv.

A similar situation exists with respect to AB 1542. I’ve heard that the DWC leadership really hates the bill (which would extend neuropsychology as a QME specialty).

But neuropsychology has been a QME specialty for years. Little opposition to the bill surfaced. Moreover, it is a bipartisan bill which unanimously passed in the California Senate on a September 1 with a 40 to 0 vote.

How many things are done unanimously these days? Almost none. That alone should be a big plus.

One would think that the DWC leadership and Governor Brown would defer to a unanimous legislative vote. But that may not be the case, particularly where DWC leadership appears intent on flexing its own muscles.

A veto will make the DWC look petty. The basis for DWC opposition borders on being incoherent.

Here is a pdf of an excellent letter by CSIMS legislative advocate Carl Brakensiek, debunking many of the arguments that might be raised against AB 1542:

AB 1542 – SIGN

Stay tuned on these bills and on the formulary issue.

Julius Young