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The proposed workers’ compensation legislation would harm teachers and school employees who are injured and cannot return to their jobs

Teachers and school employees who are injured and cannot return to their jobs would receive less compensation for their permanent disabilities than currently.

The proposed legislation bars workers from proving their actual lost future earnings.

Injured workers would be prohibited from qualifying for permanent disability compensation based on the actual harm their work injury causes to their ability to continue working and earn a living.

Example:  Janet B., a 40-year-old elementary school teacher, suffered a back injury when she was tripped by a young student and fell. She had to undergo two back surgeries. She is unable to return to work because she can’t lift more than 20 pounds, bend, stoop, and can’t sit or stand for long periods of time. Under the current system, considering her diminished earnings over the rest of her working life, this results in a permanent disability rating of 60%, for a total permanent disability award of $92,609. Under the proposed bill, she would receive a 36% disability rating, which would result in a total permanent disability award of $57,695. The proposed legislation reduces this teacher’s disability compensation by $34,913, or a 38% decrease. This is all she gets for her permanent disabilities.

Example:  John W. is a 58 year-old school custodian, with 25 years on the job. He fell off a ladder, injuring his back and both his feet and ankles. He is unable to return to work. Under the current system, he can rebut the 12% disability rating he received, and, based on his diminished future earnings, is able to establish that his permanent disability is actually 25%, resulting in a permanent disability award of $26,352.

Under the proposed bill, John's level of permanent disability would be 8%, entitling him to $8,004 in permanent disability compensation. The proposed legislation reduces this school employee’s disability compensation by $18,348, or a 70% decrease.

The proposed legislation hurts those who need workers’ compensation benefits the most, while increasing benefits for those with less disabling injuries. The increase in benefits is being taken from seriously injured workers and redistributed to all workers, most of whom can return to work.

A parallel school funding change would to take school funding from students with special educational needs and redistribute that funding to the general student population.

Under the proposed bill, in order to fund the permanent disability benefit increase, the language eliminates 40 years of California case law and statutory history that allows an injured worker to rebut the disability rating if they cannot return to work at 85% of their prior salary.

Advocates for the proposal insist that the right to rebut the disability ratings schedule is not needed because the proposal provides a 15% “bump” in benefits for injured workers who cannot return to work. What supporters are not saying is that the 15% “bump” is already current law for any worker who cannot go back to work. This is not an increase.

Advocates for the proposal argue that the 1.4 adjustment made to the basic impairment rating represents a 40% increase. This is not accurate. Current law already provides an average 1.25 adjustment in disability ratings.

While the modifier will increase benefits for workers with a permanent disability, it does so by eliminating the right of seriously injured workers to prove that their disability rating increase does not accurately reflect their diminished future earnings capacity. 

 

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