Workers' Compensation Legislative Update
By Adam Dombchik
Partner, Gordon, Edelstein, Krepack, Grant, Felton & Goldstein, LLP
The 2010–-2011 legislative session ended in September with Governor Jerry Brown reviewing and vetoing two important Workers’ Compensation bills that were passed by the legislature.
One was Assembly Bill 1155, outlining discrimination in Workers’ Compensation apportionment determinations. This bill would have prohibited race, religious creed, color, national origin, age, gender, marital status, sex, sexual orientation or genetic characteristics from being considered a cause or other factor of disability with regard to apportionment of permanent disability. We at Gordon, Edelstein, Krepack, Grant, Felton & Goldstein, LLP (GEK) believe the Governor is concerned with the possibility that this form of discrimination is occurring in the California Workers’ Compensation system, but as of this date felt that the law as written prevented this form of discrimination. The Workers’ Compensation attorneys at GEK are concerned that there is still evidence of such discriminatory conduct occurring in the Workers’ Compensation system. The firm has vowed to continue to try to gather such evidence and present it to the Governor’s office for reconsideration in the next legislative session.
As former legislative chair of the California Applicants’ Attorneys Association (CAAA), the principal statewide advocacy group for injured workers in California, I can assure you we worked hard to provide the Governor‘s office with the best evidence that existed at the time to prove to him that this discrimination is occurring in our Workers’ Compensation system and it should be outlawed. We recognize the governor was not convinced by the information presented, and we will continue to gather that information and present it to him for reconsideration in the future. However, physicians and others that participate in the California Workers’ Compensation system hopefully got the message loud and clear from the Governor that it is his administration’s belief and interpretation of the law that this form of discrimination is inappropriate and will not be tolerated.
Also vetoed was Assembly Bill 947, which would have expanded the cap on temporary disability benefits from up to 104 weeks to up to 240 weeks for injured workers who require surgery or are recovering from surgery once they have exhausted the 104-week temporary disability cap. In his veto message, the Governor expressed concern over this issue and recognized that change is needed for seriously injured workers in need of additional temporary disability benefits resulting from necessary additional surgery. However, the Governor suggested that this should be part of a broader Workers’ Compensation reform package in the next year and requested that this issue be addressed at that time.The Workers’ Compensation attorneys at GEK are all members of CAAA; many serve on the Board of Directors and are involved in a variety of committees, including the Legislative Committee. We will continue to stay involved in an effort to promote legislation that will allow for fair and accurate benefits for injured workers.