Issue 128 – October 2022
California JPIA Announces Athens Administrators as New Workers’ Compensation Administrators in 2023
As of January 1, 2023, Athens Administrators (Athens) will begin providing claims administration services for the California JPIA Workers’ Compensation programs. The Authority will transition all claims from Sedgwick to Athens as part of this change. As a result, Athens will be the Authority’s sole third-party administrator for the primary and excess workers’ compensation programs.
“At the Authority, we are committed to offering unparalleled service to our members,” said Chief Executive Officer Jon Shull. “Athens shares in this commitment of exceeding member expectations, and our partnership with them will continue the best-in-class service that has become a hallmark of the Authority.”
The California JPIA began working with several of the current dedicated Sedgwick claims team when the Authority started working with Southern California Risk Management Associates (SCRMA) in July 2001. Many of the claims team members continued to work exclusively on behalf of the Authority when York Risk Services (York) purchased SCRMA in 2006 and then again when Sedgwick Claims Management Services purchased York in 2019. The Authority looks forward to continued work with several current claims team members as they transition with us to Athens in 2023.
Athens was founded in 1976 and services clients throughout California from its five office locations in Sacramento, Concord, Agoura Hills, Orange, and San Diego. Athens works on behalf of numerous California public agencies and is recognized as a Best Place to Work in the San Francisco Bay, Orange County, and San Diego areas.
“We wanted to find a claims administrator that focuses on the needs of its clients and its staff, and we feel we’ve found that with Athens,” said Workers’ Compensation Program Manager Jeff Rush.
The Authority is looking forward to working with Athens in 2023. Please contact Workers’ Compensation Program Manager Jeff Rush if you have any questions.Print Article
California JPIA Recognizes Capstone Award Winner at the 27th Annual Risk Management Educational Forum
The California JPIA congratulates Lake Elsinore Assistant City Manager Shannon Buckley, who received the 9th annual Capstone Award at the Authority’s 27th Annual Risk Management Educational Forum in Santa Barbara.
“I want to thank the California JPIA for this prestigious award,” said Buckley. “I am honored to have been nominated and am humbled to have won this award. It is simply one of the most important scenes of my professional career.”
Buckley—also a finalist in 2019 and 2021—was chosen for her skill in managing emergencies, including fires and floods, her collaboration with the Riverside County Sheriff’s and Fire Departments on special events, and her commitment to serving the community of Lake Elsinore safely and positively.
“She’s set a high standard not only for herself but also for the organization,” said Lake Elsinore City Manager Jason Simpson.
The Capstone Award is presented annually to an individual at a member agency who exemplifies the practice of risk management by supporting risk management efforts, coordinating risk management goals and programs, and mitigating risk exposures for their agency.
The 2022 finalists also included:
- Manuel Enriquez, Director of Parks and Recreation, City of Duarte
- Jorge Garcia, Assistant City Manager, City of Pismo Beach
- Erika Herrera, Assistant City Manager, City of Fillmore
- Robin Picken, City Clerk, City of Bishop
“I cannot think of a more deserving winner of the 2022 Capstone Award than Shannon Buckley,” said Senior Risk Manager Alex Mellor. “Shannon is a leader who truly walks the walk regarding risk management. At Lake Elsinore, Shannon has implemented a risk management framework that is strong enough to address daily operational risks and nimble enough to manage unexpected events. Shannon understands that risk is a necessary element of progress, and her contributions allow the Lake Elsinore community to Dream Extreme as safely as possible.”
To learn more about the Capstone Award, and view the finalist videos, visit the award webpage.Print Article
Authority Members Gather for Adventures in Risk Management at 27th Annual Risk Management Educational Forum
More than 400 Authority members, business partners, and staff interacted with experienced speakers and learned from relevant and timely presentations at the California JPIA’s 27th Annual Risk Management Educational Forum, themed Adventures in Risk Management, at the Hilton Santa Barbara Beachfront Resort from October 5–7.
The Forum began on Wednesday with two opening sessions. The first, “Risk Management in the Remote Work Environment,” provided solutions to the unique challenges of hybrid workforces and proposed optimal structures and leadership strategies to help employees succeed in remote environments. The second, “What’s Happening With Cannabis and Drug Testing in the Workplace,” evaluated the current and anticipated future status of cannabis-related laws, state and federal laws for public employers and the workplace, and employers’ obligations to offer reasonable accommodations.
Thursday’s programming began with recognition of the Capstone Award finalists, which are presented annually to an individual at a member agency who best exemplifies the practice of risk management. Last year’s winner, Arabo Parseghian, division manager at the City of La Cañada Flintridge, presented the 2022 Capstone Award to Shannon Buckley, assistant city manager at the City of Lake Elsinore.
Next, participants learned from former Boston Police Chief Daniel Linskey, known for his strong leadership and response through some of Boston’s most difficult moments, including the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings. Chief Linskey’s captivating keynote presentation taught leadership before, during, and after a crisis.
Breakout sessions addressed risk management issues affecting public agencies. Members immersed themselves in legal liability, workers’ compensation, employment law, public safety, organizational thinking, governance, legislation, remote work, cannabis, social media, and technology. A complete listing of the breakout sessions and links to presentations are available in the Forum agenda.
Attendees concluded the day’s activities with a fun-filled and adventurous reception, “X Marks the Spot,” which featured games, a photo booth, and an app-based team treasure hunt.
A liability case law update on Friday morning provided insight and information from recent case law and shared lessons learned from California JPIA cases. Then, seismologist Dr. Lucy Jones, founder and chief scientist at the Dr. Lucy Jones Center for Science and Society and author of The Big Ones: How Natural Disasters Have Shaped Us (and What We Can Do About Them), presented a history of California earthquakes and what communities have done and still need to do to address earthquake risks.
The California JPIA thanks the 2022 Risk Management Educational Forum participants for making the event an adventure beyond its wildest aspirations and looks forward to welcoming guests to next year’s event. Please save the date: The 28th Annual California JPIA Risk Management Educational Forum will be held August 30–September 1, 2023, at the Omni La Costa Resort & Spa in Carlsbad.Print Article
California JPIA Staff Shares Knowledge with MMASC & CALPELRA Audiences
California JPIA staff members will present risk management and new legislation to municipal agencies and industry professionals at the 2022 Municipal Management Association of Southern California (MMASC) and California Public Employers Labor Relations Association (CALPELRA) Annual Conferences.
MMASC encourages local government professionals across Southern California to advance professional development through learning and connecting. This year’s MMASC Annual Conference will take place in Rancho Mirage from November 2–4.
Senior Risk Manager Melaina Francis will moderate a session titled “A Formula for Ending Homelessness: Addressing Short-Term Needs and Long-Term Goals” at the annual conference. The session includes a panel of successful homelessness reduction strategists, including Hafsa Kaka, director of homelessness strategies and solutions for the City of San Diego; Sylvia Solis Daniels, housing program manager for the City of Vista; and Matt Bates, executive vice president of City Net. The panel will share how to manage and mitigate homelessness through actionable steps that will cultivate partnerships and prevent relapse.
CALPELRA develops resources, training, and educational events to help public sector employees better serve their communities. The annual conference will take place in Monterey from November 15–18, and Employment Practices Manager Kelly Trainer Policky will lead two presentations as part of the “Learning a New Playlist” program.
In her first session, she and Katy Suttorp of Burke, Williams & Sorensen, LLP, will present “Clearing the Air: What’s Happening with Cannabis in the Workplace Now and Where the Winds Might Blow.” Policky and Suttorp will tackle questions employers face as the legal landscape around the lawful uses of cannabis continues to evolve and shift, discuss current and anticipated cannabis-related laws, and suggest how public agency workplaces can prepare for these changes. Then, she will present “The Not-So-Greatest Hits: Top Ten Mistakes Employers Make in Preventing and Responding to Harassment,” where she will share best practices to improve agencies’ prevention of and response to workplace harassment.
“Sharing insights and best practices amongst industry peers and professionals reinforces our commitment to helping our members manage risk,” said Chief Executive Officer Jon Shull. “We are grateful for the opportunity to attend and present at both MMASC and CALPELRA annual conferences this year.”Print Article
Upcoming Training Opportunities
This fall, the California JPIA is hosting a couple of training opportunities for member staff. Registration is currently open for the following:
Workers’ Compensation Webinar (November 10, 2022, 10:00–10:45 a.m., Virtual)
The California JPIA is hosting a webinar for member agencies to discuss Senate Bill 1127 (SB 1127), recently signed by Governor Newsom. SB 1127 will fundamentally change the way presumptive workers’ compensation claims are handled, and this webinar will address specifics of the bill, including:
- increased temporary disability period for cancer claims
- reduced discovery period for presumptive claims
- penalties associated with “unreasonable denials”
Panel presenters include Demetra Johal, Managing Partner, Laughlin, Falbo, Levy & Moresi; Steve Siegel, Principal, Siegel, Moreno & Stettler; and Adam Dombchik, Co-Managing Partner, Gordon, Edelstein, Krepack, Grant, Felton & Goldstein.
Participants will hear the panelists’ perspectives about these significant changes and their impact on the California JPIA and its member agencies.
There is no cost to attend this event. However, those interested in attending must complete a registration request on the event website. After registering, you will receive an email with a link to launch the Zoom event on your computer or device.
Certified Ergonomics Assessment Specialist I Course (November 15–16, 2022, La Palma, CA)
This two-day course certifies attendees to perform basic ergonomics analysis on multiple tasks using the OSHA ergonomics assessment tools, W-1, D-2, and WAC. This skills-based training program allows registrants to practice performing office and non-office ergonomics assessments, with a focus on identifying risk factors and determining solutions and opportunities for improvement. In addition, attendees who complete the workshop will receive designation as a Certified Ergonomics Assessment Specialist (CEAS).
Learn more and register for this free training at cjpia.org and click on “myJPIA Training” in the top right corner.
If you are a person with a disability and need accommodation to participate in either of the training opportunities listed above, please contact the California JPIA training division at least two business days before the training date, noting that the Authority is closed on Fridays.Print Article
New Driver Management ResourcesBy Senior Risk Manager, Alex Mellor
When employees and volunteers drive on agency business, it is a significant exposure shared by nearly every California JPIA member. Automobile accidents often result in liability, workers’ compensation, and property claims, which are costly to defend and resolve. Over the last six years, automobile accidents involving a member driver represent a total cost to the Authority of $30.2 million ($5 million per year on average). Despite the exposure, there are multiple actions members can take to manage this risk, including:
- Pre-employment review of applicant driver records
- Implementation of a Vehicle Use Policy
- Regular driver awareness training for employees and volunteers
- Enrollment in the CA DMV Employer Pull Notice (EPN) Program
- Accident investigation, debriefing, and retraining
The Authority has updated its Vehicle Use Policy template and Driver’s Report of Accident. Both are available in the resources section on the Authority’s website. Members are encouraged to update their internal documents consistent with these revised resources.
While the DMV has a mechanism to notify employers about violations by individuals enrolled in the EPN program, the system has limited functionality that makes it cumbersome and prevents members from obtaining timely and actionable driver record information.
The ability to effectively manage driving privileges – and to remove those privileges when necessary – is a critical element of every member’s driver risk management program. Authority staff researched various third-party vendor options to assist members in this regard. The main criteria for assessing potential business partners included the ability to continuously monitor driving records, experience working with public agencies, and ease of use. Ultimately, the Authority identified Embark Safety as its preferred business partner.
Features of Embark’s driver record monitoring platform include:
- 24/7/365 web-based access to DMV driver record information.
The system is accessible via computer, tablet, or smartphone.
- Real-time motor vehicle record (MVR) notifications.
Notifications of accidents, violations, suspensions, and other record changes reported to the DMV are available daily. Color-coded notification system.
- Green – no violations; the individual can drive on agency business.
- Yellow – violations exist; review to determine if the individual violates the agency’s acceptable driving record.
- Red – serious violations exist; the individual’s driving privileges should be immediately revoked.
- Violation decoding.
Violations referencing the CA Vehicle Code are automatically decoded and presented in plain English.
- Driver management.
Monitored drivers can easily be added or removed as needed.
- Pre-employment MVR checks.
Members should complete this short survey to sign up for the Embark driver monitoring service. An Embark Customer Success Manager will then assist with completing the sign-up process.
This program will be 100% funded by the Authority as a pooled cost. There are no direct, out-of-pocket expenses for members. Members are strongly encouraged to consult with their labor attorney to determine if the use of this program triggers an obligation to meet and confer with any affected bargaining units.
Please contact your regional risk manager if you have questions or want more information.Print Article
Homeland Security Unveils State, Local and Cybersecurity Grant Program
First Application Deadline is Nov. 15; 80% Required Pass-Through to Local Governments
By Gerard Lavery Lederer, Partner; and Tillman L. Lay, Partner, Best Best & Krieger
Originally printed on September 20, 2022. Reprinted with permission from Best Best & Krieger.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced a notice of funding opportunities (NOFO) for a first-of-its-kind cybersecurity grant program created specifically to assist and protect state, local, Tribal [sic] and territorial information systems. This State, Local and Cybersecurity Grant Program (SLCGP) is part of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) of 2021, and allows DHS to distribute $1 billion over 4 years to support projects. States must pass-through at least 80% of any funds they are awarded to local governments.
Application Process & Timeline
- DHS issued a Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) this month. All funding requirements and details can be found at that link. The first deadline is Nov. 15, 2022.
- Estimated total funding of $1 billion budget in 2022: $185,024,069
- Minimum award size: $500,000
- A total of 56 grants are anticipated — one for each state and territory.
- Only states and territories are eligible to apply for grant awards under the SLCGP. (The tribal grant NOFO has yet to announced.)
- Local entities receive sub-awards through their states. At least 80% of funds awarded to states must go to local governments, with a minimum of 25% of the allocated funds distributed to rural areas.
- Eligible entities can submit an application via Grants.gov. Applications appear to have two minimum requirements: creation of a state Cybersecurity Planning Committee and a completed state Cybersecurity Plan.
Key Requirements: Cybersecurity Planning Committee & Plan
The minimum requirements as stated in the State and Local Cybersecurity Improvement Act are a state-level Cybersecurity Planning Committee and a Cybersecurity Plan.
The Planning Committee will identify and prioritize statewide efforts, including identifying opportunities to consolidate projects to increase efficiencies through partnership with at least one representative from relevant stakeholders, including:
- The eligible entity;
- If the eligible entity is a state, then representatives from counties, cities and towns within the jurisdiction of the eligible entity;
- Public education within the jurisdiction of the eligible entity;
- Public health; and
- Rural, suburban and high-population jurisdictions.
The Cybersecurity Plan is a statewide planning document that must be approved by the Cybersecurity Planning Committee and the CIO/CISO equivalent, be updated in fiscal 2024 and 2025, and contain the following components:
- Incorporate, to the extent practicable, any existing plans to protect against cybersecurity risks and cybersecurity threats to state, local or territorial owner or operated information systems
- Demonstrate input from local governments and associations of local governments, and outline individual responsibilities of the state and local governments in implementing the Plan [sic]
- Include all required elements outlined in Appendix C of the NOFO
- Outline the necessary resources and a timeline for implementing the plan and summary of associated projects
- Outline metrics to measure progress
Local governments should contact their governor’s office to determine the status of the state’s application process and how their community’s needs are being factored into the state’s plan.
Disclaimer: BB&K Legal Alerts are not intended as legal advice. Additional facts, facts specific to your situation or future developments may affect subjects contained herein. Seek the advice of an attorney before acting or relying upon any information herein.Print Article
Rising Inflation Means Rising Minimum Wage in 2023By Lauren S. Gafa, Senior Associate; and Amber S. Healy, Partner, Atkinson, Andelson, Loya, Ruud & Romo
Originally published on October 13, 2022. Reprinted with permission from Atkinson, Andelson, Loya, Ruud & Romo.
Due to a cost-of-living increase required by the State’s minimum wage law, effective January 1, 2023, California’s minimum wage will increase from $15.00 to $15.50 per hour for all employers, regardless of their number of employees.
California Labor Code section 1182.12 requires minimum wage to be increased by at least 3.5 percent, rounded to the nearest 10 cents, if the State’s rate of inflation exceeds 7 percent. The California Department of Finance is responsible for determining the rate of inflation and recently announced the rate of inflation increased to 7.9 percent, thus triggering the increase in minimum wage.
California’s current minimum wage law was passed in 2016 and implemented a tier-based increase in the State’s minimum wage until it reached $15.00 per hour. Currently, the law requires that employers with 25 or fewer employees pay $14.00 per hour, whereas employers with 26 or more employees pay $15.00 per hour. The upcoming increase in minimum wage will affect all employers, regardless of their number of employees. Employers must also be mindful of any local minimum wage ordinances that may apply to their workforce and that require a minimum wage higher than the State’s minimum wage.
The increase of the minimum wage also impacts the minimum salary requirement for all exempt employees. California law provides exemptions from minimum wage and overtime requirements for employees employed as bona fide executive, administrative, and professional employees. To qualify for this exemption, one of the requirements is that the exempt employee is paid at least twice the minimum wage. The minimum salary threshold is tied to the State minimum wage, not applicable local minimum wage ordinances, so as of January 1, 2023, the minimum salary for an exempt employee will increase to $64,480.00.
Employers should prepare for the upcoming wage increase for their employees and the potential impact it may have on their business operations. If employers have questions concerning wage related issues they may contact the authors or their normal trusted counsel at AALRR.
This AALRR post is intended for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon in reaching a conclusion in a particular area of law. Applicability of the legal principles discussed may differ substantially in individual situations. Receipt of this or any other AALRR publication does not create an attorney-client relationship. The Firm is not responsible for inadvertent errors that may occur in the publishing process.Print Article
New Brown Act Provisions Allow Additional Process For Remote Meeting AttendanceBy Thomas D. Jex, Partner, Burke, Williams & Sorensen, LLP
Originally published on October 4, 2022. Reprinted with permission from Burke, Williams & Sorensen, LLP.
AB 2449 amends the Brown Act to provide an additional procedure for members of legislative bodies to attend public meetings remotely. It will become effective on January 1, 2023.
Under this new law, members of a legislative body may attend public meetings remotely without identifying their teleconference site on the agency’s agenda or ensuring it is accessible to the public if the procedures below are followed.
As long as a quorum of the legislative body participates in person from a physical location open to the public, the remaining agency members can participate remotely in two situations:
1. Just Cause
Just cause is defined as any one of the following:
- childcare or caregiving of a child, parent, grandparent, grandchild, sibling, spouse, or domestic partner that requires a member to participate remotely;
- a contagious illness that prevents a member from attending in person;
- a need related to a physical or mental disability; or
- travel while on business of the legislative body or another state or local agency.
In order to participate remotely under the just cause provisions, the member must notify the legislative body at the earliest possible opportunity, including at the start of a meeting, of their need to participate remotely and provide a general description of the circumstances related to one of the four items above.
A member may only participate remotely under the just cause provisions up to two meetings per calendar year.
2. Emergency Circumstances
Emergency circumstances means [sic] a physical or family medical emergency that prevents a member from attending in person.
In order to participate remotely under the emergency circumstances provisions, the member must request that the legislative body allow them to participate in the meeting remotely because of emergency circumstances and the legislative body must take action to approve the request.
A member must make a request to participate remotely under the emergency circumstances provisions as soon as possible. The legislative body may take action on this request at the earliest opportunity. If the request does not allow sufficient time to place it on the agenda for the meeting for which the request is made, the legislative body may take action on the request at the beginning of the meeting by majority vote.
The legislative body must request a general description of the circumstances relating to the member’s need to appear remotely. This description does not have to be more than 20 words and the member does not have to disclose any personal medical information.
Additional Rules if Members Participate Remotely
If agency members participate remotely under this new law for either the just cause or emergency circumstances situations described above then the following rules apply:
- The legislative body must provide a way for the public to remotely hear, visually observe, and remotely address the legislative body, either by a two-way audiovisual platform or a two-way telephonic service and a live webcasting of the meeting.
- The legislative body must provide notice of how the public can access the meeting and offer comments.
- The agenda must identify and include an opportunity for the public to attend and directly address the legislative body through a call-in option, an internet-based service option, and in-person at the location of the meeting.
- The body cannot require comments to be submitted before the start of the meeting. The public must be allowed to make “real time” public comment.
- If there is a disruption to the meeting broadcast or in the ability to take call-in or internet-based public comment, no further action can be taken on agenda items until the issue is resolved.
- The legislative body must implement a procedure for receiving and resolving requests for reasonable accommodations for individuals with disabilities, and must give notice of these procedures.
- Members participating remotely must participate through both audio and visual technology.
- Members participating remotely must publicly disclose at the meeting before any action is taken whether any other individuals 18 years of age or older are present in the room at the remote location with the member and the general nature of the member’s relationship with the individual.
- A member may not participate in meetings solely by teleconference under this law for more than three consecutive months or 20% of the regular meetings for the public agency within a calendar year. If the legislative body regularly meets less than 10 times a year, a member may not participate remotely for more than two meetings.
Legislative bodies may still meet via teleconference by following the traditional Brown Act rules of identifying the teleconference site on the agency’s agenda and ensuring it is accessible for the public to attend. Further, legislative bodies may meet by teleconference under AB 361 until January 1, 2024 during the Governor’s proclaimed State of Emergency and as long as other requirements are met.Print Article
The Impacts of Senate Bill 1127 on Workers’ Compensation ClaimsBy Workers’ Compensation Program Manager, Jeff Rush
Governor Newsom recently signed Senate Bill 1127 (SB 1127) into law, despite the opposition of the California JPIA and employers throughout the state. The bill has several components that dramatically change how presumptive workers’ compensation claims are handled. These components are detailed below.
Temporary disability-cancer claims
THEN: Employees with a presumptive cancer claim were limited to 104 weeks of temporary disability benefits (which is consistent with most injuries).
NOW: Employees with a presumptive cancer claim are now entitled to up to 240 weeks of temporary disability if their injury has not reached maximum medical improvement before that time.
Discovery for presumption claims
THEN: Employers were afforded 90 days to investigate most workers’ compensation claims.
NOW: Employers will be allowed 75 days to investigate a claim. These claims often involve significant discovery, such as a deposition, retrieval of prior medical records, and a comprehensive med-legal evaluation, so it will often be impossible to complete discovery in this shortened timeframe.
The potentially most concerning aspect of SB 1127 is establishing a new penalty for claims that are “unreasonably rejected.” These penalties would be set at “Five times the amount of the benefits unreasonably delayed” with a limit of $50,000 per claim. This bill provision will likely increase litigation as injured employees and their attorneys pursue these potential penalties.
The California JPIA will be hosting a webinar on Thursday, November 10, from 10:00–10:45 a.m. to address the anticipated impact of SB 1127. Workers’ Compensation Program Manager Jeff Rush will host the webinar and will feature the following panelists:
- Demetra Geges Johal, Managing Partner, Laughlin, Falbo, Levy & Moresi
- Steve Siegel, Partner, Siegel, Moreno & Stettler
- Adam Dombchik, Managing Partner, Gordon, Edelstein, Krepack, Grant, Felton & Goldstein
There is no cost to attend this webinar. However, member agency staff interested in attending must complete a registration request on the event website.Print Article