Issue 111 - May 2021
Legislative UpdateBy Abraham Han, Management Analyst
This edition of the legislative update tracks a handful of bills which have workers’ compensation implications, as well as a few others that may impact law enforcement agencies. It is always important to note that bills may go through significant revisions in the coming months, and members are encouraged to use the information below as a snapshot of each bill’s trajectory at the time of publication.
AB 89 (Jones-Sawyer). Peace officers: minimum qualifications.
Summary: Existing law requires peace officers in the state to meet specific minimum standards, including age and education requirements. This bill would increase the minimum qualifying age from 18 to 25 years of age. This bill would allow an individual under 25 years of age to qualify for employment as a peace officer if the individual has a bachelor’s or advanced degree from an accredited college or university. The bill would specify that these requirements do not apply to individuals 18 to 24 years of age who are already employed as a peace officer as of the effective date of this act. The bill would provide legislative findings in support of the measure.
AB 415 (Rivas, Robert). Employment: workers’ compensation.
Summary: This bill would expand existing cancer presumptions for frontline firefighters to also cover employees for local public agencies that, while not directly engaged in firefighting activities, are exposed to health hazards from firefighting operations. This bill has no objective basis to support the proposed expansion, and the bill’s text is vague such that it could be broadly applied to municipal employees.
AB 603 (McCarty). Law enforcement settlements and judgments: reporting.
Summary: Existing law requires each law enforcement agency to annually furnish specified information to the Department of Justice regarding the use of force by a peace officer. This bill would require municipalities to annually post on their internet websites specified information relating to settlements and judgments resulting from allegations of improper police conduct, including, among other information, amounts paid, broken down by individual settlement and judgment, information on bonds used to finance use of force settlement and judgment payments, and premiums paid for insurance against settlements or judgments resulting from allegations of improper police conduct. This bill contains other related provisions.
AB 654 (Reyes). COVID-19 exposure: notification.
Summary: This bill does not address two shortcomings, as currently written – 1) outbreaks can occur outside of the place of employment, and 2) there is no requirement that the list of outbreak locations is constantly updated or that it includes only active outbreaks. The bill would potentially punish employers for conduct they cannot control, especially if the outbreak occurred outside of the place of employment.
SB 16 (Skinner). Peace officers: release of records.
Summary: As currently written, this bill would provide for the disclosure of police personnel records for every incident involving use of force, regardless of whether the officer was exonerated or if a complaint was not sustained. The release of officer records for every single incident involving any use of force, especially those in which the officer is entirely within departmental policy, could potentially generate the hasty conclusion and misperception that there was something wrong with the officer’s conduct. Furthermore, the bill’s requirement of retaining all complaints could cause a financial strain from potentially having to account for additional data storage space and/or staffing to sort through the complaints.
SB 284 (Stern). Workers’ compensation: firefighters and peace officers: post-traumatic stress.
Summary: This bill would substantially expand California’s current presumption for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) for police officers and firefighters, to thousands of additional safety officers and non-sworn personnel. This expansion does not objectively address whether or not such claims are work-related. Further analysis would likely be needed to determine whether the expansion would be appropriate, but it is premature to make the conclusion about the expansion without such an analysis.
SB 335 (Cortese). Workers’ compensation: liability.
Summary: This bill would reduce the period of time that employers are allowed to investigate a workers’ compensation claim for benefits prior to making a coverage decision. For most claims, the investigation period is reduced from 90 to 45 days. For claims covered by legal presumptions, the investigation period is reduced even further to 30 days. The bill proposes other provisions, all of which may undermine the ability of employers to demonstrate that a proposed claim for injury did not occur at the workplace.
SB 788 (Bradford). Workers’ compensation: risk factors.
Position: Support, if amended
Summary: Current law establishes a workers’ compensation system, administered by the administrative director of the Division of Workers’ Compensation, to compensate an employee for injuries sustained in the course of employment. Current law requires a physician who prepares a report addressing the issue of permanent disability due to an industrial injury to address the cause of the permanent disability in the report, including what approximate percentage of the permanent disability was caused by other factors before and after the industrial injury, if the physician is able to make an apportionment determination. This bill would prohibit consideration of race, religious creed, color, national origin, age, gender, marital status, sex, sexual identity, sexual orientation, or genetic characteristics to determine the approximate percentage of the permanent disability caused by other factors.
The Authority will continue to monitor these bills, as well as others, in an ever-changing legislative landscape.< Back to Full Issue Print Article