The California State Assembly passed Senate Bill 416, which gives blanket workers compensation for all peace officers in the state.
Previous laws only named certain employees who were covered under the system: California Highway Patrol members and firefighters. The injuries covered were also limited. Under SB 416, all peace officers are now covered regardless, with the language being changed from a list of injuries to simply ‘compensable injuries.’
The bill also makes it clear who ‘peace officers’ are. The previous law only named other peace officers as working at Atascadero State Hospital. Under SB 416 it will be changed to include all peace officers who work at state hospitals.
Senator Ben Hueso (D-San Diego) has been behind the bill since its inception in March. He has backed it as a number of claims had come from security officers in state hospitals, but the language was fuzzy on workers comp.
“Our state’s peace officers work tirelessly to protect us and keep us safe, and we owe it to these officers to, in turn, do what we can to protect them,” stated Senator Hueso. “This legislation is not only the right thing to do, it is overdue.”
A statement by the Senator gave other reasons for his support, such as those security officers using their leave for hospital visits, and having trouble keeping staff because of the current system.
“Peace officers who are not currently afforded these presumptions are required to utilize their personal leave time and health benefits while undergoing treatment and recovery for the specified injuries and illnesses,” Senator Hueso said in a statement. “This puts them in much greater risk of being separated from employment when their personal leave is exhausted, and of losing their healthcare. Additionally, the agencies employing these peace officers struggle with recruitment and retention of quality personnel because they can simply decide to work for another agency with which the protections would apply.”
SB 416 has received a lot of support, especially from workers organizations, law enforcement groups such as the Peace Officers Research Association of California, and rights organizations such as Equality California.
Regional and city organizations, as well as insurance companies, have opposed SB 416. In press releases, they have said they are against the bill because of the added costs for employers, forcing those deciding on cases to presume on compensation claims, and how more judges may err on the side of caution and approve claims.
“SB 416 would vastly increase the number of employees that are eligible for several presumptions – including hernias, heart trouble, lower-back impairments, meningitis, tuberculosis, cancer, leukemia, and pneumonia,” said the California State Association of Counties in a recent statement. “This massive expansion of presumptions will result in employees who face no more risk factors than other workers nevertheless having access to the same presumptions enjoyed by active police officers and firefighters. This in turn will result in new costs for cities, counties, special districts, universities, the state, and many of the state’s various departments, agencies, boards, and commissions.”
Despite the opposition, SB 416 passed the Assembly 74-0 and will be up to be signed into law by the Governor in Sacramento soon.
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