Generally, workers' compensation is the exclusive remedy for injuries occurring at the workplace. A worker normally must pursue claims for work-related injuries before the Workers' Compensation Appeals Board (WCAB) rather than sue the employer in civil court.
Nevertheless, certain types of intentional conduct take the employer beyond the boundaries of the compensation bargain. In City of Moorpark v. Superior Court of Ventura County (Dillon) (1998) 18 Cal.4th 1143, the California Supreme Court held that discrimination falls outside of the compensation bargain. It concluded that Labor Code 132a does not provide the exclusive remedy for discrimination based on a work-related injury.
Fair Employment and Housing Act,
Yesterday we issued a summary of workers' compensation bills recently signed into law. The most significant is SB 1127, which is outlined in depth here. A webinar will be scheduled shortly to delve into these changes and their implications.
On Sept. 29, 2022, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law SB 1127. The bill makes several changes to coverage by a statutory presumption of compensability. As explained in the Assembly Floor Analysis, "presumptions of compensability have been adopted, some many decades ago, to reflect unique circumstances where injuries or illnesses appear to logically be work related, but it is difficult for the injured worker to prove it is work related."
The 2022 legislative season is over. The Legislature had until Aug 31, 2022 to pass bills, and Governor Gavin Newsom had until Sept. 30, 2022 to sign or veto bills. The bills signed by the Governor take effect on Jan. 1, 2023. Below is a list of bills affecting California workers' compensation.
Labor Code § 4600(g)(2)(A) states, "Unless otherwise indicated in this section, a physician providing treatment under Section 4600 shall send any request for authorization for medical treatment, with supporting documentation, to the claims administrator for the employer, insurer, or other entity according to rules adopted by the administrative director." The statute directs that a request for authorization for medical treatment (RFA) must be sent to a claims administrator, rather than somewhere else, although the claims administrator may designate where the RFA is sent (CCR 9792.6.1(t)(3)).
That language was added effective Jan. 1, 2017, by AB 2503. Pursuant to the Senate Floor Analysis, "[I]t is often difficult for health care providers in the workers' compensation system to obtain timely approval for treatment of injured workers because it is difficult to know where to send RFAs." So, the bill was "intended to clarify where the RFA and related materials must be sent, so that the time frames specified in statute will be more effective." Pursuant to the Assembly Floor Analysis, "AB 2503 requires that a RFA is submitted directly to a claims administrator, rather than a UR vendor or some other third party."
Multiple employers or insurers can be liable for a cumulative trauma (CT) injury, and it's common for employers or insurers to dispute whether and how much liability they have for such an injury. Pursuant to Labor Code 5500.5(a), liability for a CT injury is limited to employers who employed the worker during the one-year period immediately preceding the date of injury (LC 5412), or the last date of injurious exposure, whichever occurs first.
So there's no single point from which the liability period is determined. It could be based on either the date of injury under LC 5412 or the last date of injurious exposure. Furthermore, the date of injury under LC 5412 requires the concurrence of: (1) compensable disability; and (2) knowledge of industrial causation. The liability period for a CT injury is a frequent source of contention.
date of injury,
On August 9, 2022, the Division of Workers' Compensation (DWC) announced that all DWC district offices except Eureka will accept in-person walk-through documents beginning September 6, 2022, pursuant to CCR 10789. Eureka is permanently a virtual office and walk-through documents should be brought to the DWC Santa Rosa district office.
Additionally, effective September 6, 2022, DWC will not accept virtual walk-throughs in the Lifesize platform. Virtual walk-throughs were put in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2021. DWC will only accept walk-through documents in-person. Walk-throughs will be available Monday through Friday, except on holidays when the Division's offices are closed.
Per Labor Code § 5903, a petition for reconsideration may be filed "[a]t any time within 20 days after the service of any final order, decision, or award made and filed by the appeals board or a workers' compensation judge." Althoug LC 5903 establishes a basic 20-day time period for filing a petition for reconsideration, most parties are given longer.
That's because the California Code of Regulations § 10605 extends the time to act following service of a document. It explains that if a document is served by mail, fax, email or any method other than personal service, the period of time for exercising any right or duty to act or respond will be extended:
When an employer lends an employee to another employer and both have the right to exercise certain powers of control over the worker, a "special employment" relationship arises. The employee can be held to have two employers –– the original "general employer" and the second "special employer." If a special employment relationship is found to exist, both employers are jointly and severally liable for any injuries to the employee.
A special employment relationship commonly is formed when a temporary employment agency or labor contractor sends a worker to another company to perform work. But it's not limited to those situations. Generally, in determining the existence of a special employment relationship, the right of control is the paramount factor. But it's not the exclusive factor and it's not determinative of the issue. The courts will look at multiple factors to determine whether special employment exists.
Pursuant to Labor Code 5500.5(a), liability for a cumulative trauma injury is limited to employers who employed the worker during the one-year period immediately preceding the date of injury (LC 5412), or the last date of injurious exposure, whichever occurs first. Multiple employers or insurers can be liable for a cumulative trauma injury. An employee can choose to obtain an award for her or his entire CT injury from one or more employers for whom they have worked within the preceding year (LC 5500.5(c)).
LC 5005 also allows an employee and any employer to enter into a compromise and release (C&R) agreement settling all or any part of the employee's claim in cases involving cumulative trauma or occupational disease. If an employer settles all of the applicant's cumulative trauma claim, it may resort to contribution proceedings against all remaining defendants. If an employee and an employer settle only part of the worker's CT claim, the worker may recover from other defendants for the portion of exposure not released. So, in cumulative trauma claims involving multiple defendants, the terms of a C&R will determine whether the employee or the settling employer has ongoing rights against the remaining defendants.
The statute of limitations for pursuing death benefits is established in LC 5406. Except for LC 5406.5 and LC 5406.6 (which cover deaths from asbestos and HIV-related disease), proceedings for the collection of death benefits, per LC 5406(a), may be commenced one year from:
the date of death when it occurs within one year from date of injury;
the date of last furnishing of any compensation benefits, when death occurs more than one year from the date of injury; or
the date of death, when death occurs more than one year after the date of injury and compensation benefits have been furnished.
Statute of Limitations,