Employer groups to sponsor temporary disability bill

By CMTA Staff

Capitol Update, Jan. 25, 2007

Despite consistent opposition to rolling back reforms embodied in SB 899 (Chapter 34, Statutes of 2004, Charles Poochigian, R-Fresno), employer groups are concerned over one specific aspect of that reform package.  SB 899 included a cap of 104 weeks on temporary disability (TD) benefits payable to injured workers. 

The problem is that the legislation is being interpreted to mean that an injured worker is only eligible for 104 weeks of TD benefits, beginning on the first day they are paid benefits.  This means that if an injured worker is paid one day of TD benefits their 104 weeks of eligibility for benefits continues to run even if they return to work.  So, if that person returns to work for a whole two years after that one day of receiving benefits, they are not eligible to receive benefits even in the event that they have surgery.

Because it has now been two years since SB 899 was passed there is growing pressure to correct this issue.  Labor unions have made it clear that they want to "fix" the cap to avoid this type of problem, and employers emphatically agree.

The California Coalition on Workers’ Compensation (CCWC), of which CMTA is a partner, is an association of private and public sector employers who advocate for fair workers’ compensation laws.  It is sponsoring a bill to correct the problems with the TD cap.  The bill is not yet in print and, therefore, has no number.  The bill would allow for 104 weeks of aggregate TD benefits within either three years of the first date of TD, or four years of the date of injury, whichever comes first.  The bill would also repeal the minimum TD rate law that allows some part-time workers to actually earn more while on temporary disability than they did while working.

There’s hope that organized labor will come to the table to resolve this problem in a constructive manner.  If labor kills an employer-sponsored proposal to push through one of their own that is more to their liking, a Governor’s veto might result.  Achieving a mutually acceptable solution is in everybody’s interest.

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