The 2019 legislative session is in full swing, with several key bills in the workers’ compensation arena related specifically to the expansion of benefits for safety personnel and emergency responders. These bills will significantly expand eligibility and benefits that are limited in current law only to certain categories of peace officers. We are hopeful that the legislature will be open to having a broad conversation about presumption eligibility that examines the cost and impacts that such changes will have on injured workers and on local budgets prior to any further coverage expansion.

The following is a summary of these key bills:

AB 346 (Cooper): Peace Officers; Schools; Expansion of Salary Continuation

This bill would expand LC 4850 benefits to Police Officers employed by a school district, county office of education, or community college district. While a number of schools contract with local city or county police or sheriff’s departments for campus police services; many schools and colleges have established their own police departments. Currently, tax-free full salary continuation is not afforded to Police Officers employed by a school.

EIA Position: Oppose

AB 932 (Low): Firefighters; Off-Duty, Out-of-State Injuries

Similar to AB 1749 enacted last year, this bill would provide that all injuries sustained by an off-duty firefighter while out-of-state while preserving life and property, are deemed to be industrial. This would include injuries sustained during the Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas in 2017. At this juncture, the bill provides a broader scope of benefits than AB 1749’s language.

EIA Position: Oppose Unless Amended

AB 1116: Firefighters; Peer Support and Crisis Referral Services – Pilot Program

AB 1117: Peace Officers; Peer Support and Crisis Referral Services – Pilot Program

These bills would create a peer support team for Firefighters and Peace Officers. This pilot program would extend through January 1, 2025, and is intended to help address emergency personnel’s mental health issues. All services and communication provided through peer support would be confidential.

EIA Position: Watch

AB 1400 (Kamlager-Dove): Firefighters; Expansion of Presumption Classifications

Existing law specifically excludes administrative personnel from the presumption that cancer is industrial because they are not exposed to the risks of engaging in fire suppression, rescue operation, or the protection of life or property. Assembly Bill 1400 would expand the qualification for the cancer presumption benefits from firefighters to all “fire service personnel”, without defining what classifications this includes. This would grant presumptive benefits to non-public safety positions that are not exposed to the same safety or health hazards.

EIA Position: Oppose

SB 416 (Hueso): Peace Officers; Extension of Presumption Classifications

This bill would expand the injury presumptions to all Peace Officers sworn under the Penal Code commencing with Section 830 (a few classifications are excluded). The presumptions would include claims of injury to the heart, hernia, back/duty-belt, cancer, pneumonia, meningitis and tuberculosis. The expansion would extend these presumptions to Probation Officers, Correctional Officers, School/Campus Police Officers, as well as many others.

EIA Position: Oppose

SB 542 (Stern): Peace Officers (Police & Fire); Mental Health Presumption

This bill would add all mental health and post-traumatic stress injury conditions to the list of presumptive injuries for safety officers. This bill provides that:

  • Injury no longer needs to be predominantly caused by employment;
  • Injury is presumed to be industrial – no consideration for non-industrial factors;
  • A psychiatric diagnosis or injury can be from non-industrial causes, but arose during the course of their employment;
  • A psychiatric injury can be from any cause, up to 60 months (5 years) after their last day of employment (post-termination filing);
  • Automatic acceptance of previously filed claims that may be otherwise delayed or denied;
  • Injury is not limited to PTSD and provides for any mental health disorder per the American Psychiatric Association;
  • Includes all “volunteers”: and,
  • Negates legislative intent put forth in SB 863 relating to psychiatric injuries and disability.

EIA Position: Oppose

SB 567 (Caballero): Hospital Employees; Presumptions

This bill would create presumptions currently only afforded to safety officer to all hospital employees that provide direct patient care in an acute care hospital. The presumptive injury classification would apply to all infectious diseases, including blood-borne pathogens, tuberculosis, meningitis and staphylococcus skin infections. It would also include presumptive injuries for cancer, post-traumatic stress, musculoskeletal injuries and respiratory diseases. This bill would allow the employee to file such a claim up to 120 months post-termination.

EIA Position: Oppose