New Workers’ Compensation Laws Currently Under Consideration in the California Legislature

The state legislature is currently considering the following bills, which propose changes in California’s workers’ compensation laws:

  • Assembly Bill No. 202 (AB202) would classify any cheerleader working for a California-based professional sports team during its exhibitions or games as an employee for the purposes of all provisions of state law that govern employment, including the Labor Code, the Unemployment Insurance Code, and the California Fair Employment and Housing Act. The bill would also require the professional sports team to ensure its cheerleaders (and also mascots) be recognized and treated as employees. This bill would not apply to collegiate team cheerleaders or mascots.
  • Senate Bill No. 563 (SB563) would require any employer, insurer, or other entity that is engaged in the Utilization Review (UR) process to disclose payment information, including incentive payments for each person who is involved in the process of reviewing, approving, modifying, delaying, or denying requests by physicians for medical treatment authorization. This information would be required to be disclosed by the employer to employees, physicians, and the public upon request.

Additionally, the proposed bill provides that the UR process shall not be used regarding any treatment recommendations made by a physician when the following conditions are met:  (1) the treatment recommendation is solely for the purpose of maintaining an injured employee’s health care regimen for a pre-existing injury, (2)  the prior recommendation was previously reviewed and approved, and (3) there is no evidence of a change in the employee’s circumstances or conditions such that the treatment is no longer required.

  • Assembly Bill No. 438 (AB438) would make the provisions of the Dymally-Alatorre Bilingual Services Act applicable to the State Compensation Insurance Fund (State Fund), to the Department of Industrial Relations (DIR), and to the Division of Worker’s Compensation.  The Bilingual Services Act of 1973 requires that California state agencies make available to the public documents in all languages spoken by at least 5% of the state’s population. However, the law did not impose this requirement on State Fund or the DIR.  The proposed bill seeks to eliminate this exemption.
  • Assembly Bill No. 305 (AB305) would prohibit gender discrimination in apportionment of permanent disability (PD).  Prior attempts at legislation eliminating apportionment of PD on the basis of gender have been vetoed by both Governor Schwarzenegger and Governor Brown.  Examples of gender-based apportionment of PD would be apportionment due to pregnancy, post-menopausal status, or osteoporosis.
  • Assembly Bill No. 621 (AB621) seeks to encourage truck companies to voluntarily re-classify short-haul truck drivers who haul cargo from ships to rail yards and warehouses as employees, rather than independent contractors.  The companies that voluntarily re-classify their drivers as employees would be liable for back payment of wages and other benefits owed to the drivers as well any state taxes owed due to previous misclassification as independent contractors.  However, the bill would provide amnesty in the form of immunity from administrative penalties from the Employment Development Department (EDD) and other state agencies.

Boehm will keep you posted regarding whether any of these bills are ultimately enacted as law at the conclusion of the current legislative session.