ATHENS eBULLETIN | February 13, 2020
Every year there are updates to California Workers’ Compensation legislation. Athens Administrators actively monitors these changes that impact the Workers’ Compensation system. The following information is an overview of the recent legislative changes taking effect in 2020.
Senate Bill 542 (Henry Stern-D) – Signed into Law
- This bill was signed into law by Governor Newsom adding Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) to the 10 presumptive injuries for Safety Officers. This law provides coverage for post-traumatic stress disorder that is diagnosed according to the most recent edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders published by the American Psychiatric Association and that develops or manifests itself during a period in which any member is in the service of the department or unit. This provision applies to claims filed on or after 1/1/20 and will be repealed on 1/1/2025, unless extended.
- There is a 6-month employment requirement for the presumption to apply, unless the injury is caused by a sudden and extraordinary employment condition.
- This presumption is disputable and may be controverted by other evidence, but unless so controverted, the appeals board is bound to find in accordance with the presumption. The presumption shall be extended to a member following termination of service for a period of 3 calendar months for each full year of the requisite service, but not to exceed 60 months in any circumstance.
Assembly Bill 346 (Jim Cooper- D) – VETOED
- The bill would add police officers employed by a local school district, county office of education, or community college district to the list of public employees entitled to Labor Code section 4850 temporary disability benefits.
- Governor Newsom vetoed the bill would significantly expand Labor Code Section 4850 benefits. Instead, these benefits can be negotiated locally through the collective bargaining process.
Assembly Bill 524 (Frank Bigelow- R) – VETOED
- This bill would add Mono, San Mateo, and Del Norte Counties to the list of specified counties within which Deputy Sheriffs assigned to perform duties exclusively or initially relating to custodial assignments are also considered peace officers whose authority extends generally to any place in California while engaged in the performance of their duties.
- This bill was vetoed by Governor Newsom indicating discussions merit additional scrutiny in a more comprehensive manner. A number of bills have been enacted over recent decades and several in recent years applying this bill’s provisions to specific counties. Governor Newsom has indicated he does not want a piecemeal approach.
Updated Temporary Disability Rates for 2020
- The Division of Workers’ Compensation (DWC) had updated the minimum and maximum temporary total disability (TTD) rates for 2020. The minimum TTD rate will increase from $187.71 to $194.91 and the maximum TTD rate will increase from $1,251.38 to $1,299.43 per week.
- Labor Code section 4453(a) (10) requires the rate for TTD be increased by an amount equal to percentage increase in the State Average Weekly Wage (SAWW) as compared to the prior year. The SAWW is defined as the average weekly wage paid to employees covered by unemployment insurance as reported by the U.S. Department of Labor for California for the 12 months ending March 31 in the year preceding the injury. In the 12 months ending March 31, 2019, the SAWW increased from $1,276 to $1,325.00 – an increase of 3.84013 percent.
- Under Labor Code section 4659(c), workers with a date of injury on or after January 1, 2003 who are receiving life pension (LP) or permanent total disability (PTD) benefits are also entitled to have their weekly LP or PTD rate adjusted based on the SAWW.
Mileage Rate for Medical and Medical-Legal Travel Expenses Decreases Effective January 1, 2020
- The Division of Workers’ Compensation (DWC) has decreased the mileage rate for medical and medical-legal travel expenses by one half of a cent to 57.5 cents per mile effective January 1, 2020.
- This rate must be paid for travel on or after January 1, 2020 regardless of the date of injury. Labor Code Section 4600, in conjunction with Government Code Section 19820 and the Department of Personnel Administration regulations, establishes the rate payable for mileage reimbursement for medical and medical-legal expenses and ties it to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
- IRS bulletin Number IR-2019-215, dated December 31, 2019, announced the rate decrease. The updated mileage reimbursement form is posted on DWC’s website.
Athens Administrators is not a law firm and no opinion, suggestion, or recommendation of the firm or its employees shall constitute legal advice. Clients are advised to consult with their own attorney for a determination of their legal rights, responsibilities and liabilities, including the interpretation of any statute or regulation, or its application to the clients’ business activities.