Governor Gavin Newsom closed out the 2019 California legislative session this week by signing a slew of bills into law. He’s signed over 800 this year and vetoed 170. That’s a lot of new laws. The laws, which go into effect on January 1, 2020, create new rules for things from gun purchases to roadkill. We want to look at the laws that have to do with our corner of the world: workers’ compensation.
AB 1804 – Requires any serious workplace injury to be reported immediately to CalOSHA. Notification can be given by telephone or by an unseen (so far) online mechanism. We read a lot of OSHA reports and we do notice that there can be a reporting lag. This is often due to the general chaos at a workplace these situations can create. At other times, clear chains of command and/or management structure are not understood or in place. Most simply, people don’t know who is supposed to do it and when. The law will definitely help give us more insight into these types of injuries. Since reporting is done immediately, the incident is more fresh in the mind of the reporter and can help establish facts sooner.
AB 1805 – Currently, to define and injury or illness as “serious” for workers’ compensation purposes, the injured worker must have an immediate stay in a hospital for at least 24 hours. This is no longer the case. The new law lifts the minimum hospital stay time. This will lower medical costs for hospitalization, but it also might increase the the size of claims as more and more injuries will qualify for the “serious” designation.
The law also changes the definition of “serious exposure” to a hazardous substance to include “a realistic possibility that death or serious physical harm in the future could result from the actual hazard created by the exposure.” We believe this to mean (we’ll see what the courts say) that no physical harm has to be immediately present in order to declare the event a “serious exposure.”
SB 542 – Expands workers’ compensation payments for psychiatric injury, including PTSD, for first responders. Currently, “presumptions” (workplace injuries that, for the most part, first responders are expected to suffer from) include heart disease, cancer and hernias. Psychological injury now has a stronger presence on the list of these presumptions because now, the worker does not have to prove that the injury was at leas 50 percent related to their job. Look for a lot more claims for psychological presumptions.
AB 5 – One of the most contested bills in 2019 – not just in the work comp world, but in all of the legislation that came out this year, targets the “gig economy.” The law says that if a worker provides an essential function of their employer’s business, they are an employee of that business. No longer will businesses be able to lump these workers into the independent contractor category. These employees will now be entitled to benefits, including workers’ compensation. This far-reaching bill is really aimed at big companies like Uber who have thousands of these independant contractors that (depending on your point of view) perform functions essential to the business i.e.: Uber needs drivers to exist. But the law will also effect the construction, trucking, janitorial service, nail salons, adult entertainment, commercial fishing and media industries. Large tech companies already pledged their time and money to fight this.
We’re always keeping an eye on developments with laws that affect our clients. Need more information? Contact us, or Give us a call! 619-525-7626