The California Chamber of Commerce reminded legislators this week that pending job killer legislation will significantly increase workers’ compensation costs for public and private hospitals.
Senate Bill 567 (Caballero; D-Salinas) presumes certain diseases and injuries are caused by the workplace, including blood-borne infectious diseases, tuberculosis, meningitis, Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and musculoskeletal injury. The bill creates a legal presumption that such diseases and injuries are workplace injuries for all hospital employees who provide direct care, which the CalChamber is opposed to.
Injuries occurring within the course and scope of employment already are covered automatically by workers’ compensation insurance, regardless of fault. Workers’ compensation insurance is a “no fault” system that is intentionally constructed in a way that leads to the vast majority of claims being accepted. The Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board administrative law judge is required to interpret the facts liberally in favor of injured workers when determining compensability, creating few obstacles for employees who believe that they have been injured at work.
SB 567 mandates that hospital employees do not need to demonstrate work causation for specified injuries or illnesses in any circumstance. Instead, these injuries and illnesses are presumed to be work-related, leaving hospitals with a higher burden of proof when attempting to contest a claim that they believe is nonindustrial.
The CalChamber reminded legislators that SB 567 would make it more difficult for an employer to contest any claim for benefits, subsequently increasing costs for employers.
Moreover, there generally is a one-year statute of limitations for workers’ compensation claims, ensuring that claims will be resolved while evidence and witnesses are still available. Per SB 567, however, a former employee could come back and file a claim based on this presumption for up to 5 years after employment had ended, and the employer would be unable to question the compensability of the claim.
The CalChamber opposes SB 567 as a job killer because it will create an astronomical financial burden on health care employers and the system, creating an appreciable impact on the cost of health care at a time when the focus is on trying to make health care more affordable.
SB 567 failed passage in the Senate Labor, Public Employment and Retirement Committee last year, but was granted reconsideration.