Helping Injured Workers SAN DIEGO

Governor Brown puts injured workers, immigrants at risk of discrimination and financial loss with vetoes of crucial reforms

SACRAMENTO – In his final term, Governor Brown failed to protect injured workers at risk of discrimination and financial loss by vetoing three bills aimed at reforming the workers’ compensation system to better protect women, minorities, and families. He also vetoed a measure that would have barred civil arrests in courthouses, putting undocumented immigrants at risk of arrest while appearing in court for other legal matters, including workers’ compensation cases.

Assembly Bill 479 (Gonzalez Fletcher) would have eliminated gender bias in apportionment with cases involving breast cancer, ensuring women who contract the disease as a result of their employment conditions get fair compensation. The bill also sought to curtail discrimination based on age by preventing physicians from using “childbearing age” as a determining factor in certain disability awards.

Senate Bill 899 (Pan) would have removed "heritability and genetics" as a determining factor in apportionment, ensuring minorities aren’t given reduced awards due to genetic factors, while Assembly Bill 553 (Daly) would have ensured complete distribution of the $120 million allocated in California's Return-To-Work Fund. The program was created to help injured workers protect their families by offsetting financial loss after suffering a debilitating work injury.

Lastly, Governor Brown vetoed Senate Bill 349 (Lara) which would have barred civil arrests in state courthouses, protecting the fair administration of justice for all California residents.

Robert McLaughlin, president of the California Applicants’ Attorneys Association (CAAA), whose members represent Californians injured on the job, released the following statement in response to the Governor’s vetoes:

“While we are glad Governor Brown signed legislation to protect important benefits for California’s police officers and firefighters, we are disappointed by his vetoes of AB 479 (Gonzalez Fletcher), AB 553 (Daly), SB 349 (Lara), and SB 899 (Pan).

“California’s current workers’ compensation system is inherently biased against women who contract breast cancer as part of their employment, and AB 479 sought to remedy that. The Governor’s views on gender bias are wrong.

“On AB 553, the Governor’s assessment that the Legislature should refrain from revising the Return-to-Work Program because it is “relatively new” contradicts the facts. In the six years since that legislation was signed, the Return-To-Work Program has yet to pay out the full $120 million in any one year. AB 553 would have fixed that.

“While we appreciate the Governor’s assertion that SB 899 was declaratory of existing law, not everyone involved in California’s workers’ compensation agrees. SB 899 would have made clear that apportionment on the basis of race, gender, or national origin is not permitted.

“As the association representing more immigrants than any other organization of lawyers in the state, we had hoped to protect these workers by way of SB 349. As courthouse arrests continue, and per the Governor’s veto message, we hope the model policies on immigration enforcement being developed by the Attorney General come to fruition as soon as possible.

“CAAA thanks the members of the Legislature, and especially the authors of this year’s workers’ compensation bills, for their commitment to improving California’s workers’ compensation system. We remain committed to these bills and will continue to pursue them.”

The Governor’s veto messages for each of the bills can be found at the following links: AB 479; AB 553; SB 349; SB 899.

Many of the bills found bipartisan support, with AB 479 and SB 899 clearing their final votes without a single “No” vote in either house. The bills also found support from prominent labor groups, including the California Professional Firefighters who co-sponsored AB 479 with CAAA, and Teamsters who sponsored AB 553.

For more information, contact the California Applicants’ Attorneys Association at 916-444-5155 or visit www.caaa.org.

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