FULL SALARY FOR INJURED LAW ENFORCEMENT AND PUBLIC EMPLOYEES
The Present Status of Labor Code Section 4850
In 2004, there were major changes to California Workers Compensation Laws. (S.B. 899) None of those changes affect Labor Code Section 4850.
The basics of Labor Code Section 4850 are as follows:
• It is full salary without deduction of taxes for up to 365 days following industrial injury to Safety Personnel designated by legislature.
• The benefit may start and stop several times and does not need to be continuous.
• It can be given up to 5 years from the date of injury so long as it starts again before the five-year anniversary has passed.
• It is given in place of temporary disability so for periods that a regular employee is entitled to 2/3 of their salary, a Deputy Sheriff or Police Officer on an accepted injury is entitled to his full pay without tax deduction for up to 365 days so long as he is temporarily totally disabled from his work.
In order to be entitled to Labor Code section 4850 benefits:
• The workers compensation claim must be admitted or accepted as industrial.
• The Deputy or Officer must be declared temporarily totally disabled by a physician.
Since the employer may still be allowed to delay the acceptance of a workers compensation claim for 90 days, this means that the employee who is off work pending acceptance of his or her claim could burn through up to 90 days of personal time which shall be restored to the books in the event of acceptance at some point. In order to place your injury in the best posture for acceptance, it is important that you notify your supervisor of your injury at the soonest point possible. A denial of your claim within 90 days is not necessarily the end of the story; very often, it is the beginning.
The 2004 changes to workers compensation are extremely adverse to ALADS members and Law Enforcement and were designed to save the County of Los Angeles money. The law is complicated, poorly drafted and illogical at times. However, many rights still come under the more favorable “old” law. In order to maximize your rights under old law and navigate the treacherous waters of the new law, you need an attorney. Not only do you need an attorney but also you need a law enforcement specialist who is familiar with the practices of the County of Los Angeles.
As I have said initially as far as the changes to Labor Code Section 4850 are concerned there have been no changes to Labor Code Section 4850 by SB899. That being said there have been changes to the length of time that temporary total disability will be paid. The limit set forth in Labor Code Section 4656 is now 2 years or 104 weeks. Previously there was no limit. The issue then was specifically raised in the case of Watson v. City of Oakland (2006) as to whether Labor Code Section 4850 benefits are temporary disability and subject to the 2-year limitation. The Worker Compensation Appeals Board panel in Watson found that Labor Code Section 4850 benefits are not temporary disability within the meaning of labor Code section 4656 and therefore not part of the 2-year limitation. If by some unfortunate circumstances a Deputy or police officer is temporarily disabled for more than 2 years, the year of Labor Code section 4850 benefits will not count against the 2 years.
For most deputies or police officers, this time frame will not be important because most deputies return to work before the first year finishes, and if not, apply for medical retirement if possible.
Lawrence Silver, Esq.