March Madness is Over

By: Mark Webb

The California Legislature officially went into Spring Recess on March 30. As is always the case this time of year, it is time to check your brackets. Most of the readers of this publication are focused on workers’ comp issues, so we can start there.


The various presumption bills are still alive, as would be expected. They range from skin cancer to PTSD to a wide range of presumptions for workers who provide direct patient care in acute care hospitals. With one exception, none of these have been heard in committees, so their fate will not be known, at least initially, until April. There are some additional bills worth discussing, particularly in the Senate, whose content and fate are best examined after initial policy committee deadlines.


The next group of bills, generically relating to labor and employment, has grown considerably over the past several years. While not directly amending workers’ compensation statutes in the Labor Code, their impact can be considerable on costs, claims, and underwriting in the system. Prominent among these bills is one that would raise the minimum wage for workers in private acute care hospitals to $25 per hour. The Legislature will also be taking up the issue of franchisor liability for various employment laws when it looks to the fast-food industry once again. There are many more in the queue for when the Legislature returns.


The technology bracket is an emerging group of legislation where workers’ compensation is more at risk than generally acknowledged. While the issue of autonomous trucks is one thing, the use of artificial intelligence (AI) is quite another. This latter issue includes legislation creating an Office of Artificial Intelligence to assist state agencies in their use of AI. That would seem to include the Department of Industrial Relations and its various divisions. Legislation will be heard in April regarding automated decision tools and discrimination – creating a new set of compliance obligations to be enforced by the Department of Civil Rights. Any discussion of AI will also need to include what the California Privacy Protection Agency is intending to do under its broad authority in the California Privacy Protection Act (CPPA).


Finally, there is workplace safety. It would appear the Legislature will allow Labor Code Section 6409.6 to sunset at year. That will bring an end to one group of Covid-19 notification and reporting requirements. There are a number of safety bills awaiting hearing in April, including one requiring the Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board to adopt a standard regarding workplace violence prevention where one currently does not exist.


So, there are your brackets. Of course, there is the fifth one – bills that are introduced but whose substance is far from settled. These bills are the ones that require more attention as the session draws to its close. But you may need to adjust your brackets quickly after the Summer Recess – the pace usually picks up in August.


Note: The opinions expressed herein may or may not be those of Workers’ Comp Executive. Mark Webb is a former Arizona insurance regulator, insurance company chief compliance officer, and is an expert in corporate governance, risk and compliance. He is the owner of Prop 23 Advisors.