MICHAEL SULLIVAN & ASSOCIATES BLOG

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Posts about Labor Law:

The Initial Physical Aggressor Defense Under LC 3600(a)(7)

The Initial Physical Aggressor Defense Under LC 3600(a)(7)

Labor Code § 3600(a)(7) establishes the initial physical aggressor defense. It explains that a claim is not compensable when the injury arises "out of an altercation in which the injured employee is the initial physical aggressor." That defense embodies the legislative intent to exclude from compensation those who introduce violence into the workplace.

The types of behavior that are barred under the statute were defined in the seminal case of Mathews v. WCAB (1972) 6 Cal. 3d 719, in which the Supreme Court explained that former LC 3600(g), now LC 3600(a)(7), applies when two conditions are present. One, the injury must "arise out of an altercation." Two, the injured employee must be the "initial physical aggressor" in the altercation.

Understanding the Impact of California Minimum Wage Changes on TD Rates

Understanding the Impact of California Minimum Wage Changes on TD Rates

Effective April 1, 2024, the minimum wage for many California fast-food workers increased from $16 to $20 an hour. The changes were brought by Assembly Bill (AB) 1228, which was signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom on Sept. 28, 2023. AB 1228 added Labor Code § 1474, § 1475 and § 1476. [1]

The change, of course, means that the average weekly wage (AWW) of employees — and, accordingly, the rates for indemnity payments — will increase. But the more poignant concern: Is there an increase for existing cases in which temporary disability is being paid out? After all, if a raise is expected and scheduled at the time of injury, that must be taken into account when establishing the AWW. Do existing claims need to be looked at now for a possible adjustment? The answer might well be yes.

Change of Treating Physician After Discharge from Care

Change of Treating Physician After Discharge from Care

Nearly one-quarter century ago, in Tenet/Centinela Hospital Medical Center v. WCAB (Rushing) (2000) 80 Cal. App. 4th 1041, the Court of Appeal held that when a treating physician has declared the employee's injury to be permanent and stationary, has released the employee to return to work and has prescribed no further doctor-involved treatment or visits, the employee did not have a right to change treating doctors just because future medical care was warranted. Instead, the court explained that the employee was required to comply with the provisions of California Code of Regulations, Title 8, § 9785(b), and Labor Code § 4061 and § 4062, to change primary treating doctors (PTPs).

Navigating WCAB's Recent Order on Frivolous Petitions: What Employers Need to Know

Navigating WCAB's Recent Order on Frivolous Petitions: What Employers Need to Know

When a party disputes an order, decision or award issued by a workers' compensation judge (WCJ), there are two options for appeal. Pursuant to Labor Code § 5900, a party may file a petition for reconsideration of a "final order, decision, or award made and filed by the appeals board or a workers' compensation judge." In contrast, LC 5310 states, "The appeals board may ... remove to itself, or transfer to a workers' compensation administrative law judge the proceedings on any claim." A petition for removal is the appropriate remedy for interim, nonfinal orders.

WCAB Issues Significant Panel Decision That It Will Continue to Follow Shipley

WCAB Issues Significant Panel Decision That It Will Continue to Follow Shipley

As discussed in an earlier Special Report,[1] for more than 30 years, the Workers' Compensation Appeals Board (WCAB) relied on Shipley v. WCAB (1992) 7 Cal. App. 4th 1104 to decide petitions for reconsideration, even if it did not act timely on a petition pursuant to Labor Code § 5909. That statute states, "A petition for reconsideration is deemed to have been denied by the appeals board unless it is acted upon within 60 days from the date of filing." Based on Shipley, the WCAB generally held that if a petition was not considered within the time limit of LC 5909 due to the WCAB's own inadvertent error, it still may decide the merits of the petition, even if the 60-day time period has elapsed.

Exclusive Remedy Rule and Claims Against Co-Workers

Exclusive Remedy Rule and Claims Against Co-Workers

Under Labor Code § 3602, workers' compensation benefits are "the sole and exclusive remedy of the employee or his or her dependents against the employer" for work-related injuries. The purpose of the exclusive remedy rule is to protect the employer's side of the compensation bargain. Under that bargain, the employer assumes liability for industrial personal injury or death without regard to fault in exchange for limitations on the amount of that liability. The employee is given relatively swift and certain payment of benefits to cure or relieve the effects of industrial injury without having to prove fault. In exchange, he or she gives up the wider range of damages potentially available in tort.

Liability for Temporary Disability When Employee Refuses Work

Liability for Temporary Disability When Employee Refuses Work

Temporary disability (TD) benefits serve as wage replacement during the period an injured worker is healing from an industrial injury. An employer's obligation to pay TD benefits ceases when such replacement income is no longer needed. The obligation to pay TD benefits ends when the worker returns to work, is deemed able to return to work or when the worker's condition achieves permanent and stationary status.

Special Report: What Happens After COVID Presumptions Are Repealed?

Special Report: What Happens After COVID Presumptions Are Repealed?

In 2020, the California Legislature passed Senate Bill 1159 (SB 1159), which established a rebuttable presumption for specified employees that illness or death resulting from COVID-19 arose out of and in the course of employment. The presumptions were established in Labor Code §§ 3212.86, LC 3212.87 and LC 3212.88.

In the Senate Floor Analysis for SB 1159, the Legislature believed that the burden of fighting COVID-19 had fallen disproportionately on a small group of workers in both the private and public sectors. The presumptions were enacted to reduce the barriers to accessing the workers’ compensation system for essential workers suffering from COVID-19.[1] So for several years, the COVID-19 presumptions made it easier for many workers to prove entitlement to workers' compensation benefits for illnesses related to COVID-19.