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With hours left to either sign or veto a stack of bills before they automatically become law on the last day of September, Governor Gavin Newsom plowed through more than 150 bills that were left to review. Now that the legislative year has ended, here are some highlights of his decisions to approve or veto proposed law that effect California employers. It is recommended that the entire law be reviewed by use of the provided link, instead of relying on the summary provided below.

After declaring that “Insurance fraud is rampant in the state, amounting to billions of dollars in damages annually, particularly within workers’ compensation insurance” the legislature passed and the Governor signed AB 1681. Existing law passed in 2010, Section 1879.1 of the Insurance Code, empowers the Insurance Commissioner to convene investigative debriefings with insurance carriers as a tool to fight fraud. This new law authorizes self-insured employers, including public entities that are self-insured employers, and district attorneys to participate in those debriefings if they are convened.

AB 1751 was signed, and extends the existing COVID-19 workers’ compensation injury presumptions set to expire on January 1, 2023 until January 1, 2024. It also expands the provisions applicable to firefighters and police officers to include active firefighting members of a fire department at the State Department of State Hospitals, the State Department of Developmental Services, the Military Department, and the Department of Veterans Affairs and to officers of a state hospital under the jurisdiction of the State Department of State Hospitals and the State Department of Developmental Services.

Newsom also approved SB 1127 which changes workers’ compensation injury presumptions. Under this new law, specified firefighters and peace officers who are claiming illness or injury related to cancer, will have an increase the number of compensable weeks to 240 without limitation as to time from the date of injury.

And under this law employers face higher penalties for delay. If liability for an injury has been unreasonably rejected for specified claims of injury or illness, including hernia, heart trouble, pneumonia, or tuberculosis, among others, for a specified member of law enforcement or a specified first responder, the amount of the penalty will be 5 times the amount of the benefits unreasonably delayed due to the rejection of liability. The bill would limit the penalty to no more than $50,000. The bill would apply this provision to all injuries, without regard to whether the injury occurs before, on, or after the operative date of the bill.

However Newsom vetoed AB 334, a law that would have created a presumption of injury for skin cancer for peace officers and life guards. In his veto message he said “A presumption is not required for an occupational disease to be compensable. Such presumptions should be provided sparingly and should be based on the unique hazards or proven difficulty of establishing a direct relationship between a disease or injury and the employee1 s work. Although well-intentioned, the need for the presumption envisioned by this bill is not supported by clear and compelling evidence.”

He also vetoed SB 284 that would expand the existing rebuttable presumption for PTSD injury to additional classes of active firefighting members and peace officers, and adds public safety dispatchers, public safety telecom and emergency response communication employees to those who qualify for the presumption. The veto message said that “Expanding coverage of the PTSD injury presumption to significant classes of employees before any studies have been conducted on the existing class for whom the presumption is temporarily in place could set a dangerous precedent that has the potential to destabilize the workers’ compensation system going forward , as stakeholders push for similarly unsubstantiated presumptions.”

And in employment law, the Governor approved AB 152 extending COVID-19 supplemental paid sick leave (SPSL) through the end of 2022. It will also set up a program to provide grants of up to $50,000 to qualified small businesses to cover costs incurred for COVID-19 SPSL. The law takes effect immediately, extending the SPSL, which was previously set to expire on September 30, 2022.

Also approved is AB 1041 which expands the class of people for whom an employee may take family leave to care for to include a designated person. A “designated person” means any individual related by blood or whose association with the employee is the equivalent of a family relationship, who is identified at the time the employee requests the leave. An employer is authorized to limit an employee to one designated person per 12-month period.

The approval of AB 1601 made some changes to the “California Worker Adjustment and Retraining Act” or “Cal/WARN Act.” The amended law authorizes the Labor Commissioner to enforce certain notice requirements concerning a mass layoff, relocation, or termination of employees, including call center employees. The bill would grant the Labor Commissioner the authority to investigate an alleged violation, order appropriate temporary relief to mitigate a violation pending completion of a full investigation or hearing, and issue a citation in accordance with certain procedures.

SB 951 was approved, and will boost leave benefits for lower- and middle-income employees who take time off to care for loved ones. It extends increased wage replacement rates for disability insurance and paid family leave that were to sunset at the end of 2022.

SB 1044 adds a new law that prohibits an employer, in the event of an emergency condition, as defined, from taking or threatening adverse action against any employee for refusing to report to, or leaving, a workplace or worksite within the affected area because the employee has a reasonable belief that the workplace or worksite is unsafe, except as specified.