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AB-237 Public employment: unfair practices: health protection.(2021-2022)

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Date Published: 01/13/2021 09:00 PM
AB237:v99#DOCUMENT


CALIFORNIA LEGISLATURE— 2021–2022 REGULAR SESSION

Assembly Bill
No. 237


Introduced by Assembly Member Gray

January 13, 2021


An act to add Chapter 9.4 (commencing with Section 3140) to Division 4 of Title 1 of the Government Code, relating to public employment.


LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL'S DIGEST


AB 237, as introduced, Gray. Public employment: unfair practices: health protection.
Existing law establishes the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) in state government for the purpose of resolving disputes and enforcing the statutory duties and rights of specified public employers and employees under various acts regulating collective bargaining, including the Meyers-Milias-Brown Act. Under existing law, PERB has the power and duty to investigate an unfair practice charge and to determine whether the charge is justified and the appropriate remedy for the unfair practice.
This bill, the Public Employee Health Protection Act, would make it an unfair practice for a covered employer, as defined, to fail or refuse to maintain or pay for continued health care or other medical coverage for an enrolled employee or their enrolled dependents, for the duration of the enrolled employee’s participation in the authorized strike, at the level and under the conditions that coverage would have been provided if the employee had continued to work in their position for the duration of the strike. The bill would also make it an unfair practice for a covered employer to fail to collect and remit the employee’s contributions, if any, to this coverage, or to maintain any policy purporting to authorize an action prohibited by this provision or otherwise threaten an employee or their dependents’ continued access to health or medical care during or as a result of the employee’s participation in a strike. The bill would require the restoration of health or other medical care premiums, contributions, or out-of-pocket expenses actually paid by the employee or their dependents as a result of the employer’s violation of this provision, or because the employer failed to ensure continued coverage during a strike, and would require other equitable adjustments to ensure that the employee and their dependents are made whole, as specified.
The bill would define “covered employer” to include any public employer, as specified, that offers health care or other medical coverage for nonoccupational injuries or illness to its employees. The bill would grant PERB jurisdiction over any violation of these provisions as an unfair practice, with specified enforcement powers and duties, including adjudication of claims. By requiring unfair practice claims against local public employers to be adjudicated before PERB, this bill would impose a state-mandated local program.
The California Constitution requires the state to reimburse local agencies and school districts for certain costs mandated by the state. Statutory provisions establish procedures for making that reimbursement.
This bill would provide that, if the Commission on State Mandates determines that the bill contains costs mandated by the state, reimbursement for those costs shall be made pursuant to the statutory provisions noted above.
Vote: MAJORITY   Appropriation: NO   Fiscal Committee: YES   Local Program: YES  

The people of the State of California do enact as follows:


SECTION 1.

 Chapter 9.4 (commencing with Section 3140) is added to Division 4 of Title 1 of the Labor Code, to read:
CHAPTER  9.4. Public Employee Health Protection Act

3140.
 The Legislature finds as follows: 
(a) Public employers, including the state and the University of California, are among the largest employers in the state, offering medical and other health care benefits to hundreds of thousands of employees and their family members.  Employers typically contribute all or part of the premium cost for employees and their dependent family members; employees may also contribute part of their pay to cover the premium cost. 
(b) Many of California’s large employers, including the state, counties, municipalities, and the University of California, operate hospitals, medical clinics, and other health care delivery systems. To protect public health, staff at these medical facilities should have uninterrupted access to health care services. 
(c) Employers have previously threatened to or actually suspended their health care insurance contributions for striking employees, which upends workers’ and their family members’ access to health services. 
(d) Even a temporary lapse of health insurance coverage can have ripple effects on working families, their surrounding communities, and public health.
(e) Working people and their family members who are denied access to their doctors, prescriptions, and necessary treatment during a strike may go without care, enroll in a publicly financed safety net plan, or seek uncompensated care, typically from public health care providers. 
(f) The COVID-19 pandemic has strained California’s public health safety net programs, and future federal funding for the Medi-Cal program is in jeopardy. 
(g) It is a matter of statewide concern that access to health and other medical care continue and that employers not suspend coverage or their contributions towards premiums for workers or their dependent family members during a strike. 
(h) It is also a matter of statewide concern that the temporary loss of coverage during a strike harms not only the striking worker, but also harms dependent family members and the surrounding community, and further strains the already stretched public social safety net on which so many people depend.
(i) Therefore, it is the intent of the Legislature to prohibit the activities referenced in this chapter. 

3141.
 For the purposes of this chapter, the following definitions apply: 
(a) “Authorized strike” means a strike sanctioned by the central labor council or the membership of an employee organization that represents the striking employees, or one that is engaged in by unrepresented employees.
(b) “Covered employer” includes any public employer, including, but not limited to, those identified in subdivision (c) of Section 3552, that offers health care or other medical coverage for nonoccupational injuries or illness to its employees.
(c) “Dependent” means a person who receives health care or other medical coverage based on their relationship to an employee of a covered employer, such as an employee’s spouse, domestic partner, child, or other family member.
(d) “Health care or other medical coverage” includes medical, behavioral health, dental, vision, disability, accidental death and dismemberment, life, and supplemental health insurance benefits provided through any governmental plan, as defined in 29 U.S.C. Sec. 1002(32).

3142.
 (a) It shall be an unfair practice for a covered employer to do any of the following:
(1) Fail or refuse to maintain and pay for continued health care or other medical coverage for an enrolled employee or their enrolled dependents, for the duration of the enrolled employee’s participation in an authorized strike, at the level and under the conditions that coverage would have been provided if the employee had continued to work in their position for the duration of the strike.
(2) Fail to collect and remit the employee’s contributions, if any, to this coverage.
(3) Maintain any policy purporting to authorize any action prohibited by this section or otherwise threaten an employee’s or their dependents’ continued access to health and other medical care during or as a result of the employee’s participation in a strike.
(b) Any health or other medical care premiums, contributions, or out-of-pocket expenses actually paid by the employee or their dependents as a result of the employer’s violation of this section, or because the employer failed to ensure continued coverage during a strike, shall be restored along with any other equitable adjustments necessary and proper under the circumstances to ensure that the employee and their dependents are made whole.
(c) The Public Employment Relations Board shall have jurisdiction over any violation of this chapter as an unfair practice. The powers and duties of the board described in Section 3541.3 of the Government Code shall apply, as appropriate, to this chapter.
(d) This chapter shall be construed liberally to effectuate its purposes, to protect employees’ access to health care during a labor dispute and to preserve state resources, to the fullest extent not preempted by federal law.
(e) The provisions of this chapter apply in addition to any other protections provided to employees under any memorandum of understanding or under any state or local law.
(f) The provisions of this chapter are severable. If any provision of this chapter or its application is held invalid, that invalidity shall not affect other provisions or applications that can be given effect without the invalid provision or application.

SEC. 2.

 If the Commission on State Mandates determines that this act contains costs mandated by the state, reimbursement to local agencies and school districts for those costs shall be made pursuant to Part 7 (commencing with Section 17500) of Division 4 of Title 2 of the Government Code.