Today's Law As Amended

PDF |Add To My Favorites |Track Bill | print page

SB-542 Workers’ compensation.(2019-2020)



SECTION 1.
 (a) The Legislature finds and declares all of the following:
(1) Firefighting and law enforcement are recognized as two of the most stressful occupations. Only our nation’s combat soldiers endure more stress. Similar to military personnel, California’s firefighters and law enforcement personnel face unique and uniquely dangerous risks in their sworn mission to keep the public safe. They rely on each other for survival while placing their lives on the line every day to protect the communities they serve.
(2) Firefighters and law enforcement personnel routinely respond to traumatic incidents and dangerous circumstances, including, but not limited to, fires, stabbings, gun battles and shootings, including active shooter incidents, domestic violence, terrorist acts, riots, automobile accidents, airplane crashes, earthquakes, and other gruesome scenes.
(3) On any given shift, firefighters and law enforcement personnel can be called on to make life and death decisions, witness a young child dying with their grief-stricken family, or be exposed to a myriad of communicable diseases and known carcinogens. Firefighters and law enforcement personal are constantly at significant risk of bodily harm or physical assault while they perform their duties.
(4) Constant, cumulative exposure to these horrific events make firefighters and law enforcement personnel uniquely susceptible to the emotional and behavioral impacts of job-related stressors. This is especially evident given that the nature of the job often calls for lengthy separation from their families due to a long shift or wildfire strike team response.
(5) Today, a firefighter’s and law enforcement officer’s occupational stress is heightened in the face of California’s “new normal” in which wildland and wildland-urban interface fires continue to annually increase as hot, dry, and wind-whipped conditions persist.
(6) For firefighters, California’s year-round fire seasons and climatic factors are conducive to large-scale, devastating fire events. In 2018, the Carr Fire produced a fire tornado that reached speeds of 143 miles per hour and caused a cataclysmic path of destruction in Redding, where 2 firefighters were among the 7 people who lost their lives.
(7) Last year’s fire storms were a brutal reminder of the ferocity of wildfires and how all too often on-duty firefighters and law enforcement officers incur the stress of witnessing victims flee while worrying about whether their own homes, and the safety of their families and neighbors, are threatened. When on duty, firefighters and law enforcement officers endure the added pain of driving through wreckage, seeing destroyed homes, or worse, the skeletal remains of family, friends, and neighbors burned to ash while not being able to stop to provide assistance or comfort.
(8) While the cumulative impacts of these aggressive, deadly events are taking their toll, our firefighters and law enforcement officers continue to stand up to human-caused devastation and nature’s fury, but they are physically and emotionally exhausted.
(9) Despite the job-related dangers and stressors, the call to respond is simple for many public safety personnel. It’s their job. But a high-stress working environment can take an overwhelming mental, emotional, and physical toll as chronic exposure to traumatic events and critical incidents increases the risk for post-traumatic stress and other stress-induced injuries.
(10) While most firefighters and law enforcement officers survive the traumas of their job, sadly, many experience the impacts of occupational stressors when off duty. The psychological and emotional stress of their profession can have a detrimental impact long after their shift is over.
(11) Trauma-related injuries can become overwhelming and manifest in post-traumatic stress, which may result in substance use disorders and even, tragically, suicide. The fire service is four times more likely to experience a suicide than a work-related death in the line of duty in any year.
(12) California has a responsibility to ensure that its fire and law enforcement agencies are equipped with the tools necessary to assist their personnel in mitigating the occupational stress experienced as a result of performing their job duties and protecting the public.
(b) It is, therefore, the intent of the Legislature to enact legislation recognizing the hazards and resulting trauma of these occupations and provide treatment and support for these public servants through presumptive care to our firefighters and law enforcement officers.

SEC. 2.

 Section 3212.15 is added to the Labor Code, immediately following Section 3212.1, to read:

3212.15.
 (a) This section applies to all of the following:
(1) Active firefighting members, whether volunteers, partly paid, or fully paid, of all of the following fire departments:
(A) A fire department of a city, county, city and county, district, or other public or municipal corporation or political subdivision.
(B) A fire department of the University of California and the California State University.
(C) The Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
(D) A county forestry or firefighting department or unit.
(2) Active firefighting members of a fire department that serves a United States Department of Defense installation and who are certified by the Department of Defense as meeting its standards for firefighters.
(3) Active firefighting members of a fire department that serves a National Aeronautics and Space Administration installation and who adhere to training standards established in accordance with Article 4 (commencing with Section 13155) of Chapter 1 of Part 2 of Division 12 of the Health and Safety Code.
(4) Peace officers, as defined in Section 830.1, subdivision (a), (b), and (c) of Section 830.2, Section 830.32, subdivisions (a) and (b) of Section 830.37, Sections 830.5 and 830.55 of the Penal Code, who are primarily engaged in active law enforcement activities.
(5) (A) Fire and rescue services coordinators who work for the Office of Emergency Services.
(B) For purposes of this paragraph, “fire and rescue services coordinators” means coordinators with any of the following job classifications: coordinator, senior coordinator, or chief coordinator.
(b) The term “injury,” as used in this division, includes a mental health condition or mental disability that results in a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress or mental health disorder that develops or manifests itself during a period in which any member described in subdivision (a) is in the service of the department or unit.
(c) The compensation that is awarded for post-traumatic stress or mental health disorder shall include full hospital, surgical, medical treatment, disability indemnity, and death benefits, as provided by this division.
(d) The post-traumatic stress or mental health disorder so developing or manifesting itself in these cases shall be presumed to arise out of and in the course of the employment. This presumption is disputable and may be controverted by other evidence, but unless so controverted, the appeals board is bound to find in accordance with the presumption. This presumption shall be extended to a member following termination of service for a period of 3 calendar months for each full year of the requisite service, but not to exceed 60 months in any circumstance, commencing with the last date actually worked in the specified capacity.
(e) The act adding this section enacted during the 2019 portion of the 2019–20 Regular Session shall be applied to claims for benefits filed or pending on or after January 1, 2017, including, but not limited to, claims for benefits filed on or after that date that have previously been denied, or that are being appealed following denial.
(f) For the purposes of this section, a “mental health condition or mental disability” means a post-traumatic stress disorder or mental health disorder as described in the most recent edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders published by the American Psychiatric Association.