We’re in one of those languid periods of California workers’ comp.
A final formulary isn’t done. Legislatively speaking, many of the bills bouncing around probably aren’t headed for the Labor Code. Those who would like to see worker-side reforms don’t have juice with this governor and administration. Rand studies on anti-fraud efforts and medical care reforms aren’t yet out. The effect of last year’s SB 1160 and AB 1244 reforms are still uncertain. Other rule-making is in the wings but not yet surfacing.
The list could go on.
Meanwhile, we have a media controversy on our hands.
Progressive, mainly known for auto coverage, includes mention of workers’ comp in its ad. Spokesperson Flo is speaking to Jamie, her nerdy and insecure sidekick. She pulls things such as a car mirror out of her “Magic Apron” and hands it to a driver who has knocked off his side mirror. When a window is broken at a construction project she pulls a new window out of the Magic Apron.
An employee lies injured on the ground, looking up and saying, “Ow”.
But not to worry. Flo looks to the hapless Jamie, saying “Injured employee? Workers' comp helps pay for a replacement,” pulling a replacement worker out of her Magic Apron.
CAAA was incensed, and rightly so.
First, the focus is all on the business owner, not the fellow on the ground in pain. No one gives him the time of day.
Second, the ad totally misrepresents what workers’ comp is all about, and the role of the insurer. Since when does an insurer arrange for a replacement worker? The appropriate focus of workers’ comp is to be a delivery system for medical and income benefits to help the injured work return to work if possible. The ad totally misses that, including only some small print disclaimer about “lost wages and medical bills.”
Third, the ad struck me as having subtle racial overtones. I’m often a critic of political correctness and identity politics, but in this instance I couldn’t help notice that the injured employee appeared to be black and the replacement worker was white.
It’s just an ad, you say?
Maybe, but we live in a world where attention is short and misconceptions run high. Cynicism toward the workers’ comp system abounds. I don’t doubt that many viewers will think workers’ comp carriers can and should arrange for replacement workers.
And Flo has been a wildly popular advertising vehicle for Progressive. So this ad is not just an innocent fantasy.
CAAA has called on Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones to contact Progressive about the ad.
Julius Young is a claimants' attorney for the Boxer & Gerson law firm in Oakland. This column was reprinted with his permission from his blog, www.workerscompzone.com.