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Industry Insights

CAAA: Not an Isolated Issue

  • State: California

For years, we have experienced the frustrations that come with trying to make the workers’ compensation system run better for injured people.

The challenge has always been the arcane nature of the system, the isolated examples of unfair treatment and the low pulse the issue sends out politically.

Every time we raise a problem and offer a solution, we are met with skepticism about how serious the problem is and how workable our solution is. Our opponents bombard legislators and the governor’s office with eye-glazing complex assertions, statistics and repetition.

In the last few years, we have succeeded in getting more and more bills through the Legislature, including the Assembly Insurance Committee — the longstanding graveyard for change.

But in recent years, it has become increasingly obvious that we are not alone. State government is failing to protect workers across a spectrum of issues.

Wage theft enforcement is a travesty. CBS News reports that California has the longest delays in recovering stolen wages. 

Worker safety is a bureaucratic afterthought. Some 7,820 COVID safety violations resulted in 32 citations. 

And when workers' comp insurance adjusters illegally reduce medical care, the state collects 21 cents on the dollar in fines.

Thirty-three percent of the state’s wage enforcement positions are vacant. Thirty-five percent of Cal/OSHA safety inspector positions are vacant. They were filled when the state had a surplus. And now Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that those vacancies will remain open because we have a deficit.

The good news is all this bad news. Workers’ compensation is a symptom of a state that doesn’t care about people who get callouses on their hands. Maybe pointing to that larger systematic failure will result in some meaningful attention to injured workers.

This opinion by the California Applicants' Attorneys Association communications team is republished with permission from the CAAA website.

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