Pratt Williams, A Professional Law Corporation
Shaken and Stirred
Some of the most revered figures in American’s media and entertainment industry have recently been toppled by a wave of sexual harassment allegations.
And those embroiled in this wave of misconduct allegations include politicians both left and right, Democrat and Republican.
Sacramento has seen its share of these allegations. A large group of women who work in and around the Capitol signed a letter decrying an atmosphere of harassment and abuse:
How-if at all-does this affect California workers’ comp? Clearly some of the situations may have (or could) trigger workers’ comp stress claims.
But the effects may also be political. Look at some of those whose political careers are destroyed or damaged.
Democratic Assemblyman Raul Bocanegra (D-Pacoima) recently resigned as a result. Bocanegra had been the sponsor of AB 1028, a 2017 bill which would have extended to school district police officers the presumption that certain medical conditions are work related. The bill did not move out of committee in 2017.
Senator Tony Mendoza (D-Artesia) has been caught up in multiple accusations as well. In late November Mendoza was stripped of his California Senate committee leadership positions pending an investigation:
Mendoza has been a power player in California workers’ comp as chair of the Senate Industrial Relations Committee, a slot to which he was appointed in late 2014 by Senate Pro Tem Kevin de Leon. In late 2016 the chairmanship of that committee was passed to Sen. Steve Bradford.
Mendoza was the sponsor of SB 1160 in 2016. As I noted in an 2016 blog post, Mendoza’s SB 1160:
“amends as many as 12 sections of the Labor Code. The bill has far too many components to list in detail here, but among its key provisions is a provision effective for post 1/1/18 injuries that provides for a loosening of prospective UR (for some but not all types of treatments and procedures) during the first 30 days from injury. Financial incentives for UR denials are prohibited. Cross referrals to entities in which the insurer or TPA has a financial interest are banned unless previously disclosed to the DWC. Formulary disputes are to be covered under IMR, and IMR timelines are set forth. MTUS updates are exempted from the complete formal rule making process. Liens claims of physicians charged with fraud are stayed while the criminal case is pending. A declaration under penalty of perjury is added to lien filing requirements. Lien assignments are prohibited except under specific circumstances. The DWC is required to set a range of reasonable attorney fees for depositions. Interpreter credentialing is to be regulated by the DWC by 1/1/18.”
In 2017 Mendoza sponsored a bill (SB 272) to allow SCIF to add more positions, but it was vetoed by the governor.
Another powerful Capitol figure who may be touched politically by the issue is California Senate Pro Tem Kevin de Leon. De Leon was the legislative sponsor of the landmark 2012 workers’ comp reforms, SB 863.
De Leon and Mendoza were roommates until recently, a fact which has not been a helpful thing for de Leon’s fledgling campaign to challenge California Senator Diane Feinstein.
Indeed, the headline in the December 4, 2017 San Francisco Chronicle reads “De Leon’s handling of scandal an issue”:
And the allegations keep coming.
Now there are allegations against California Assemblyman Matt Dababneh (D-Van Nuys). Dababneh is currently a member of the California Assembly Insurance Committee that has jurisdiction over workers’ comp issues. In 2014 Dababneh sponsored a bill to increase penalties against employers who operate without insurance coverage.
In fairness to all involved, it’s worth noting that most if not all of these controversies are based on allegations and circumstances which may be denied or allegedly misinterpreted.
What is clear is that there is a Capitol culture that is changing fast. And some heavy hitters in California’s workers’ comp scene may be on their way out as a result.