Salary continuation benefits count toward 104-week limit of benefits
County of Alameda v. Workers' Compensation Appeals Board, No. A135889 (Cal. Ct. App. 01/30/13).
Ruling: The California Court of Appeal held that a deputy sheriff's salary continuation benefits counted toward the 104-week limit on payments for an injury causing temporary disability.
What it means: In California, an injured public safety officer's salary continuation benefits count toward the 104-week limit on payments for an injury causing temporary disability.
Summary: A deputy sheriff for a county injured his knee. The county paid him 52 weeks of salary continuation benefits under a statute allowing one year of benefits for public safety officers disabled in the course of their duties. After one year passed, the county paid him temporary disability indemnity benefits for another year. The county ceased payments, citing the 104-week limit on aggregate disability payments. The sheriff disputed the county's interpretation of the 104-week limit. The California Court of Appeal held that his salary continuation benefits counted toward the 104-week limit.
The parties disputed the meaning of "aggregate disability payments." The county argued that the phrase encompassed other disability payments for injuries causing temporary disability, including the salary continuation benefits for public safety officers. The court agreed, noting that the sheriff received 52 weeks of combined disability benefits.
The court said that if the legislature had intended "aggregate disability payments" to mean "temporary disability indemnity" it would have used the phrase. The court noted that the parties did not point to anything in the legislative history discussing whether the salary continuation benefits counted toward the 104-week limit or the meaning of "aggregate disability benefits." The court pointed out that long-standing case authority held that salary continuation benefits were workers' compensation benefits.
The court explained that the parties had compelling policy arguments. The county asserted that the cost of paying an additional year of temporary disability indemnity to public safety officers could cost public agencies tens of millions of dollars every year. A peace officers' research association noted that the legislature generally conferred enhanced workers' compensation benefits to public safety officers and that limiting benefits to 104 weeks would hurt the most disabled officers.
Read more at the WorkersComp Forum homepage.
May 13, 2013
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