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Workers’ Compensation for Off Duty Work

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A lot of men and women display acts of great heroism in the face of danger. In the recent devastating shootings in Las Vegas, off-duty officers sustained serious injuries ushering people to safety. Those men and women were not technically injured in the line of duty, but they saved lives because it was their job. Now, a California assemblyman says they should receive workers’ compensation benefits for their heroism. This begs the question: Can people collect benefits when they sustain an injury off-duty?

A Deadly Massacre

There were more than 200 California police officers in attendance at the country music festival on October 1, when Stephen Paddock fired hundreds of rounds into the crowd, killing 58 and wounding an additional 500. During the shooting, many of these officers went into “work mode” and helped people to safety, administered CPR, and assisted other local authorities in securing the area. Some California police officers sustained injuries in the shooting, while others report developing PTSD in light of the incident.

In the months that have passed, the jurisdictions who employ some of those officers have come under fire for their answers to questions regarding time-off, long term medical treatment, and other benefits that officers might be privy to under worker’s compensation benefits. Those jurisdictions include Riverside, San Bernardino, Los Angeles, and Orange counties.

State Law and Loopholes

California state law clearly states that police officers can collect worker’s compensation benefits if they intervene in a crime anywhere in the state of California while on duty. Unfortunately, the law is less clear when these incidents occur out of state. Under this loophole, jurisdictions are not required and might not even be allowed to offer worker’s compensation benefits to these injured officers. One assemblyman’s new legislation plans to amend that.

Tom Daly, a Democrat from Anaheim, wants to introduce legislation that would banish any ambiguity in the law and extend worker’s compensation benefits to any officer who intervenes in a crime outside of California’s borders. The legislation follows after Orange County rejected four workers’ compensation claims from deputies injured in the shooting.

In passing this legislation, Daly hopes that worker’s compensation benefits could retroactively apply to the deputies injured in the shooting. However, some legislators argue that the measure could be more effective if California amended and clarified the current law, rather than introducing something new.

Other jurisdictions are handling the matter differently. Los Angeles has yet to come to a decision for its off-duty officers, stating the vague nature of the current law. In San Bernardino, the union has initiated talks on behalf of the 11 deputies who incurred injuries in the shooting. Their hope is to convince the county to treat them as on-duty officers.

Hope For Injured Off-Duty Workers?

In reality, there are some professions that require workers who are always “on duty” – first responders, police officers, and health care professionals to name a few. In the event of an emergency, these professionals often intervene to help others, even at risk to their own health and well-being. In the event they sustain injury, shouldn’t they be privy to worker’s compensation benefits? Tom Daly and many others throughout California believe so. What happens regarding these specific cases and pending legislation remains to be seen.