Workers’ Compensation

Ca. Workers' Comp. Quarterly 2021, Vol. 34, No. 1

Temporary Disability During the COVID-19 Era

Amy Shen, Esq.

Oakland, California

Since its inception, workers’ compensation was meant to provide automatic, limited benefits in a no-fault system requiring insurance of all employers. The employer accepted no-fault liability in exchange for a fixed and ascertainable liability. The system "represents a philosophy that industry, as a cost of doing business, should provide for the care and rehabilitation of workers disabled by work injuries.) (Department of Rehabilitation v. Workers’ Comp. Appeals Bd. (Lauher) (2003) 30 Cal.4th 1281, 1290.) "In this way, society supports the program as a[n] integral element of commerce and industry, rather than through tax-supported plans." (Ibid.) "The purpose of [workers’ compensation benefits] is not to make the employee whole for the loss which he has suffered but to prevent him and his dependents from becoming public charges during the period of disability." (Ibid.)

One of the major benefits under workers’ compensation is the provision of temporary disability payments. Employees who are temporarily unable to work at their jobs during the period of medical recovery after an industrial injury are entitled to temporary disability indemnity to help replace lost income. However, in response to a perceived crisis in workers’ compensation, a wave of reforms occurred in the early 2000s seeking to reduce costs for employers by providing them with more tools to contain growing medical costs and lower benefits to injured workers. One of the major reforms included a limitation on the length of time temporary disability was available to injured workers.

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