Labor Code § 4850 provides first responders and public safety officers with up to 1 year (52 weeks) of their full salary when they are injured on the job and placed on temporary disability. If the worker is still disabled after the year elapses, he or she can continue to receive normal workers’ compensation benefits.
What are the benefits under California Labor Code Section 4850?
California Labor Code 4850 provides eligible public employees a paid leave of absence for up to 1 year after sustaining a temporary total disability (TTD) from an injury that arose from the course of his or her duties. During that year, the employee receives a salary continuation at their full rate of pay.
These benefits cover industrial injuries, workplace accidents, and illnesses that happen on the job.
This is substantially better than the normal workers’ compensation, or “workers’ comp,” coverage for workers who are ineligible for Labor Code 4850 time. These ineligible workers only receive the standard state rate of two-thirds of their average weekly wage in temporary disability benefits.
Additionally, if the injured worker recovers from his or her disability, returns to work, and gets hurt again, it can trigger a new 1-year window of benefits under Labor Code 4850.
Similar to normal workers’ compensation pay, the year of salary paid under Labor Code 4850 can be paid over the course of 5 years after the disabling injury.
Who is eligible?
California Labor Code 4850 is very limited in who it applies to, though. It only covers the following full-time public safety employees:
- city police officers,
- police officers of the Los Angeles Unified School District,
- police officers, wardens, or special officers of a harbor or port district, or a city or county harbor department,
- any officers or employees who work in a sheriff’s office,
- the following workers in district attorneys’ offices:
- detectives, and
- any personnel with comparable titles.
- county probation officers, group counselors, or juvenile services officers,
- any officers or employees in a probation office,
- regular, full-time peace officers under Section 830.31 of the California Penal Code,
- airport law enforcement officers,
- city, county, or district firefighters, and
- full-time, year-round lifeguards employed by a first-class county in California, or by the City of San Diego.1
These California workers do not need to have accumulated a set amount of service time to be eligible for Labor Code 4850 benefits. If one of these covered workers gets hurt on their first day on the job, they can go on sick leave for up to a year and receive their full salary.
The statute explicitly states that it does not cover employees of a county police department, sheriff’s office, probation office, or fire department whose principal duties are those of a:
- phone operator,
- mechanic, or
- workers whose functions are not clearly those of an active law enforcement officer or firefighter.2
It also does not cover police officers or firefighters who work for the City or the County of San Francisco.3
How long does this alternative to workers’ compensation last?
Labor Code 4850 time lasts for up to 1 year from the date of injury. However, if the covered worker’s disability ends before a year has passed, the benefits will also end.
Additionally, if the worker returns to work – even in a lesser capacity, at a different shift, or on light duty – Labor Code 4850 benefits will stop.4 The benefits will also not be paid to workers who have been hurt on the job but who have since resigned, retired, or are no longer employed.5 The benefits are also cut if the hurt worker has retired on a permanent disability pension, and has begun to receive those payments.6
What is included in the worker’s salary?
The salary benefits that the statute provides include the normal salary that the worker would have earned. The salary is non-taxable. Normal deductions, including for health insurance, life insurance, and union dues, will be taken from the amount. This means that, in addition to the worker’s normal salary, Labor Code 4850 benefits also include:
- health insurance,
- death benefits, and
- benefits that come from normal salary deductions.
What happens if the worker is still disabled after a year?
If a worker who is covered by Labor Code 4850 is still on temporary disability after a year has passed since the injury, the statutory benefits end. The disabled worker will have to make a workers’ compensation claim. The payment of benefits will be limited to the normal state rate for workers’ compensation. Rather than full pay, these temporary disability payments are for only two-thirds of the hurt worker’s average weekly wage from before the injury.
The worker will also likely lose his or her health care benefits and pension contribution benefits, making it more difficult to continue to get adequate medical treatment.
- California Labor Code 4850(b) LAB.
- California Labor Code 4850(c) LAB.
- California Labor Code 4850(f) LAB.
- County of Nevada v. Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board (WCAB), 223 Cal.App.4th 579 (2014).
- Collins v. County of Los Angeles, 55 Cal.App.3d 594 (1976).
- California Labor Code 4850(a) LAB.
The full language of Labor Code 4850 reads that:
(a) Whenever any person listed in subdivision (b), who is employed on a regular, full-time basis, and is disabled, whether temporarily or permanently, by injury or illness arising out of and in the course of his or her duties, he or she shall become entitled, regardless of his or her period of service with the city, county, or district, to a leave of absence while so disabled without loss of salary in lieu of temporary disability payments or maintenance allowance payments, if any, that would be payable under this chapter, for the period of the disability, but not exceeding one year, or until that earlier date as he or she is retired on permanent disability pension, and is actually receiving disability pension payments, or advanced disability pension payments pursuant to Section 4850.3.
(b) The persons eligible under subdivision (a) include all of the following:
(1) City police officers.
(2) City, county, or district firefighters.
(4) Officers or employees of any sheriff’s offices.
(5) Inspectors, investigators, detectives, or personnel with comparable titles in any district attorney’s office.
(6) County probation officers, group counselors, or juvenile services officers.
(7) Officers or employees of a probation office.
(8) Peace officers under Section 830.31 of the Penal Code employed on a regular, full-time basis by a county of the first class.
(9) Lifeguards employed year round on a regular, full-time basis by a county of the first class or by the City of San Diego.
(10) Airport law enforcement officers under subdivision (d) of Section 830.33 of the Penal Code.
(11) Harbor or port police officers, wardens, or special officers of a harbor or port district or city or county harbor department under subdivision (a) of Section 830.1 or subdivision (b) of Section 830.33 of the Penal Code.
(12) Police officers of the Los Angeles Unified School District.
(c) This section shall apply only to persons listed in subdivision (b) who meet the requirements of subdivision (a), and shall not include any of the following:
(1) Employees of a police department whose principal duties are those of a telephone operator, clerk, stenographer, machinist, mechanic, or otherwise, and whose functions do not clearly fall within the scope of active law enforcement service.
(2) Employees of a county sheriff’s office whose principal duties are those of a telephone operator, clerk, stenographer, machinist, mechanic, or otherwise, and whose functions do not clearly come within the scope of active law enforcement service.
(3) Employees of a county probation office whose principal duties are those of a telephone operator, clerk, stenographer, machinist, mechanic, or otherwise, and whose functions do not clearly come within the scope of active law enforcement service.
(4) Employees of a city fire department, county fire department, or fire district whose principal duties are those of a telephone operator, clerk, stenographer, machinist, mechanic, or otherwise, and whose functions do not clearly fall within the scope of active firefighting and prevention service.
(d) If the employer is insured, the payments that, except for this section, the insurer would be obligated to make as disability indemnity to the injured, the insurer may pay to the insured.
(e) No leave of absence taken pursuant to this section by a peace officer, as defined by Chapter 4.5 (commencing with Section 830) of Title 3 of Part 2 of the Penal Code, or by a city, county, or district firefighter, shall be deemed to constitute family care and medical leave, as defined in Section 12945.2 of the Government Code, or to reduce the time authorized for family care and medical leave by Section 12945.2 of the Government Code.
(f) This section shall not apply to any persons described in paragraph (1) or (2) of subdivision (b) who are employees of the City and County of San Francisco.
(g) Amendments to subdivision (f) made by the act adding this subdivision shall be applied retroactively to January 1, 2010.