California Labor Code 4850 benefits are continued salary payments to certain first responders and public safety officers who have been hurt at work and are on disability. Eligible workers continue to receive their salary for 1 year. If the worker is still disabled after a year, 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.