That California Treats Low Back Pain For Law Enforcement Officers As Presumptively Caused By The Job?
Section 3213.2 of California’s Labor Code creates a disputable presumption that lower back impairments suffered by law enforcement officers with at least five years of service are presumed to be job-related injuries caused by the wearing of the duty belt. The presumption is a “disputable” one that can be rebutted by the employer, most usually by evidence that there is another clearly-identifiable source of the officer’s back impairment. Unless the presumption is rebutted, workers’ compensation benefits, including full hospital, surgical, medical treatment, disability indemnity and death benefits, are awarded to the officer.
Section 3213.2 reads:
(a) In the case of a member of a police department of a city, county, or city and county, or a member of the sheriff’s office of a county, or a peace officer employed by the Department of the California Highway Patrol, or a peace officer employed by the University of California, who has been employed for at least five years as a peace officer on a regular, full-time salary and has been required to wear a duty belt as a condition of employment, the term “injury,” as used in this division, includes lower back impairments. The compensation that is awarded for lower back impairments shall include full hospital, surgical, medical treatment, disability indemnity, and death benefits as provided by the provisions of this division.
(b) The lower back impairment so developing or manifesting itself in the peace officer shall be presumed to arise out of and in the course of the employment. This presumption is disputable and may be controverted by other evidence, but unless so controverted, the appeals board is bound to find in accordance with it. This presumption shall be extended to a person following termination of service for a period of three calendar months for each full year of the requisite service, but not to exceed 60 months in any circumstance, commencing with the last date actually worked in the specified capacity.
(c) For purposes of this section, “duty belt” means a belt used for the purpose of holding a gun, handcuffs, baton, and other items related to law enforcement.
This article appears in the July 2007 issue