Front-line hospital employees are at risk for a wide variety of injuries and medical conditions. Getting workers’ compensation after suffering a work-related injury or illness, however, can sometimes be challenging.
If a bill that’s currently being considered by the California State Assembly moves forward and becomes law, things will become a little easier. The bill (AB 1156) would create a rebuttable presumption that specific conditions in nurses and other front-line hospital workers are caused by their job and eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. That means they wouldn’t have to prove that the injury or illness is work related.
These conditions would include:
- Infectious and respiratory diseases
- Musculoskeletal injuries
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
The bill also names multiple types of cancer that “develop or manifest as a result of exposure to antineoplastic drugs, anesthetic gases, or surgical smoke.”
The role of gender
The lawmaker who introduced the bill, Assemblymember Mia Bonta, says she believes the fact that most front-line hospital workers (including nurses) are female is why they don’t already have the same kind of rebuttable presumptions for conditions that are often work related as emergency responders like firefighters and law enforcement officers (who are more commonly male) have. She said, “Our frontline health care workers face a clear gender gap in presumptive access to worker’s compensation, simply because they are in a female-dominated profession.”
How this could help California’s nursing shortage
The California Nurses Association (CNA), which strongly supports the legislation, notes that it would have a positive effect for all Californians because it would help prevent nurses from leaving hospital work to use their training in less dangerous, stressful settings. California, like states around the country, has seen serious nursing shortages in recent years. The organization’s president says that “it will make the decision to stay in the profession easier for skilled nurses.”
It could be some time before the bill becomes law – if it does. In the meantime, it’s crucial for nurses and other health care professionals to get the workers’ comp benefits to which they’re entitled. If you’re having difficulty proving that a condition is work related, it may help to have legal guidance.