The Happy New Year from the State of California. In maintaining the tradition of keeping everyone on an equal learning curve, the governor signed 22 new employment laws in 2011. These laws address such issues as credit reporting, damages, contractors, wages, contracts, safety, and workers’ compensation. Here is a summary of the five new laws specific to workers’ compensation:

AB585 – Workers’ compensation: cancer presumption
Under existing law, there are presumptions that cancers arising in certain active duty fire and police personnel are presumed to have been work related. This bill extends this presumption to active firefighters of a department serving NASA installations who adhere to specified training standards.

AB378 – Workers’ compensation: pharmacy products.
Existing law provides that it is unlawful for a physician to refer a person for specified medical goods or services, whether for treatment or medical-legal purposes, if the physician or his or her immediate family has a financial interest with the person or in the entity that receives the referral. A violation of this provision is a misdemeanor.

This bill adds pharmacy goods, as defined, to the list of medical goods or services for which it is unlawful for a physician to refer a person except in prescribed circumstances. This is considered a new crime.

SB457 – Workers’ compensation: liens.
This bill would require the board to determine, on the basis of liens filed, reimbursement for benefits paid or services provided by a self-insured employee welfare benefit plan notwithstanding the official medical fee schedule when an award is made for reimbursement for self-procured medical costs for the effects of an injury or illness arising out of and in the course of employment.

AB1168 – Workers’ compensation: vocational expert fee schedule.
This bill requires, on or before January 1, 2013, the administrative director to adopt, after public hearings, a fee schedule that establishes reasonable hourly fees paid for services provided by vocational experts. This bill prohibits a vocational expert from being paid, and prohibits the appeals board from allowing, vocational expert fees in excess of those that are reasonable, actual, and necessary.

SB826 – Workers’ compensation: data reporting requirement; administrative penalties.
This bill requires the administrative director to assess an administrative penalty against a claims administrator for a violation of data reporting requirements. This bill requires the administrative director to promulgate a schedule of penalties providing for an assessment of no more than $5,000 against a claims administrator in any single year, calculated by violation type and excluding threshold rates of violations, as prescribed. Any penalty is to be deposited in the Workers’ Compensation Administration Revolving Fund.

A complete list of the new Employment Laws for 2012 can be found at