September 3rd, 2012

Open Letter to California Governor to Not Sign SB 863

Bills becoming laws takes time, usually a long time. However, a California bill — SB 863 — depriving workers of rights passed the Assembly and Senate on the last day of the legislative session within HOURS, not days, of each other. WBI appeals to Gov. Jerry Brown to not sign the bill into law. Read the full 160-pg text of SB 863.

Hon. Jerry Brown
c/o State Capitol, Suite 1173
Sacramento, CA 95814

Dear Sir,

Your signature is affixed to my University of California doctorate, from your first gubernatorial period. It was a different time. The state Chamber of Commerce competed on a more equal basis with the California Labor Federation. Now, the former dominates the latter. Unions, still representing 17% of California workers, have been co-opted with SB 863 — a workers compensation reform bill.

SB 863 has been hailed as a bipartisan achievement in “reforming” Workers Compensation. However, we at the Workplace Bullying Institute (WBI), originally launched in Benicia, oppose the proposed law because of the losses it imposes on injured workers. It’s not a compromise when workers’ changing needs are ignored and employers’ long-standing wish lists are fulfilled.

Since the global recession of 2008, employers have resisted hiring while racheting up demands — physical and psychological — of current workers. Needless, preventable stress results. Several of the stress-related diseases known to rise when task demands increase on workers are cardiovascular problems and sleep disorders (which cause insomnia and fatigue that lead to higher accident rates).

The newest neuroscience studies explore deleterious effects of unremitting stress (and the flooding of the brain by glucocorticoids that damage tissue) on neurological injuries that underlie psychological behavioral changes. That is, when the brain loses gray matter, the individual suffers severe anxiety, depression and posttraumatic stress. SB 863 demonstrates an ignorance of the science behind “mental health problems.” Stressors at work are not born in the imagination of injured workers. Stress-related neural structure changes are as real, objective (MRI confirmable) and physical as broken limbs or damaged lungs from chemical exposure.

SB 863 prevents claims for insomnia and mental health problems. Workers injured by abusive, toxic workplace, either through malicious employer planning or inadvertent harm from the lack of managerial skill, deserve relief through workers compensation.

Stress claims are frequent because employers are pushing workers beyond limits of human production. SB 863 allows employers to harm at will and to now do so with impunity.

California has no specific state law prohibiting abusive work environments. It was the first in the country to introduce one in 2003, but it died quietly. When civil courts provide no redress, workers need the Workers Compensation.

In a bill 160 pages long, there are multiple offenses against good, hard working Californians. Besides the preclusion of stress-related injuries with physical manifestations, is the despicable replacement of a workers compensation lawsuit with mandatory binding arbitration.

Employers want arbitration to keep their abuse of employees secret. First, they don’t want the public knowing how they actually mistreat a subset of their workers to preserve their carefully honed reputations. Second, court filings send messages to current employees that what is happening to them is part of a pattern, not isolated and rare injurious work conditions. Arbitration also allows bad employers to claim being “employers of choice,” when in fact, their promises of a safe healthy workplace will be reneged after hiring. Abusing employers hide behind arbitration.

For these reasons alone, Governor Brown, please do not sign SB 863 into law. You will be committing a grave injustice against millions of California workers. Harken back to the 1970’s when your concern for human rights was on public display. Do the right thing.

Thank you for hearing our concerns.

Gary Namie, PhD
Director, Workplace Bullying Institute


WBI supporters may write directly to Gov. Jerry Brown’s via his e-mail form found here.

In many states, the Chamber has successfully gutted protections for workers in their Workers Compensation systems. This big a change in Calfornia’s system by a Democratic Governor and Dem-controlled legislature will embolden the Chamber to propose eliminating WC completely in “right-to-work” states.

To get involved with helping California enact the anti-bullying Healthy Workplace Bill, go to the CA page at the national website. From that page, follow the links to CHWA, the official citizen lobbying group affiliated with WBI.


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  1. Elizabeth Mcdonald says:

    Gov. Brown, please don’t sign SB863.  This is the worst nightmare ever for all of us who work with the system.  What it appears to be and what it is are a night and day difference.  A wolf in sheep’s clothing, again!  This bill while again touting savings is a disaster for the injured worker, with no certainty on the savings to employers at all!  Just like SB899 where is the quid pro quo?  Injured workers lost, employers did not gain, insurance industry has record profits.  Every time insurance cries we respond – cut benefits further, costs don’t change to the employer, but we protect the insurance industries profit.  I guess that is all we (our legislators) care about.  SB899 hurt everyone except insurance.  Employers did not see a savings pass through, employees got benefits severely cut and the insurance industry found the loopholes to keep all the savings in the system to themselves in the way of profit.  It did not work.  This bill will not work either.  Big insurance wins again on the back of the injured workers.  Really who do you think will be controlling these IMR’s?  Do you really think they will be independent?  Of course not.  All of you legislators are smarter than that! Continued lies to the constituents in the name of getting a vote.  Sure why not, lets have the insurance industry controlling all phases of a claim.  Why fight it anymore.  What do we needs judges for anyway?  Lets keep them out of the loop on the most important phases of a claim.  That is exactly what this bill does.  Anyone who works in and with the system knows this.  More hypocrisy and idiocy.  Gov. Brown please talk to people who work in the system – please quit listening to big insurance or the politicians whose pockets are lined by them.  I for one do not believe the lies and will make sure anyone I talk to knows the truth.  Clearly the Workers’ Compensation system does not matter to you wealthy legislators who can buy whatever medical care you want.  Currently there are so many delays, denials, I haven’t seen one single case administered correctly or by the law since SB899 passed.  There was no swift delivery of medical care.  It did not happen.  Why?  No real penalties to the employer or insurer for denying claims early with no investigation – so most claims are denied regardless of whether the claim is viable.  Thus, there is no referral to medical care at all.  There is no penalty enough in the system to stop the behavior.  Further, people who filed claims were terminated in record numbers.  Thanks for leaving injured workers’ without a remedy at all!  Claims denied, employment terminated, no insurance so no medical care, no job so no money, months to get a panel QME (DIR very far behind), no one will agree to an AME, months even a year to get a med-legal eval., treatment after if you win, then UR reviews or should I say denials ….. ridiculous.  The injured worker is left with nothing while we administer the new system.  None of these problems are resolved by the new bill, just a lot more constraints on the IW with no remedy. We can’t even go before the WCAB on these issues.  Really we treat zoo animals better than injured workers’ – treatment when injured, a roof over their head and regular meals.  Workers’ compensation for low income individuals is the only way they can get care for their injury – this care was decimated by SB899 and gone, as far as I can tell with SB863.  What penalty for denying a claim within 24 hours of notice and not complying with §5401 and §5402??? None!! Really!!! So go ahead pass another set of laws that no one follows in the name of savings that are promised, but not realized, nor written into law.  Let’s continue to fix the system by literally continuing to break the injured workers’ back. No one seems to be listening to IW anyway.  Clearly money talks and money wins – insurance industry prevails again. Where is the penalty to them for not complying?  For not passing through savings?  For bad faith denial?  There is none – again. Please think twice before you really screw the people who voted for you – police, firefighter, telecommunications employees, nurses, city and county government workers, social workers, child welfare workers, teachers, doctors, attorneys – this is who I represent and always will.  Who do you?  Insurance? We’ll see.  I hope not.

    • msd says:

      Small Business, If rates go up and they will if it does not pass, the business will pay the increase. That is it there is no other answer…Rates go up  Jobs , new hires go away….

  2. Lizathomford says:

    I am a victim of workplace bullying by a huge healthcare organization.  Please do not sign the SB863. If anything please use the bil to stop employers bullying their employees. If they could afford to hire high paying managers to come in and set up employees for failure, than they can come in and set up employees for sucess. If employers would spend more tiime in having employees be sucessful in the workplace, we would save alot of money on Worker’s Compensation claims. Therefore, please listen to the victims of workplace bullying.  

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