OAKLAND, Calif., June 11, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- The Department of Industrial Relations (DIR) and the Division of Workers' Compensation (DWC) have teamed up with the Watsonville Law Center and U.C. Berkeley's Labor Occupational Health Program to promote the new booklet, Providing Medical Services to Low-Wage Workers with Job Injuries to California community health centers. The booklet is designed to encourage community health centers to implement financially sustainable workers' compensation programs that ensure low wage workers with illegally uninsured employers have access to medical treatment under workers' compensation.
"Our goal is to help overcome hurdles faced by injured workers seeking benefits when their employers are illegally uninsured," said DIR Director Christine Baker. "We are proud to partner with workers' advocates who recognize the importance of helping individuals with limited resources get the medical and disability benefits they deserve."
More than five million individuals make up the low-wage and underground-economy worker population in California, many of whom sustain injuries and illnesses because of the hazardous nature of their jobs. As a result, nearly two-thirds of all reports of serious work-related injuries and illnesses come from this population. Although employers are required to be insured for occupational injuries and illnesses, workers' compensation is often inaccessible to low-wage workers. Access to care through the workers' compensation system is important because the worker has access to future medical treatment for the injury or illness, and essential benefits that support the worker to rehabilitate and return to work.
"This effort is an on-going statewide collaborative of government and non-profit agencies committed to eliminating unique barriers faced by agricultural and other low-wage immigrant workers in the workers' compensation system," said Watsonville Law Center Executive Director Dori Rose Inda. "The overall goal of the collaboration is to improve workers' access to workers' compensation benefits through the development of effective statewide policies."
DIR anticipates community health centers who implement workers' compensation programs will support the Division of Workers' Compensation (DWC) efforts to expand Information and Assistance (I&A) office services to unrepresented injured workers who need help securing workers' compensation benefits from the Uninsured Employers Benefits Trust Fund (UEBTF). Through expanded services, the I&A officer identifies injured workers' employers and determines whether the employer has proper insurance coverage. Having an available and appropriate health care provider ensures DWC's efforts result in access to treatment, rehabilitation and return to work.
It is a crime for an employer to not carry workers' compensation insurance or have permission to be self-insured in California. Illegally uninsured employers are subject to prosecution, imprisonment, and penalties.
Information for employers, including answers to frequently asked questions such as, "Do I need to have workers' compensation insurance?" can be found on the DWC Web site.
Employees with work-related questions or complaints can call the California Workers' Information Hotline at 1-866-924-9757.
Dori Rose Inda
SOURCE California Department of Industrial Relations