House of Representatives
Office of Program Research
Labor & Workplace Standards Committee
This analysis was prepared by non-partisan legislative staff for the use of legislative members in their deliberations. This analysis is not a part of the legislation nor does it constitute a statement of legislative intent.
Brief Description: Allowing industrial insurance coverage for posttraumatic stress disorders affecting law enforcement officers and firefighters.
Sponsors: Senate Committee on Labor & Commerce (originally sponsored by Senators Conway, Hobbs, Keiser, Van De Wege, Palumbo, Hasegawa, Rolfes, Ranker, Mullet, Saldaña, Kuderer and Wellman).
Hearing Date: 2/15/18
Staff: Joan Elgee (786-7106).
Under the state's industrial insurance laws, a worker who, in the course of employment, is injured or suffers disability from an occupational disease is entitled to certain benefits. An "occupational disease" is one that arises naturally and proximately out of employment.
The law directs the Department of Labor and Industries (Department) to adopt a rule that claims based on mental conditions or mental disabilities caused by stress are excluded from occupational disease. The Department's rule provides examples of excluded conditions, including conditions or disabilities resulting from:
relationships with supervisors, coworkers, or the public;
work load pressures;
fear of exposure to hazards; or
objective or subjective stresses of employment.
In contrast, the rule provides that stress resulting from exposure to a single traumatic event, such as actual or threatened death, assault, or life-threatening injury, may constitute an industrial injury. The exposure may be from directly experiencing the event, witnessing it, or having extreme exposure to aversive details of the traumatic event.
The Law Enforcement Officers' and Fire Fighters' Retirement System (LEOFF) provides payment of death, disability, and retirement benefits to law enforcement officers and firefighters. "Law enforcement officer" includes full-time commissioned county sheriffs, deputy sheriffs, and city police. "Firefighter" includes full-time city and county firefighters, city and county firefighter supervisory personnel, certain other firefighters, and specified full-time emergency medical technicians (EMTs) who provide emergency medical services.
For full-time city and county firefighters and city and county firefighter supervisory personnel who are members of the LEOFF and certain private sector firefighters, there are presumptions that certain medical conditions are occupational diseases. These conditions are: (1) respiratory disease; (2) heart problems; (3) specified cancers; and (4) infectious diseases. For cancers, the firefighter must have served at least 10 years before the cancer develops or manifests itself and received a qualifying medical examination upon becoming a firefighter that showed no evidence of cancer.
The presumptions of occupational disease (presumption) may be rebutted by a preponderance of evidence, including: (1) use of tobacco products; (2) physical fitness and weight; (3) lifestyle; (4) hereditary factors; and (5) exposure from other employment or non-employment activities. In addition, the presumption does not apply to a firefighter who develops a heart or lung condition and who is a regular user of tobacco products or who has a history of tobacco use.
Summary of Bill:
An exemption is created to the requirement that the Department adopt rules excluding claims based on mental conditions or disabilities from occupational disease for posttraumatic stress disorders (PTSD). The exception applies to:
those firefighters, both public and private, covered by the occupational disease presumptions;
EMTs who are members of LEOFF; and
full-time commissioned county sheriffs, deputy sheriffs, and city police who are members of LEOFF.
As a condition of the exemption, individuals hired after the effective date of the bill must submit to a psychological examination as a condition of employment, unless the employer does not provide an examination. A psychiatrist or psychologist licensed in the state must administer the examination and must rule out the presence of PTSD from pre-employment exposures. PTSD is not considered an occupational disease if the disorder is directly attributed to disciplinary action, work evaluation, job transfer, layoff, demotion, termination, or similar action taken in good faith by an employer.
An occupational disease presumption is established for PTSD for the same individuals covered by the exception to claims based on stress. The presumption applies only if the PTSD develops or manifests itself after the individual has served at least 10 years.
PTSD is a disorder that meets the diagnostic criteria for posttraumatic stress specified by the American Psychiatric Association in the Diagnostic and Statistics Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition, or in a later edition as adopted by the Department in rule.
Fiscal Note: Preliminary fiscal note available.
Effective Date: The bill takes effect 90 days after adjournment of the session in which the bill is passed.