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Understanding duty belt presumption for public safety officers

On Behalf of | Jun 29, 2023 | Workers' Compensation |

While all jobs pose health and safety risks to workers, some occupations expose workers more to risks. One example of this is public safety officers. For this reason, certain labor laws allow public safety officers to benefit from presumptions, such as duty belt, that can help them with their workers’ compensation claims.

How does the presumption benefit injured officers?

In a typical workers’ compensation case, the burden to prove that an injury or illness is work-related lies with the worker making the claim. However, the same burden of proof may not apply to certain public safety officers.

Under California labor laws, if an officer sustains a lower back impairment, the presumption is that it arises out of and during the job. This specifically applies to officers who must always wear a duty belt during work and subsequently suffer from back issues. This presumption makes it easier for public safety officers to qualify for workers’ compensation benefits.

Only qualifying officers enjoy the presumption

While it is relatively easier for public safety officers to qualify for workers’ compensation benefits, there are other requirements that they must meet to fully enjoy the entitlement. This includes the following conditions:

  • The applicant must be a police or peace officer in California
  • The applicant must be regularly employed and earning full time for at least five years as a police or peace officer
  • The applicant is required to wear a duty belt as part of their employment

Notably, the presumption still applies to a person terminated from service for three months for each full year of the required service. However, the presumption shall not exceed 60 months.

The presumption is disputable

The duty belt presumption is not absolute. If evidence shows that the officer sustains the injury in any other way than their work, the workers’ compensation claim will likely be rejected.

The duty belt presumption is a unique concept in workers’ compensation claims. As such, it may be challenging to navigate, especially for those with little to no knowledge of the workers’ compensation system. It is essential for workers to understand their rights and available benefits, which is possible through research and expert consultation.