Earlier this year, the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board (WCAB) issued an instructive decision in the case of Ayala v. Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation/Lancaster State Prison. The Board found that it has the authority to increase IDL payments by 50% on the grounds of an employer’s serious and willful misconduct. Here, our Fresno workers’ compensation defense attorney provides an in-depth analysis of the WCAB’s decision.

Case Review: Ayala v. Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation/Lancaster State Prison

The Background

A workers’ compensation claim is generally the sole remedy that an injured worker has against their employer. Though, there are some exceptions. Under California Labor Code § 4553, a worker who sustains harm as a consequence of “serious and willful misconduct” by an employer may be entitled to a 50% increase in their workers’ compensation benefits.

Another key background point is that some state workers do not receive workers’ compensation benefits if they are hurt on the job. As explained by the California Office of Human Resources, some state workers are covered by an alternative type of benefit called Industrial Disability Leave (IDL). IDL is a salary continuation program specifically created as a workers’ compensation alternative.

The Facts

The applicant in this case worked as a correctional officer at Lancaster State Prison. He suffered severe injuries resulting in an 85% permanent disability when he was attacked by an inmate at the facility. The applicant was issued IDL benefits. He also filed a serious and willful misconduct claim against his employer because the attack occurred because of safety violations at the prison. 

The Legal Issue

The central legal question in this case: Does the WCAB have the right to award additional IDL benefits on the grounds of serious and willful misconduct? While the injured worker argued that it was appropriate, the employer countered that doing so was outside of the scope of the Board’s powers.

The Decision

Upon review, the WCAB emphasizes that it does not have the authority to order Industrial Disability Leave (IDL) payments. However, the WCAB found that it does have the legal jurisdiction to increase IDL payments that have already been approved by 50% if there has been a finding of serious and willful misconduct on the part of the employer.

The Bottom Line: State employers that provide IDL coverage can still be held liable to pay an additional 50% of benefits for serious and willful misconduct. 

Speak to a Fresno, CA Workers’ Compensation Defense Lawyer Today

At Yrulegui & Roberts, our California workers’ compensation defense attorneys are diligent and reliable advocates for clients. We have extensive experience representing employers, insurance carriers, and claims administrators in complex serious and willful misconduct claims. To arrange a confidential consultation, please call us now or send us a message online. We provide workers’ compensation defense services in Fresno County and throughout all of Central California.