What is a “Duty Belt” Back Injury Presumption?

Labor Code Section 3213.2, provides a special presumption for certain law enforcement officers who wear duty belts as a condition of their employment.

The Labor Code Section states as follows: “[i]n the case of a member of a police department of a city, county, or city and county, or a member of the sheriff’s office of a county, or a peace officer employed by the Department of the California Highway Patrol, or a peace officer employed by the University of California, who has been employed for at least five years as a peace officer on a regular, full-time salary and has been required to wear a duty belt as a condition of employment, the term “injury,” as used in this division, includes lower back impairments. The compensation that is awarded for lower back impairments shall include full hospital, surgical, medical treatment, disability indemnity, and death benefits as provided by the provisions of this division.

(b) The lower back impairment so developing or manifesting itself in the peace officer shall be presumed to arise out of and in the course of the employment. This presumption is disputable and may be controverted by other evidence, but unless so controverted, the appeals board is bound to find in accordance with it. This presumption shall be extended to a person following termination of service for a period of three calendar months for each full year of the requisite service, but not to exceed 60 months in any circumstance, commencing with the last date actually worked in the specified capacity.

(c) For purposes of this section, “duty belt” means a belt used for the purpose of holding a gun, handcuffs, baton, and other items related to law enforcement.”

Does it apply to my case?

The important issues for law enforcement personnel to see if the presumption applies is

  • Am I in a Department or Position in which the presumption may apply? It is recommended that this be verified with your Department.
  • Do I have the five years of being on regular full time salary where I was required to wear a duty belt? It is recommended that you check with your Department to verify your length of employment. Further, a case ruled that wearing a belt for a prior out-of-state law enforcement position did not count for the application of the presumption. Dach vs. WCAB (2008) 73 C.C.C. 1590
  • Did I wear the correct duty belt? There may be an issue of whether the belt was a “full duty” belt. Cases have been litigated over the presumption applying when the belt being one that was modified and did not carry the full accoutrement of law enforcement gear, ie weapon, etc.  In one circumstance, a modified belt was found not to carry the presumption.  In another case, there was language that suggested that a gun shoulder holster would not be considered as a duty belt for the purposes of the presumption.  Myers vs. City of Salinas (2008) 2008 CWCPD Lexis 13.

Other issues of import with respect to Labor Code Section 3213.2.  First, the presumption defeats claims of apportionment under Labor Code Section 4663.  Further, the presumption can also be raised for a period up to 60 months post employment. This, however, depends on the length of service.

At the Law Offices of Edward J. Singer, we specialize in helping our clients with their workers’ compensation claims. With more than 20 years of expertise in defending workers’ rights, we are here to assist with any questions a person in Southern or Central California who receives workers’ compensation may have. We welcome anyone who needs assistance to contact us today concerning any workers’ comp questions or issues.