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ca labor code 4850
June 21, 2024

California Labor Code 4850 Overview & Example Scenarios

Legally reviewed by: Jessica Anvar Stotz, JD, MBA

California Labor Code 4850 is a labor code that involves the payment of disability for public safety workers like police officers, inspectors and investigators, and lifeguards.

For these employees, if they are disabled in the course of their work, they receive a leave of absence without a loss in salary instead of the standard temporary or permanent disability payments.

California Labor Code 4850 Explained in 90 Seconds

This labor code primarily operates as an exception to the general rule of employees receiving temporary disability payments. It carves out a specific group of employees, public safety workers, and designates a separate payment system for those workers.

The relevant workers, if disabled in the course of their employment either temporarily or permanently, are entitled to a leave of absence without a loss of salary while they are disabled instead of receiving the standard temporary disability benefits. This leave of absence lasts for a maximum of one year, or until the worker begins receiving a permanent disability pension, whichever is first.

Labor Code 4850 lists many employees who are covered by the code. They include:

  • City police officers;
  • City, county, or district firefighters;
  • Sheriffs;
  • Officers or employees of any sheriff’s offices;
  • Inspectors, investigators, detectives, or personnel with comparable titles in any district attorney’s office;
  • County probation officers, group counselors, or juvenile services officers;
  • Officers or employees of a probation office;
  • Peace officers employed on a regular, full-time basis by a county of the first class;
  • Lifeguards employed year-round on a regular, full-time basis by a county of the first class or by the City of San Diego;
  • Airport law enforcement officers;
  • Harbor or port police officers, wardens, or special officers of a harbor or port district or city or county harbor department;
  • Police officers of the Los Angeles Unified School District.

California Labor Code 4850 then explicitly lists some workers who are not covered but who may be thought to be covered. These include more administrative positions within public safety work, like stenographers, clerks, mechanics, and so on.

Who is Covered Under Labor Code 4850?

To be covered under California Labor Code 4850, an employee must be included on the list already provided. These employees are, generally speaking, full-time employed public safety officers working for a city, county, or state. Public safety agencies, like probation offices, are also included.

Employes who work in the public safety industry but do not directly contribute to active law enforcement are not covered by Labor Code 4850.

What Benefits Does Labor Code 4850 Provide?

The main benefit that Labor Code 4850 provides is an alternative, more generous, form of disability leave than would otherwise be provided by California law. Employees covered by the Code are provided with a paid leave of absence that can last up to a year. Their salary is maintained throughout this leave of absence.

It is worth noting that situations where a permanent disability is at play can become more complicated and cut this year-long period short. Permanent disability situations are different and not covered by California Labor Code 4850, other than that they cut the one-year leave of absence short once the employee begins receiving a permanent disability pension.

What Does “Full Salary” Mean Under Labor Code 4850?

The term “full salary” generally means what it sounds like: the employee will receive their full base pay, regular overtime, and certain allowances that were standard when the employee worked. There can be some fuzziness around the edges regarding what “full salary” includes: employees are encouraged to discuss this with their employers to get a better idea, so they are best informed in case they ever find themselves utilizing California Labor Code 4850.

When Does the Leave Period Begin and End?

The leave described by Labor Code 4850 begins once the employee becomes disabled and is no longer able to work. It ends after the one-year period already discussed, or if the exceptions take place. Those exceptions are if the employee retires on permanent disability pension or if they begin receiving advance disability pension payments. In summary, a temporary disability will result in a leave of absence for one year, while a permanent one will result in a leave of absence for that year unless the employee retires, at which point it ends.

What Happens if My Employer Denies My Leave Under Labor Code 4850?

An employer who denies the leave provided by California Labor Code 4850 would be in violation of California law and could be sued by the employee not receiving their leave of absence. Employees choosing this route should carefully select an experienced employment attorney to ensure the best chance of succeeding in the case. Even if the employee does not choose to go through with a lawsuit, consulting with an employment attorney is a vital step in becoming informed about the available options.

Employees could also file an official grievance with the appropriate agency, depending on who the employee works for. If nothing else works, a lawsuit is likely the best choice in terms of securing compensation for the withheld leave.

Example Scenarios

Example 1: Police officer temporarily disabled, refused leave.

  • Scenario: A police officer is injured during a police raid and breaks his arm, resulting in him being unable to work. He claims he is entitled to a leave of absence according to Labor Code 4850, but his employer disagrees and does not permit him to leave.
  • Violation: Improper refusal of leave of absence.
  • How Labor Code 4850 Protects: Under Labor Code 4850, this employee would likely be entitled to a leave of absence because he is suffering from a temporary disability that makes it so that he cannot perform his official duties. The employer here is in the wrong for denying this leave of absence.

Example 2: Lifeguard temporarily disabled, given lower salary during leave.

  • Scenario: A San Diego lifeguard is temporarily disabled saving a swimmer from the ocean. He is placed on the year-long leave of absence, but his employer only pays him 90% of his salary at the time of becoming temporarily disabled.
  • Violation: Failure to pay full salary during leave of absence.
  • How Labor Code 4850 Protects: Under Labor Code 4850, employees must receive their full salary during their leave of absence. In this case, receiving only 90% of the salary would be inappropriate and a violation of California law.

Example 3: Mechanic injured, claims Labor Code 4850 benefits.

  • Scenario: A police vehicle mechanic is injured while working and becomes temporarily disabled. He claims that because he works for law enforcement, he should be getting the Labor Code 4850 leave of absence. His employer complies with his demands.
  • Violation: Improper providing of Labor Code 4850 leave of absence.
  • How Labor Code 4850 Protects: Labor Code 4850 does not apply to certain individuals that work in law enforcement but do not actively enforce the law themselves. Mechanics are included in this category and do not benefit from the leave of absence Labor Code 4850 provides. The employer in this case would be wrong for providing it anyway.

Important Note: The above situations are merely examples designed to demonstrate the function of California Labor Code 4850. They are not representative of real legal conclusions or results and should not be taken as such.

Resources for Employers and Employees

  1. California Labor Code 4850
  2. California Department of Industrial Relations
  3. California Department of Industrial Relations – Division of Labor Standards Enforcement
  4. CalPERS Home Page
  5. CalPERS: Leave of Absence

Connect with an Attorney

Public officials in California do some of the most important work to keep our communities safe and running smoothly. Like all other workers, they deserve to have strong protections under California labor codes.

Unfortunately, employers still sometimes neglect to or intentionally withhold the paid leaves of absence employees are entitled to under Labor Code 4850. If you are a public official who has had your leave of absence due to disability withheld, you should contact an employment attorney today.

That process can be confusing and complicated, which is why LawLinq is here to assist you. LawLinq is an attorney referral service that connects aggrieved employees with skilled and experienced employment attorneys. These attorneys can evaluate your case and give you advice as to your next steps. Don’t delay! Contact us at (855) 997-2588 today or fill out an online form on our website here.

About the Author

Jessica Anvar

California Consumer Litigation Attorney Jessica Anvar, Esq. is the Founder and Managing Partner of Lemon Law Experts California’s leading lemon law firm. She has multiple years’ worth of experience working with both state and federal lemon laws. Her practice focuses exclusively on consumer protection cases. Ms. Anvar received her J.D. from Loyola Law School. She also earned a Master of Business Administration degree from Loyola Marymount University. Jessica is very active in her local legal community and has helped thousands of clients across the state of California. She has an outstanding record as a true advocate for consumers.

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