Honeywell v. WCAB, 104 Cal. App. 4th 829 (2002)

The Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board (“WCAB”) found that Honeywell had breached its duty to provide its employee, William Wagner, with a workers’ compensation claim form after it became “reasonably certain” of Wagner’s alleged psychiatric injury. As a result, the WCAB held that the 90-day period to contest the alleged injury began and expired without a rejection of Wagner’s claimed injury, which was, therefore, presumed compensable. The Court of Appeal reversed the WCAB’s judgment, holding that Labor Code § 5401 requires the employer to provide a claim form to the injured employee “within one working day of receiving notice or knowledge of injury” not when the employer is “reasonably certain” of an injury as the WCAB erroneously held. The Court further held that absent grounds for estoppel (e.g., the employer’s deliberate refusal to provide a claim form or false statements made to the employee), the 90-day period for rejecting liability does not begin to run until the completed claim form has been filed with the employer. Cf. Catalina Car Wash, Inc. v. Department of Industrial Relations, 105 Cal. App. 4th 162 (2003) (employer was improperly assessed a $21,000 penalty for failing to produce a workers’ compensation insurance policy during an inspection since coverage existed as a matter of law).