The tides of the California’s workers’ comp system always come and go.
It was recently announced that Ronnie Caplane, Chairperson of the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board was stepping down. Caplane has accepted a post at Zenith Insurance. In future posts there will be more time to appraise details of her legacy at the helm of the WCAB during the turbulent years of the Schwarzenegger and Brown reforms.
But I’m sure I speak for many in the comp community who wish her well and are thankful for her years of service to workers, the law and the comp system itself.
Not to mention that we’ll miss her stand up routine delivered at many conferences reviewing the quality and usefulness of “schwag”, all of the goodies and promo pieces hawked by vendors.
One of Caplane’s strengths was that she did get out into the comp community to speak on trends the board was seeing. It was very helpful to many stakeholders to hear her speak on panels with other commissioners at conferences and trainings sponsored by key comp groups.
It hasn’t always been that way. In the past there were times when WCAB commissioners pretty much stayed holed up in their own institutional bunkers.
Caplane guided the WCAB through an era of immense transition. Both the SB 899 reforms of Schwarzenegger and SB 863 reforms of Brown landed in her lap as leader of the WCAB.
Her position required her to navigate a complex matrix of law and politics as head of the WCAB during those years.
Caplane stayed at the board longer than many who came in around the same time as her, including Commissioners Cuneo and Moresi.
In most any administration there are exits as time goes on, for reasons both personal and institutional.
In the past year we’ve seen the resignation of Destie Overpeck as the AD of California’s DWC, and the departure of Dr. Rupa Das as the Medical Director.
As the clock ticks on the Brown administration we may see other exits. Inevitably, there will be emerging faces in positions of authority.
Ultimately, however, Christine Baker and David Lanier continue to exert a firm hand on California workers’ comp policy. They have the Governor’s ear.
Whether there will be a strong hand leading the WCAB is uncertain, however. That role had been filled by Caplane and before her by Joe Miller.
At the moment the WCAB has several empty commissioner slots, and more could be coming. Deputy commissioners are often used. That makes it hard to put together meaningful en banc rulings,
Some of the results coming out of the board over the past few years have been inconsistent. On some issues the composition of board panels was key.
Looking way back in time to Jerry Brown’s first governorship, Brown appointed a group of WCAB commissioners seen to this day as pro-worker.
With so many vacancies, Brown has the opportunity to shape the WCAB again with the slots he fills and his choice of WCAB chairperson.