Public Unions

Should California Deputies at the Vegas Shooting Get Worker's Comp?

Orange County denied a workers comp claim by deputies who attended the concert at Mandalay Bay and say they sustained injuries responding to it.


The Orange County deputy sheriffs' union president, in a recent interview with the Orange County Register, made a shockingly cynical statement about the men and women he represents. His words probably were meant as a rhetorical device to muscle county taxpayers into paying some controversial workers' compensation claims, but I was nonetheless floored by what Tom Dominguez was quoted saying.

"The county has to be very cautious in these cases," Dominguez told the newspaper. "If they deny the claims, then the message that they're sending to their peace officers is not to take action when it is certainly warranted."

Dominguez was referring to four unnamed county deputies who attended country singer Jason Aldean's Oct. 1 concert in Las Vegas, where a gunman murdered 59 people and injured 527 others. The deputies were on their personal time and were in Clark County, Nevada, not Orange County, California, yet they argue that California residents should pay for their physical and psychological injuries.

Orange County this week rejected the request, but it's likely to end up in court. Other counties and cities also are dealing with the same issue, according to the newspaper.

Like most government employees, Orange County deputy sheriffs receive extremely generous medical, sick leave, disability and vacation benefits. Their injuries should be covered given that they weren't at the concert for work. But these deputies seek the extra benefit of workers' compensation, which preserves their accumulated leave and allows longer periods of paid time off.

The newspaper didn't have details of the particular claims, but noted that "several Orange County deputies at the Route 91 Harvest festival quickly assumed life-saving roles—protecting the perimeter of the area with a shotgun in one case and administering medical care in other instances." When the shooting began, they used their skills to help out. They deserve to be applauded for their efforts in such a tense situation. Good for them.

The policy question, however, is whether deputies behaving as they are trained to behave opens a treasure-trove of work-related benefits—even if they were in a non-work situation in another county and neighboring state. Arguing that they are entitled to the benefits is a stretch, but let's focus mainly on what the union president had to say. He seemed to suggest that if the county doesn't agree to these extra benefits that other deputy sheriffs might not be willing to take action in a future, dangerous situation.

Am I the only one appalled by that suggestion?

Frankly, I don't believe that's so. It's rather insulting to imply that California deputies and police officers would not protect and help their fellow citizens in an emergency situation if they weren't able to later file a workers' compensation claim. Sure, union bosses press the case for every conceivable benefit. Indeed, Dominguez said he went to Las Vegas and encouraged deputies to file claims. But his statement inadvertently maligns the motives of the people he is paid to represent.

My daughter is a nurse and acts like one, even when she's off-duty. I've been on planes when doctors are called on to, well, behave like doctors. That's what makes us human. News reports about the Vegas massacre are filled with touching stories of average folks who used their abilities to assist injured people. They aided and protected their fellow concertgoers. How many of the other injured can now file workers' compensation claims for acting like menschen in the midst of a terrible tragedy?

Dominguez also said the sheriff's department expects its deputies to "take action" in these dangerous situations, whether they are on or off duty. That's commendable, especially given current case law. The California and U.S. high courts have reaffirmed what's known as the "public duty doctrine." Basically, officers have no legal duty to help anyone in particular even when they are on duty. They merely have a duty to protect the "public at large."

In this situation, that means that the officers clearly behaved as they chose to behave, not how they were required to behave. That was correct. But had they taken cover or run away, they would have been within their rights. The sheriff's department admirably expects its deputies to respond properly even off duty, but they are not legally required to do so. How can these concertgoers then demand public benefits for behaving that way?

Former San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed (D), an advocate for public-pension reform, once argued that all the pension spiking and runaway benefit costs common in the public sector led to a "corruption of the attitude of public service." It follows that a culture of gaming the system erodes the very essence of "service." Police unions speak of officers as "heroes." The work can often be dangerous, of course, but playing the workers' comp and other benefit systems undermines that ennobling concept.

Heroes endure personal danger to protect others. They would never get the message, as Dominguez said, "not to take action when it is certainly warranted" if they worry that their extra benefit claim might not be approved. I find that inference disturbing.

This column was first published in the Orange County Register.


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  1. I would hope any judge seeing this case would laugh the plaintiffs out of court, but I won’t be holding my breath for it.

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  2. After California secedes, they will need a visa to travel to Vegas, and DHS should refuse all visa requests, so the problem will go away.

    And who cares about a few hundred thousand dollars of extra costs in California? Just tax the rich a little more; maybe a 50% tax on filing sex abuse claims against Harvey after the first 100. (to be clear, he pays the tax)

    1. Democrats will never let California secede, just like Republicans will never allow Puerto Rico statehood, for the same reason: votes

      1. Puerto Rico is not that many votes but Commifornia is.

        Demographics are always changing. Taxifornia used to be a Republican stronghold.

        1. It’s still a better place to live than in any of the lower 49

          1. Keep telling yourself that and maybe someday you’ll believe it.

            Even the infliated wages there aren’t enough to maintain the standard of living I have here. And I don’t have to deal with pretentious CA cocks, either.

            BTW, quite a few states are above CA. Using any definition you choose.

      2. *** keeps eye on Catalonia ***

        1. It’s spelled “Catalina”.

          1. Catalunya!

      3. Which just goes to prove that the Democrats are in it just to make everyone miserable. Here they have the chance to make heaven on Earth, but they balk. Now, give TX 3/4 of an excuse and they’re gone, and much of “The West” (and probably The South) with them. Oh, to be free of D.C., Boston, LA, Seattle, NYC, Chicago, etc. Ahhhhh.

      4. Too late, Puerto Rico is now called Florida.
        The hero of Benghazi only lost that state by 112,911 votes. More than that number of refugees have arrived since the environmental cleansing.
        So California has to go. Ideally taking Hawaii and Washington state, with Oregon as a territory. Let’s call the new nation Pacifica. 73 blue electoral votes gone, no loss.

        1. You consider losing almost a quarter of the nation’s GDP? no loss? Really?
          That’s incredibly short-sighted of you.

          1. Yeah but they’d take about a third of the welfare recipients, too.
            Good trade.

          2. And more than a quarter of its expenditures. Yes, really.

            Nor would the new country live in a vacuum. It would trade with the US. And if it wants to argue over prices, it needs to remember what nation its rivers come from.

    2. You won’t need a visa, just show your passport. It’ll be like Canada.

      1. Why? there wouldn’t be any agreement with the new nation as their secession would nullify any existing reciprocity and force new negotiations on how they should be treated. You can’t just wish them into NAFTA or other trade agreements after they reject them.

  3. Since police and deputies are “law enforcement officials” they are charged with enforcing the law, and only enforcing the law.

    They do not serve the public; they do not protect the public; they enforce the law, only.

    I’m curious as to what California law these deputies were enforcing in a different state?

    1. So you would prefer off duty officers to not bother assisting you if you are in danger?
      They were acting as law enforcement officers, they should be granted workman’s comp. It’s not like they were getting paid to provide private security.

      1. Sarc, I hope.

      2. If they were acting as ‘law enforcement officers’ then they were completely in the wrong. Because they weren’t law enforcement officers. Once they crossed the border into Nevada they were ‘little people like all the others’.

        No, I don’t want outside cops running around pretending to be cops outside their jurisdictions. I don’t like the ‘you’re a LEO 24/7’ concept. I don’t even like that cops in the majority of places are LEO’s throughout the state rather than just in the jurisdiction they are hired to work in.

        They want to run around like citizens, help like citizens, that would be awesome. But outside CA they’re not cops.

        They weren’t working and can’t even claim exigent circumstances put them back on duty (like they could if this had happened in CA – where they *are* cops). *If* they helped and suffered injuries for it – they’re in the same boat as any other person at that concert – start a GoFundMe.

      3. They acted on their own, with no legal or contractual obligation. They were not ‘on the clock’. If they had ‘sheltered in place’ or run away, they would not have been subject to disciplinary action by their employer.
        So workman’s comp simply doesn’t apply.

        No, they were not acting ‘as law enforcement officers’. They were, on their own choice, acting like well-trained citizens willing to risk their lives helping others. Admirable, yes. Praiseworthy. Award-worthy. Heroic even. But that still doesn’t change the Workman’s Comp rules.

        No matter what your job is, if you get injured while you’re *not on the job*, workman’s comp doesn’t apply.

        1. Not real impressed about what type of medical care they could offer, either! But, they were not on the job. As a physician, I could not get workman’s comp. If I got injured by an irate patient in the ER, I would have had no insurance for it! I certainly would not have any coverage at an accident scene.

  4. If no dogs are killed, was a Sheriff really there?

  5. Basically, officers have no legal duty to help anyone in particular even when they are on duty.

    As Steven noted, there’s the out: “Basically, the taxpayers have no legal duty to help any officer in particular even when xi is off duty.”

    1. The real out is that they weren’t officers during the time of the event. In CA they’re cops *all the time* – so an injury there could be reasonably linked to their duty. In Nevada they’re not cops at all. Once you cross that border you’re ‘off the clock’ for realsies.

  6. So I want to make sure I understand this correctly: Some policemen are filing for workers comp for something that happened off-duty, a union rep vaguely suggested that if they don’t get that workers comp, that policemen will be less likely to commit good Samaritan deeds while off-duty in the future, and Mr. Greenhut is getting offended on the cops behalf, but doesn’t actually present any evidence to why the “insulting” suggestion is actually wrong?

    Um, yeah… we pay police and other emergency responders because we know that if we don’t, they probably won’t respond. Part of it is the network, the infrastructure to ensure and enable speedy response, but the other part is that humans are very good at “not my monkey, not my circus” mentalities, and ignoring situations where they could help.

    So if you want off-duty cops, nurses, doctors and so-on to help-out when they aren’t obligated to do so? Then you should incentivize it. Whether it’s by passing “Good Samaritan” laws that shield doctors and nurses from malpractice suits for interceding, by rallying up donations to reward folks for helping, or yes, by paying works comp claims.

    So sure. The suggestion is “insulting”. But it’s also true.

    1. To be clear, I don’t actually care one way or the other regarding whether the cops get workers comp.

      But the union rep wasn’t wrong, even if it was “insulting”.

    2. So, like, police officers in like, California, say, get this thing called “health insurance”. If they get sick or injured while on duty then the worker’s comp covers it, but imagine say they get injured while not on duty. Then it’s the health insurance that covers it.

      What exactly is the problem here again?

      1. What exactly is the problem here again?

        Deciding that because you’re insulted by something, that something must not be true.

      2. “Health insurance” doesn’t pay for everything, like co-pays for visits, which are not collected if it is covered by worker’s comp. Similarly, if they need medical time off, worker’s comp pays for it, versus having to use their own sick-leave.

    3. Maybe I’m being overly cynical, but I took the quote to mean that, since he believes the officers in Vegas should receive workers comp then they were, essentially, on duty. And if they’re denied the comp then next time when “action is warranted” they might not respond, whether on or off duty.

      This is, afterall, a union president being quoted. Pandering, shameful threats are what he does.

      1. I don’t think you’re being overly cynical, I just don’t think the rep is wrong.

        And that’s regardless of whether the cops should or shouldn’t get the workers comp.

    4. And you’re thinking is exactly why progressives are such bad citizens and human beings.

      Should the people who responded by helping their fellow citizens sue the cities they live in for the benefits of first responders because they got others out of harms way or to medical assistance? I mean, if you want people to help each other you should pay top dollar for them to do so. That is your argument and there isn’t anything special about off duty officers versus former military, off duty security, or just decent human beings.

      1. According to conservatives every cop is a hero. As our sheepdogs how could they need compensation to continue protecting us sheep? Isn’t it just in their nature?

    5. These are CA cops in NV. Denying them WC for this is very different from denying CA cops comp for this if it had happened in CA.

      These guys weren’t actually cops during the duration of their stay out of state. They didn’t have an ‘enhanced duty’ to respond. In fact, being from another state, its more likely that they’ll screw up the local response than help it along.

      After all, that’s what we’re told will happen in these situations if non-cops are allowed to run around armed.

      1. Most states have reciprocal agreements about peace officers from other states doing their duty out of their home jurisdiction. Such as when they come to pick up an extradited criminal. They don’t do a hand-off at the border.
        Similarly, a peace officer from one state may carry a concealed weapon in another state.
        Stop relying on TV cop shows for your information – going into another jurisdiction isn’t that big a deal.

        It is completely different than not wanting untrained yahoos, running around armed.

  7. Did New York pay for John McClane’s workers comp, or did California pick up the bill?

  8. California’s Finest.

  9. I would need to know more about the nature of the injuries.

    If they sustained injuries as bystanders and then helped, then no workman’s comp.

    If they sustained injuries as a direct consequence of their “police” actions, then I am not allergic to giving them workman’s comp.

    I need to know if they got shot while storming the hotel room, or if they twisted their ankles and want to milk the system.

    If they are using this as an opportunity to milk the system, then I don’t mind taking a hard line to invite them to fck off. If some future good samaritan cop fails to act as a result, then that is on the assholes who got greedy.

    But where the hell did they get a shotgun? Did Nevada cops just start handing them out.

    1. They weren’t NV cops so they weren’t storming the hotel room.

      As for the shotgun – its sad that if an NV cop brought a gun into CA he’d get thrown in jail.

  10. If Donald Trump wanted to build a wall around California, I would vote for him in 2020. There, I said it.

    1. As a California native and someone who loathes trump, I would join you in your vote.

      1. That will change I’m sure as soon as a dem is in the white house.

    2. Joking aside, that “Freedom of Movement”, recognized since 1823 in Corfield v. Corywel, is a major reason Federalism hasn’t worked out too well.

    3. Snake Plisken can save any libertarians that get inadvertently trapped inside when the wall appears.

    4. If the Go-Pee platform says to build a wall around California, the party salesman will say exactly that. Republicans avoided nominating any slimeball politician everyone wants to see dead. Instead they picked a real estate hustler, copied the libertarian energy and gun planks, and got government jobs. All the Dems had to do was also copy the LP energy and gun planks (so they cancelled), but go one better and also copy the LP relegalization plank. But nooooo…

  11. I’m not a fan of Trump either, but a lot of these proggy states were talking about seceding when Bush was president too. Personally, I think any state, or group of states, should be allowed to break away-it could solve a lot of problems.

  12. Worker’s Comp has outlived its usefulness.
    Now that everyone has insurance (by law), there is no need for double coverage. Repeal Workers Comp as part of the tax reform. (and as long as I am dreaming, give every kid a pony with the savings)

  13. Cops are the worst of us.

  14. I’m as liberal as the day is long, and I’ve been a supporter of Labor since I understood the term.
    But the idea of getting workman’s comp for an injury sustained while the employee was not ‘on the clock’ is ludicrously stupid.

    Of course, if we had a REAL healthcare system in this country – one designed to get injured taxpayers off of disability and back to work asap, without endless bickering about who is going to PAY – we wouldn’t have problems like this, as everyone would have the exact same ability to get their injuries treated without going bankrupt.


    1. Obama put the system you desire in place, maybe you missed the headlines.

      Everyone HAS to buy insurance. It is GOOD coverage, the feds say so; in fact, it is illegal to buy ‘bad’ insurance.

      There is no argument about who pays, the insurance company pays the provider, the feds pay the insurance company, you pay the insurance company, you pay the government.

      Happy now?

  15. Their contract would spell out under what circumstances they get workers comp. And that description will state that they have to be injured on the job. On vacation in Vegas is not on the job. They do have very good personal health care benefits (judging by the several cops I know here in California) which would supply the necessary benefits for an off work injury. This is the established pattern.

    The fact that they responded (although to what I don’t know..The guy was shooting down randomly from the 23rd floor, so what did they actually respond to?) means nothing. They were not on duty in their work area.

    And the author actually touched on the crux of the matter when he mentioned his daughter responding ‘as any mensch would’:

    News reports about the Vegas massacre are filled with touching stories of average folks who used their abilities to assist injured people. They aided and protected their fellow concertgoers. Does everyone get to file a claim with the SoCal Worker’s Comp Dept? Nonsense.

    1. “And that description will state that they have to be injured on the job.”
      Do you have a quote/link for that?
      ipulleditoutofmyass, dot, com doesn’t count.
      People employed as first responders are told that they are automatically on the job, when called upon to perform duties of the variety they would if on duty.
      This is a bit of a stretch, but not a huge one.
      What could an “on the job” cop do, on the ground, in such a situation? Help others to take cover and see what other efforts they could make to alleviate the situation or remove the threat, even if by herding people to areas their experience would tell them was more out of the line of fire.
      Others, not similarly trained, might do the opposite.
      If nothing else, they should have been able to keep their wits about them, when almost anyone else would be losing theirs.
      If you are OK with trained, non-panicked people, just taking care of themselves and no one else, cool.
      Past experiences have been showings of appreciation when they did their duty and made sure they weren’t told, if they became injured; “tough shit, buddy.”
      Does being a libertarian mean you have no appreciation, or is it just that cops are the ones who stop you from smoking some weed?

      1. As a physician, I never worried about any Good Samaritan laws. I never got sued for helping at an accident scene! I could not get workman’s comp, at all. I was told only my employees were covered! So, no! They do not deserve, or are qualified, for just doing something any compassionate human should do!

  16. Virtually the entire contingent of retired CHP is on disability (even though many are moonlighting as small town LE). Couldn’t believe it when I read about 15 years ago. PTSD, don’t you know. I’m sure that disability dollars not being taxable has nothing at all to do with this PTSD epidemic. They should write a how-to guide on pension scamming.

    So this only gets a yawn from me.

    1. Sort of like all the Air Force officers, flight qualified as a requirement of their job, who magically get grounded for a disability on their last physical before retirement. That changes their retirement pay (taxable) to disability pay (not taxable)

      At least it was that way on the dark past when I actually knew stuff. Now than men are women, and women are something else, and a pick-up line is sexual assault, and fascism is right-wing, and Russians paid by Hillary got Trump elected, I am not so sure of anything.

  17. So would a National Guard soldier injured at the concert get a Purple Heart?

  18. Hey now, they have it tough enough “retiring” at 50 with 3 percent of their max salary per year worked. They deserve a little break (other than getting six figures for 30+ years for doing nothing).

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