A bill has landed on Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan’s desk that would move state correctional officers into a category of public service employees who already get a higher level of Workers’ Compensation benefits in certain situations. As of this April 4 writing, WorkCompCentral reports that HB 205 passed through both houses of the legislature almost unanimously, but the governor has not indicated whether he supports the change.
Current public safety employee enhanced benefits
Currently, Maryland statute provides that a “public safety employee” like a firefighter, paramedic, police officer and certain others who are given a Workers’ Compensation award of permanent partial disability lasting less than 75 weeks are compensated at a rate of two-thirds of his or her average weekly wage (but not over one-third of the state average weekly wage).
By contrast, other kinds of employees with the same awards in the state are paid only one-third of average weekly wage (but not over 16.7 percent of the state average weekly wage).
Proposal in the new bill
The new bill would add “state correctional officer” to the definition of public safety employee for purposes of this enhanced benefit for claims originating on or after October 1, 2018. (Interestingly, the existing law does include correctional officers in only Prince George’s County and Montgomery County as well as “detention officers” in Anne Arundel County.)
The legislative Fiscal and Policy Note attached to the bill says that if signed into law, the bill would “significantly” increase certain state expenditures as a result. The Note also explains that correctional officers have “one of the highest rates of injury and illness … due primarily to confrontations with inmates,” citing the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics or BLS. BLS also notes that because inmates must be continually secured, these officers may work overnight hours and weekend or holiday hours.
Gov. Hogan on his official website says that he supports decreasing state spending, but he also touts support of “public safety,” so we will watch to see whether he signs this bill that would benefit hard-working correctional officers.