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AUSTIN, Texas — The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is warning that California regulators are “unlikely to have a strong enough case” to hold private employers liable for their employees’ medical care, according to a lawsuit filed Wednesday in federal court in San Francisco.
The lawsuit seeks an injunction to prevent the state from imposing mandatory arbitration clauses in its public employee health plans, which could be used to limit or prohibit any union contract or contract dispute resolution process.
California’s new healthcare law, passed on March 6, requires public employers to provide coverage for health insurance coverage of employees who have been diagnosed with certain conditions and requires employers to cover all medical costs.
But the new law does not require employers to bargain with employees’ unions to obtain a contract that would bind them to a collective bargaining agreement.
That is the crux of the ACLU lawsuit, which was filed in January.
The new state law, called AB 983, is one of several in California that are expected to be adopted later this year.
It will require all employers to include health insurance in their collective bargaining agreements, but the ACLU is concerned that it would allow for the state to force employers to negotiate contracts with employees, which it says could undermine their ability to bargain collectively for better wages, benefits and working conditions.
In the lawsuit, ACLU attorneys say the new state statute “would require employers in California to bargain to exclude a class of members from the collective bargaining process.
It would compel them to pay out-of-pocket for their members’ medical costs, rather than allowing them to negotiate collectively to bargain on behalf of the group.
The new law would allow employers to lock out members of unions who are opposed to their employer’s proposed health plan.”
The law would also permit a public employee’s union to file a class action lawsuit in court, which would likely allow the state and the unions to jointly seek injunctions that would block the state law from taking effect.
The California labor secretary, Michael Hahn, said in a statement that the law “will not change the status quo in California.
The law provides clear protections for employees, while allowing employees to have the same opportunity for a fair and reasonable health plan as any other Californian.”
A number of other states are also drafting health care legislation to take effect on July 1, including New Jersey, New York and Minnesota.
In response to the lawsuit filed by the ACLU, the California Attorney General’s Office said in an emailed statement that, in the past, it has filed civil lawsuits to compel public employers and health insurers to enter into collective bargaining contracts and that, under the state’s new law, public employers are not required to bargain.
“The Attorney General has filed numerous civil lawsuits against employers in the state in the last decade seeking to compel them into collective agreements with public employees, including against Kaiser Permanente and other Kaiser companies.
In addition, the Attorney General also has filed several class actions seeking to force companies to provide employees with comprehensive benefits, including medical coverage and benefits for mental health and other health conditions,” the statement said.