1960’s Law Blocks Firefighting Contractors from Suing the State: Craig Discusses the Wildfire Gig Economy in KQED Article

Due to a law passed in 1963, the families of private contractors who battle California wildfires can't hold the state legally accountable if their loved ones are killed or injured during a blaze. Additionally, contractors do not have the same protection as state employees, such as death benefits negotiated by their union. Cal Fire requires workers' compensation for the companies that provide them heavy equipment, including bulldozers and water trucks, as well as the workers to operate them, but as it turns out, several small firms that employed contractors who were killed were not carrying the required workers' compensation coverage.

KQED turned to Trial Team Leader Craig Peters, who explained that without those benefits, relatives of contractors killed in a wildfire are left with few options. "They (Cal Fire) win on both ends when they hire a contractor," Peters said. "They don't have to give them all the benefits of an employee and don't have to provide any benefits to them when they pass away because they can shield themselves."

"Just out of a pure issue of equity and fairness, they ought to be providing some benefits to those families, which would be those families being able to sue to get fair compensation," Peters added.

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