You stated that your letter referred to Govt. Code 21173. My reference to the appeal provided for in Govt. Code 21156(b)(2) is based upon the same section of law. Therefore, I believe that my reference is correct, unless the letter misstates the applicable law (which seems unlikely).
Anyway, that said, the website prohibits us from providing direct referrals. And, I believe it may be a violation of California law to provide a referral to anything other than the State Bar Certified Lawyer Referral services (click here
). It also seems to me that the union ought to have a list of attorneys who handle these cases. I presume that your reference to the retired Northern Cal attorney who used to handle these cases implies that he or she was the lawyer that the union would generally recommend.
The core issue is proving that you are in fact totally disabled, as a practical matter, and unless you can retire, your employer is likely to claim that it cannot reasonably accommodate your disabilities, therefore, it can terminate your employment.
The irony is that if the employer is preparing to terminate you, because you cannot perform the essential functions of your job due to your disabilities, then that would prove you are totally disabled and that you should be entitled to retirement. Thus, it seems that the employer is actually shooting itself in the foot (or, at least wasting a lot of time) by finding that you are not entitled to take retirement.
In short, your employer wants to fire you for being too disabled to work at your former employment, but not disabled enough to receive retirement. I don't see a gap between the two classes of persons. You're either capable of doing your job, or totally disabled.
My reason for suggesting your WC attorney is because he/she understands disability, so it would seem to be a relatively straightforward matter to file an appeal and present the same sort of argument to the ALJ as would be made to the WCB. Obviously, if the/she doesn't want the business, then you'll have to look elsewhere, but this issue seems a natural fit, and if the attorney becomes familiar with the issue, then he/she would have a new business opportunity, since apparently the only person around who knows how to handle these cases is "retired."
Funny -- I'm retired, too, and I seem to know how to handle these types of cases. What a coincidence. Seriously, though, I'm not that attorney, at least, I wasn't when I woke up this morning.
I wish I could do more, but that's all I can offer in this forum. Please let me know if I can be of further assistance.