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California Workers’ Comp Expanded for COVID-19, New Reporting Laws

On Sep 24, 2020

On September 17, Governor Newsom signed SB 1159 which establishes two new workers’ compensation presumptions applicable to most employers in California that experience a COVID-19 “outbreak” in the workplace. This has made it easier for employees who contract COVID-19 on the job to receive workers’ compensation benefits if specified criteria are met. The law also requires employers to promptly report potential coronavirus outbreaks to public health authorities. The statutes take effect immediately and remain in effect through January 1, 2023.

Read the full text of Bill 1383 HERE.

Background

CalChamber provided the following summary on the background of this law:

As previously reported, in May, Governor Newsom issued a workers’ compensation executive order that created a rebuttable presumption that workers who contracted COVID-19 while working outside of their homes did so during employment.

Usually, employees need to present evidence to establish their illness or injury is work-related to qualify for benefits. This presumption shifts the burden of proof to employers. In other words, if certain criteria are met, it’s automatically presumed that the employee contracted COVID-19 during employment, making them eligible for the full range of workers’ compensation benefits.

Newsom’ executive order expired on July 5, 2020, but the California Legislature took up the baton, introducing multiple bills over the summer to address workers’ compensation. SB 1159 was the only bill passed and signed into law.

Presumptions

SB 1159 has three key components employers should be aware of.

First, it codifies the Governor’s executive order establishing a rebuttable presumption of work-relatedness for workers who contracted COVID-19 between March 19, 2020, and July 5, 2020.

Next, the bill establishes a rebuttable presumption for first responders and health care personnel, including firefighters, peace officers, health facility employees that provide direct patient care, nurses, EMTs and in-home care providers. The law presumes covered workers contracted COVID-19 in the course of employment if the worker tests positive within 14 days of working at their place of employment, and the date worked was after July 6, 2020. The employer has 30 days to reject the claim.

Finally, the bill creates a presumption that applies to employers with five or more employees when there is a COVID-19 “outbreak” at the place of employment. Specifically, the new law presumes a worker who contracts COVID-19 did so while working if (1) they test positive within 14 days after working at their place of employment, (2) the date worked was after July 6, 2020, and (3) the positive test occurred during an “outbreak” at the employee’s place of employment. Employers have 45 days to reject a claim under this provision.

Definition of “Outbreak”

An “outbreak” exists if within 14 calendar days one of the following occurs at a specific place of employment:

  • If the employer has 100 employees or fewer: 4 employees test positive for COVID-19.
  • If the employer has more than 100 employees: 4% of the number of employees who reported to the specific place of employment test positive for COVID-19.
  • A specific place of employment is ordered to close by public authorities due to a risk of infection with COVID-19.

Reporting Requirements

When an employer with 5 or more employees “knows or reasonably should know” that an employee has tested positive for COVID-19, the employer must report the following to their workers’ compensation carrier within three business days:

  1. An employee has tested positive.
  2. The date that the employee tests positive (the date the specimen was collected for testing).
  3. The specific address or addresses of the employee’s specific place of employment during the 14-day period preceding the date of the employee’s positive test.
  4. The highest number of employees who reported to work at the employee’s specific place of employment in the 45-day period preceding the last day the employee worked at each specific place of employment.

Employer who intentionally submits false or misleading information or fails to submit information when reporting is subject to a civil penalty in the amount of up to $10,000.

FAQ’s

The California State of Industrial Relations has published a list of frequently asked questions.

Click HERE to visit their page.

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