May 06, 2020
Area(s) of Interest: Workers' Compensation
Governor Gavin Newsom on Wednesday signed an executive order to ensure that employees who contract COVID-19 during the course of their employment can receive workers’ compensation benefits.
The order establishes a “rebuttable presumption” that any workers infected with COVID-19 contracted the virus on the job.
Gov. Newsom spoke about the issue in the context of reopening the economy, stating that it can only happen if we properly protect workers. He also mentioned that previous state and federal employee benefit requirements made thus far during the pandemic did not specifically include health care workers and first responders. Therefore, the Governor’s order will extend workers' compensation benefits to that sector, and across all industries.
Employers will still be able to contest the presumption and paid sick leave benefits must first be exhausted before additional benefits can be received.
The order applies to all workers’ compensation insurance carriers and employers that carry their own risk, including the State of California. To be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits, the employee must test positive for COVID-19 within 14 days of working at their place of employment at the employer’s direction. The change is retroactive and will include dates of injury on or after March 19, 2020, and will be effective for 60 days from the date of the order. The Department of Industrial Relations will be releasing additional guidance in the coming days.