State of California Expands Workers’ Compensation Benefits: Employees During COVID-19 Pandemic
On May 6, 2020, Governor Newsom signed an Executive Order that makes it clear that all employees who are able to satisfy the conditions set forth in the order are eligible to receive workers’ compensation benefits. The Executive Order applies to any employee who is directed by the employer to work outside the home, even if that direction is contrary to previously existing orders of any sort (i.e. state or local).
Any COVID-19 related illness of an employee shall be presumed to arise out of and in the course of employment for purposes of awarding workers’ compensation benefits if all the following conditions are satisfied:
- The employee tested positive for or diagnosed with COVID-19 within 14 days after a day that the employee performed labor or services at the employee’s place of employment and at the employer’s direction;
- The day the employee worked at their place of employment and at the direction of their employer was on or after March 19, 2020;
- The place of employment referenced in (1) and (2) was not the employee’s home or residence; and
- The diagnosis of COVID-19 was done by a physician who holds a physician and surgeon license issued by the California Medical Board and that diagnosis is confirmed by further testing within 30 days of the date of the diagnosis.
- This presumption removes the burden from employees performing services at their place of employment at the employer’s direction and transfers that burden to the employer to offer evidence to rebut the presumption. If liability for a claim of a COVID-19-related illness is not rejected within 30 days after the claim is filed, the illness shall be presumed compensable, unless rebutted by evidence only discovered subsequent to the 30-day period.
- This order will apply to COVID-19 diagnoses for the next 60 days, through July 5, 2020.
- The order seems to apply to California workers regardless of the location of their employers.
Our Advice to Our Clients:
- It is expected that much more information will follow and ABD will continue to provide updates.
- Workers’ comp rates may be impacted by this order. We have reached out to several insurance carriers for their perspectives.
- To assist with developing your return to work strategies, ABD will soon provide guidelines to assist employers on planning and responding to COVID-19.