On the final night of the legislative session SB 1159 (Hill) related to COVID-19 workers’ compensation presumption passed both houses of the California State Legislature with bipartisan support. The bill is headed to the Governor’s desk and if signed it will become law immediately. SB 1159 was one of three different COVID-19 workers’ compensation before the Legislature on its final night, however the other bills AB 196 (Gonzalez) and AB 664 (Cooper) were not heard and died when the Legislature adjourned the 2019-2020 Legislative Session.
SB 1159 has four district parts that are summarized below:
Section 1: Requires the Commission on Health and Safety and Workers’ Compensation (CHSWC) to conduct a study on the impacts claims of COVID-19 have had on the workers’ compensation system, including but not limited to the overall impacts on indemnity benefits, medical benefits, and death benefits.
Section 2: Codifies the Governor’s Executive Order N-62-20 from March which created a rebuttable presumption for the period of March 19, 2020 (Date of Stay-At-Home Order) and July 5, 2020 (60-days from the Order) whereby any employee that has been directed to work outside of their home by their employer during that time period that tests positive or is diagnosed with COVID-19 that the injury is presumed to have taken place in the workplace and therefore would be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits.
Section 3: Creates a rebuttable presumption until January 1, 2023, for firefighters, peace officers, and healthcare workers that provide direct patient care that contract COVID-19 within 14 days of working that the illness is a workplace injury and they are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. Employers are provided 30-days to contest the injury is a workplace injury.
Section 4: Attempts to address workplace outbreaks and applies to all other employees not covered by other sections that work for an employer that has five or more employees. This section creates rebuttable presumption that an employee contracted COVID-19 at the workplace and they are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits if the employee contracts COVID-19 during a workplace “outbreak.” An “outbreak” exists if within a 14 calendar day period an employer has 100 employees or fewer at a specific place of employment and four or more employees test positive for COVID-19, or if the employer has more than 100 employees at a specific place of employment and four percent of the number of employees who reported to the specific place of employment test positive for COVID-19. This section also contains certain reporting requirement and penalties for falsifying records. This section is in place from July 6, 2020 (end of the Governor’s Executive Order) though January 1, 2023. Employers have 45-days to contest the injury is a workplace injury under this section.