The California State Legislature Passes Senate Bill 1159 Establishing A Rebuttable Presumption That Helps Workers Injured by COVID-19 Obtain Workers’ Compensation Benefits
On 8/31/20, the last day of California’s 2020 legislative session, the California Legislature passed Senate Bill 1159 (SB 1159). This bill, which was passed as an urgent statute to address the COVID-19 pandemic and will take effect IMMEDIATELY upon signing by Governor Newsom, establishes a rebuttable presumption that employees that suffer illness or death resulting from COVID-19 sustained a compensable injury under the California workers’ compensation (“WC”) system.
SB 1159 makes it easier for essential employees that contract COVID-19 on the job to obtain WC benefits. Since this Bill creates a rebuttable presumption, unless an employer is able to affirmatively prove that the COVID-19 was contracted outside of the employee’s workplace, the COVID-19 is presumed to be a work injury for purposes of WC benefits. Employees injured by COVID-19 that are covered by SB 1159 are eligible to make a claim for all WC benefits including but not limited to temporary disability benefits, medical treatment, permanent disability benefits, death benefits for the employee’s financial dependent(s), and a supplemental job displacement benefit voucher for job retraining.
SB 1159 adds three new Labor Code sections: 3212.86, 3212.87, and 3212.88.
Labor Code section 3212.86 substantially codifies Governor Newsom’s 5/6/20 Executive Order (N-62-20) and provides that a COVID-19 injury is presumed compensable if all the following criteria are established:
- The employee performed labor or services at the employee’s place of employment at the employer’s direction between March 19, 2020 and July 5, 2020.
- The employee tested positive for or was diagnosed with COVID-19 within 14 days after a day that the employee performed labor or services at the employee’s place of employment at the employer’s direction.
- The place of employment was not the employee’s residence.
- If the employee was diagnosed with COVID-19, the diagnosis was done by a licensed physician and surgeon holding an M.D. or D.O. degree or state licensed physician assistant or nurse practitioner, acting under the review or supervision of a physician/surgeon pursuant to standardized procedures or protocols within their lawfully authorized scope of practice, and that diagnosis is confirmed by testing or by a COVID-19 serologic test within 30 days of the date of the diagnosis.
Labor Code section 3212.87 establishes a rebuttable COVID-19 presumption for certain classifications of frontline workers including firefighters, healthcare workers, other employees working in health care facilities, and in-home supportive services employees providing services outside of their own home or residence. To receive the presumption under section 3212.87, the employee must establish that:
- They performed labor or services at their place of employment at the employer’s direction on or after July 6, 2020.
- They tested positive for COVID-19 within 14 days after a day that they performed labor or services at their place of employment at the employer’s direction.
- Their place of employment is not their home or residence.
Labor Code section 3212.88 provides a rebuttable presumption for other employees that may not necessarily be considered “frontline employees” or “essential employees”, but contract COVID-19 due to an outbreak of COVID-19 at their workplace if the employer employs five or more employees. The employee must show that they tested positive for COVID-19 within 14 days after they performed labor or services at their place of employment at the employer’s direction on or after 7/6/20 and that there was an outbreak at the workplace.
Ford & Wallach remains open as an essential provider during the COVID-19 pandemic. We are committed to helping injured workers obtain all benefits they are entitled to under the law, and we are eager to provide additional advice and recommendations once Governor Newsom officially signs SB 1159 into law. If you believe you contracted COVID-19 at work, please contact us right away to protect your rights.