The Impact of COVID-19 in the Workplace
One year has passed since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Everyone has been impacted by the pandemic, but the most severe effects of COVID-19 are disproportionately felt by the most vulnerable communities. Among the hardest hit by the pandemic are communities of color, indigenous people, and lower-wage workers. We mourn the loss of all the lives lost to COVID-19 including 500,000+ lives in America. COVID-19 infections are declining based on the record number of 100 million+ people vaccinated in America. Even as things begin improving with lower rates of coronavirus infections, COVID-19 remains an extremely serious health safety emergency.
COVID 19 & Workers’ Compensation
Ford & Wallach is proud to join with elected officials in the California legislature and the California Applicants’ Attorneys Association (“CAAA”) to address the COVID-19 health crisis. This resulted in several substantial changes and updates in the California workers’ compensation (“WC”) laws that specifically address COVID-19.
The changes to the law for COVID-19 increase worker safety and expand access to California workers’ compensation benefits for employees that contract COVID-19 due to their job. They enable workers and the public to take appropriate steps to protect themselves and their loved ones, obtain benefits related to COVID-19 exposure, and mitigate the spread of COVID-19. We are encouraged by these legislative steps, and optimistic that California will continue to lead in protecting workers’ rights in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.
On September 17, 2020, Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law Assembly Bill (AB 685) and Senate Bill 1159 (SB 1159), effectively codifying Governor Newsom’s May 6, 2020 Executive Order (N-62-20).
AB 685 requires employers that receive notice of potential COVID-19 exposure to provide notifications within one business day of the exposure. The employer must also provide notification of potential benefits that an employee may be entitled to due to the COVID-19 exposure. AB 685 prohibits retaliation for COVID-19 and strengthens Cal/OSHA’s authority to close worksites and issue citations against employers for COVID-19 hazards.
SB 1159 makes it easier for employees that contract COVID-19 on the job to obtain WC benefits. It is important to note that this bill creates a rebuttable presumption that the COVID-19 is a work injury for purposes of WC benefits. Under SB 1159 you are presumed to have contracted COVID-19 at work if you worked for your employer (other than at your home) between 3/19/20 and 7/5/20, and you tested positive for COVID-19 within 14 days of that work. There are also presumptions that the COVID-19 is work-related if you are a frontline worker such as a healthcare worker or first responder, and you contracted COVID-19 within 14 days of performing work for your employer (other than at your home). You may also be covered by a presumption that the COVID-19 is work-related if you are NOT a frontline worker, but there was a COVID-19 outbreak at your place of employment (other than at your home) on or after 7/6/20, and you tested positive for COVID-19 within 14 days of the outbreak.
Ford & Wallach is Your Guide
Our position is that ALL workers that develop COVID-19 in the workplace have a WC injury or illness including those that are asymptomatic, symptomatic, or that pass away due to complications from the coronavirus. Other employees that do not specifically fit within the categories of SB 1159, may still have a “regular” workers’ compensation claim for COVID-19. This means that you are entitled to pursue WC benefits for COVID-19, even if you are not a covered employee under the presumptions of SB 1159. In addition to WC benefits for the COVID-19, you may be entitled to WC benefits for the other medical conditions affected by the COVID-19 infection.
Our experienced team of workers’ compensation attorneys is here to guide you through the California workers’ compensation system in this challenging time of crisis. We work closely with attorneys in other legal specialties such as employment law, personal injury, and Social Security. Ford & Wallach can refer you to these attorneys for matters that often overlap with a workers’ compensation injury.
Ford & Wallach offers a free case evaluation. Contact us by email or call 213.380.3140.