Are Businesses Responsible for the Safety of Their Employees During the COVID-19 Pandemic?

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At Hanning & Sacchetto, our Glendora workers’ compensation attorneys believe everyone in our California workforce should be aware of their rights when it comes to their employer’s responsibilities when COVID-19 endangers the workplace.

The State of California Department of Industrial Relations reported that California adopted Workers’ Compensation Presumption SB 1159 stating that when certain categories of workers become ill with COVID-19 from exposure in the workplace, they are considered to have contracted a workers’ compensation occupational disease, thereby making them eligible for workers’ compensation benefits.

The bill helps protect the health and safety of all employees and the public by facilitating the provision of workers’ compensation benefits, which will remain in effect through January 1, 2023.

What Does the Workers’ Compensation Presumption SB 1159 Mean for the California Workforce?

The new law encourages all employers to safely reopen their businesses to reduce the risk of exposure and mitigate outbreaks in the workplace by complying with all local guidance and health directives.

In doing so, employers help reduce the spread of the Coronavirus in the workplace and the community by allowing employees who test positive for COVID-19 to stay home and collect workers’ compensation benefits.

Who is Eligible to Pursue the Workers’ Compensation Presumption?

SB 1159 codifies and supersedes Governor Newsom’s Executive Order N-62-20, which had covered all California employees who worked at a jobsite outside their home at the direction of their employer between March 19 and July 5, 2020, including first responders, farmworkers, grocery store workers, warehouse workers, and others.

The new Presumption now includes:

  • First Responders and Healthcare Workers
  • Employees whose employers have five or more employees, and who test positive for COVID-19 during an outbreak at their specific workplace.

Working from home does not meet the requirements to pursue benefits under this code.

What Benefits are Available Through Workers’ Compensation Presumption SB 1159?

The Presumption provides the same Workers’ Compensation benefits as most other California cases.

They may include:

  • Medical Care paid by the employer
  • Temporary Disability Benefits for lost wages
  • Permanent Disability Benefits if you cannot completely recover from the illness
  • Supplemental Job Displacement Benefits to help pay for retraining or skill enhancement if you cannot completely recover from the illness and do not return to work for your current employer
  • Death Benefits payable to a spouse, children, or other dependents if the employee loses his or her life to the illness

When an employee is presumed to have become ill from COVID-19 at work, the employer bears the burden of proving that the injury or illness did not occur at work.

Disputes over whether an injured worker is covered under a presumption will be decided by the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board.

If you have been infected with COVID-19 inside the workplace, contact our experienced Whittier workers’ compensation attorneys at Hanning & Sacchetto, LLP today by calling (562) 698-6446 to learn how we can pursue the benefits you are entitled to from SB 1159.