California’s Governor Newsom signed Senate Bill 1159 (SB 1159) into law on September 17, 2020. SB 1159 amends existing workers’ compensation laws to address the impact of employees who contract COVID-19 at work and remains in effect through January 1, 2023.
The bill codifies a recent executive order (N-62-20) to create a rebuttable presumption that illness or death related to COVID-19 may be deemed an occupational injury, and therefore employees are eligible for workers’ compensation benefits.
COVID-19 Workers’ Compensation Presumptions
SB 1159 creates two presumptions. One presumption is specific to frontline workers including peace officers, firefighters, healthcare providers, homecare workers and IHSS workers. The second more general presumption is for employees who contract COVID-19 in the midst of a workplace outbreak.
What Is a Workplace Outbreak?
An outbreak exists if within 14 days one of the following occurs at a specific place of employment.
- If the employer has 100 employees or fewer, four employees test positive.
- If the employer has more than 100 employees, 4% of the number of employees who reported to the specific place of employment test positive.
- A specific place of employment is ordered to close by a local public health department, the State Department of Public Health, the Division of Occupational Safety and Health, or a school superintendent due to a risk of infection of COVID-19.
What Are the Reporting Requirements?
When an employer knows or reasonably should know that an employee has tested positive for COVID-19, the employer must report to its claims administrator in writing via electronic mail or facsimile the following information.
- The fact that an employee tested positive
- The date the employee tested
- All addresses of the employee’s specific places of employment during the 14-day period preceding the positive test date
- The highest number of total employees reporting to the same, specific place(s) of employment in the 45-day period preceding the last day the employee worked at each specific place of employment
Employers may be subject to civil penalties of up to $10,000 for intentionally submitting false or misleading information, or for failing to report required information.