Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law SB 1159 on September 17, 2020 that redefines a work "injury" for an employee to include illness or death resulting from COVID-19 under specified circumstances, until January 1, 2023.
SB 1159 expands access to workers’ compensation and makes it easier for first responders, health care workers and people who test positive due to an outbreak at work to get the support they need, including necessary medical care and wage replacement benefits.
The bill expands access to workers’ compensation by creating a rebuttable presumption for front line workers, removing burdens of access to workers’ compensation for those workers who most likely got infected at work. Additionally, the bill establishes a rebuttable presumption when there is a workplace outbreak over a 14-day timeframe.
COVID-19 is presumed work-related if an employee worked at the employer’s place of business at the employer’s direction on or after July 6, 2020 and both the following elements are met:
- The employee tested positive for COVID-19 within 14 days after working at the employer’s location.
- The positive test occurred during an “outbreak” at the employer’s specific location.
An “outbreak” is defined as a COVID-19 occurrence at a specific employment location within a 14-day period AND meets one of the following:
- If an employer has 100 employees or less at a specific location and 4 or more employees test positive for COVID-19;
- If an employer has more than 100 employees at a specific location and 4% of the employees test positive for COVID-19;
The local public health department, State California Department of Public Health or Occupational Safety and Health Administration (Cal/OSHA) or school superintendent orders the specific place of employment to close due to risk of COVID-19 infection.
A specific location or place of employment is a building, store, facility or agricultural field where an employee performs work at the employer’s direction. An employee’s home is not considered a specific place of employment unless the employee provides home health care services to a client at the employee’s home.
An employee may have more than one specific place of employment, if they worked in multiple locations within the 14-day period before their positive test.
There is a 45-day timeframe to determine if a positive COVID-19 case meets the above standard.