California’s governor signed two new laws related to workers’ comp and COVID-19 in September. One of the laws effective immediately allows employees who contract COVID-19 to receive workers’ compensation benefits. But there are some caveats to this, first responders and healthcare workers are eligible if they contract COVID-19 at work, while all other types of employees will only be eligible if their workplace experiences an outbreak of the virus.
California COVID-19 Workers’ Comp Regulations Explained
How is an outbreak measured? For companies with five to one hundred employees, an outbreak is considered 4 or more employees testing positive. Companies with over one hundred employees are considered having an outbreak if 4% of employees are infected.
However, no matter the size of the company, it’s only considered an outbreak if those with COVID-19 contracted the virus within two weeks. The length of the law also depends on the employee’s occupation. For first responders and healthcare workers the new law is permanent, for all other types of employees, the law ends January 2023.
For those wondering how employees prove if their infection was caused at work – they don’t have to have proof to be eligible. However, if employers want to deny workers’ comp, they must prove their employee did not contract the virus while at work.
The second law signed into effect January 1st, 2021 states that employers must tell employees if they have been exposed to the virus. Companies could acquire fines from the Division of Occupational Safety and Health if they do not notify their employees within 24 hours.
The Response to COVID-19 in Workers’ Comp and from Businesses
These new laws come in the wake of California having 1 in 9 workers’ comp claims being due to COVID-19. As of right now, California’s total number of workers’ comp claims related to COVID-19 are at 41,861. Claims peaked in July and have slowly lowered over the past few months. Despite claims tapering off, California had 8,208 workers’ comp claims related to COVID-19 in August.
Both laws have been met with controversy and resistance from business groups, even stating the second law is “vague and will be difficult for businesses to comply with.” The California Governor defends the laws by saying the laws “prioritize our workforce.”
As California workers’ compensation laws continue to develop and change due to COVID-19, we will continue to keep you updated. If you have any questions surrounding California workers’ comp, you can reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.