The pandemic continues to affect our region. The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) reports that 831,225 cases of the COVID-19 virus have been confirmed in the state as of October 7, 2020. To help address the ongoing public health crisis, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill 1159 into law last month. The bill has important implications for workers’ compensation claims. Here, our California workers’ compensation defense attorneys highlight six key things employers and claims administrators should know about SB 1159.

California Workers’ Compensation: Understanding SB 1159

The Law Takes Immediate Effect

Governor Newsom signed SB 1159 into law on September 17, 2020. The law took immediate effect on the date the bill was signed. It is now binding state law in California. All employers, insurers, and claims administrators should know their responsibilities under the legislation.

Executive Order N-62-20 is Now Codified into Law

SB 1159 codifies Executive Order N-62-2. All mandatory onsite workers who developed a confirmed COVID-19 case between March 19, 2020 and July 5, 2020 are entitled to a ‘disputable presumption’ that the virus is related to their workplace. The Executive Order (and now SB 1159) shifts the burden of proof in these cases.

The Term ‘Injury’ in Workers’ Compensation Includes COVID-19 Complications

Under SB 1159, the term ‘injury’ in California’s workers’ compensation regulations will now explicitly include COVID-19 complications. In doing so, the bill brings additional clarity to a potential area of dispute.

A ‘Disputable Presumption’ for Certain Essential Employees Through All of 2022

SB 1159 extends the ‘disputable presumption’ for certain essential employees through all of 2022. Any essential worker in a covered position who develops COVID-19 between July 6, 2020 and January 1, 2023 are entitled to a disputable presumption that their illness is linked to their job.

Additional COVID-19 Reporting Requirements for Employers/Administrators

The bill also creates additional COVID-19 reporting requirements for employers and claims administrators in California. As of September 17, 2020, every employer should do the following:

  • Provide notice when an employee tests positive;
  • Provide the date of the positive COVID-19 test; and
  • Provide the address of locations where that employee worked during the relevant period.

Imposes Civil Penalties for Reporting Violations

Employers that fail to comply with SB 1159’s COVID-19 reporting requirements will be subject to strict civil penalties. An employer that either fails to report the appropriate information or intentionally provides false information may be subject to a $10,000.00 financial penalty for each violation. All companies should have clear COVID-19 reporting protocols in place.

Schedule a Confidential Consultation With a Workers’ Compensation Defense Lawyer

At Yrulegui & Roberts, our California workers’ compensation defense attorneys provide reliable, solutions-focused representation. If you have questions about SB 1159, we are here available to help. Contact our legal team now for a strictly private consultation. From our office locations in Bakersfield, Sacramento, and Fresno, we represent clients throughout the region, including San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Oxnard, and Van Nuys.