The COVID-19 pandemic has required more changes to the workers’ compensation system in California than anything else this state has ever experienced. This has led to an incredible amount of confusion and hardship for employers. However, one thing is still certain – you must continue to provide workers’ compensation coverage for your employees. Here, we want to discuss the most recent workers’ comp changes so that you, as an employer, understand your obligations as you continue to try to stay afloat during the coronavirus pandemic.
On September 17, 2020, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed SB 1159, a law that “creates a presumption that an employee’s COVID-19 illness or death arose out of and in the course and scope of employment.”
What this means is that the law will automatically assume that a person who becomes ill or passes away due to COVID-19 contracted the illness at work. However, employers can rebut this presumption if they can demonstrate that they have implemented measures to reduce COVID-19 transmission in the workplace AND that the employee’s risk of contracting the infection occurred outside of the workplace. As part of their rebuttal, employers can use employee statements as well as any other evidence that they would typically be able to use in a workers’ compensation dispute.
This new presumption for workers’ compensation applies if there is a COVID-19 outbreak at a specific place of employment in California. According to the new law, an outbreak exists if, within a 14-day window:
In order to help determine whether an outbreak has occurred had a place of employment, the state now requires employers that have five or more workers to report to their workers’ compensation claims an administrator within three business days when they know or should reasonably have known that an employee tested positive for COVID-19.
The law also applied retroactively to cases that occurred between July 6, 2020, and the time when the law was passed in September. Employers had to report positive cases no later than October 17. Importantly, we need to point out that this law imposes a statutory penalty of $10,000 for any employer that “intentionally submits false or misleading information or fails to submit information.”
If you are a business owner or operator in California and have any questions about your requirements concerning workers’ compensation, now is the time to turn to a skilled lawyer with extensive experience handling these issues. At Sacks Law Group, APC, our team understands that things are changing just about every week right now. We have stayed on top of these changes, and we are ready to assist any employer who may not fully understand their responsibilities. When you need a Los Angeles workers compensation defense attorney, you can contact us for a consultation of your case by clicking here or calling 310-216-7778.