Contracting COVID-19 Through Work Is Now Presumed Under California Workers Compensation
On May 6, 2020, Governor Newsom issued Executive Order N-62-20, which provides that any COVID-19 related illness that an employee contracts between March 19, 2020 and July 5, 2020 shall be presumed to arise out of and in the course of employment for workers’ compensation purposes. This presumption will only apply if all of the following conditions are met:
- The employee performed work at the employee’s place of employment on or after March 19, 2020;
- The employee was not working from the employee’s own home or residence
- The employee tested positive for or was diagnosed with COVID-19 within 14 days after the employee performed work at the employee’s place of employment; and
- The COVID-19 diagnosis was done by a physician licensed in California and the diagnosis was confirmed by further testing within 30 days of the date of the diagnosis.
The presumption that an employee’s COVID-19 diagnosis arose out of his or her employment is disputable and may be controverted by other evidence. If an employer is unable to prove that that the COVID-19 related illness stemmed from outside the workplace, however, the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board is required to presume that the COVID-19 related illness arose out of and in the course of employment.
In addition, if an employee’s workers’ compensation claim for a COVID-19 related illness is not rejected within 30 days, the illness shall be presumed compensable, unless rebutted by evidence only discovered subsequent to the 30-day period.
As a result of the Executive Order, California employers can expect an uptick in workers’ compensation claims arising out of employees returning to the workplace and contracting COVID-19.