The COVID-19 pandemic affected companies and employees across the country, with much of the population finding themselves furloughed, laid off or indefinitely unable to return to work. Others lost their positions due to illness or trying to avoid exposure to the virus. Unemployment rates hit record highs.
In the midst of the chaos, with frontline workers at a heightened risk of becoming ill, a question emerged that you may share. If you contract COVID-19 in the course of performing your job, do you qualify to receive workers’ compensation benefits?
In short, yes, you do qualify to receive workers’ compensation if you caught COVID-19 at work. On September 17, 2020, Governor Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill 1159, placing sicknesses and injuries from COVID-19 on the list of ailments and wounds covered by the state’s workers’ compensation regulations. It also placed new reporting responsibilities on employers.
One of the problems encountered in defining COVID-19 as it relates to the workplace was proving where the worker contracted the virus. The new law presumes that the worker caught COVID-19 because of their job or at the workplace if certain conditions exist. First, the worker needs to test positive for the virus no later than 14 days after the last day that they performed duties at the workplace at the order of the employer. The second condition is that this last day must be on or after July 6, 2020. Finally, the third condition is that an outbreak occurred at the workplace during the period in which the worker tested positive.
If you contract COVID-19, you may have a legal entitlement to workers’ compensation benefits. Under Senate Bill 1159 this includes full hospital and medical treatment as well as disability and death benefits, if applicable.