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California Updates Workers’ Comp Rules to Favor Claimants During Coronavirus

Earlier this month, California Governor Newsom signed executive order N-62-20 to make it simpler for employees to receive workers’ compensation benefits after testing positive for COVID-19. Before the order, employees who wanted workers’ comp after coming down with the coronavirus would need to prove that they were exposed to the virus due to their employment or going into the workplace. With the newly signed order, though, the situation has been effectively reversed.

There is now a presumption that an employee was exposed to the virus at work and not anywhere else. The burden of providing evidence to show where the virus originated is now on the insurance company or employer, rather than the individual worker. That is to say, if an insurance company wants to deny the workers’ compensation claim, then it must prepare an argument that clearly shows the claimant contracted the coronavirus outside the workplace.

To be eligible for the workers’ compensation coverage expansion, a worker must:

  • Test positive for COVID-19 within 14 days of their last shift but only if they are not working out of their own home; or
  • Receive a COVID-19 diagnosis that was later confirmed through testing within 30 days of that diagnosis.

Although the order was signed in May 2020, it retroactively applies to any eligible claim starting on March 19th, 2020. At this time, the order’s policies will expire on July 5th, 2020, but it is possible that an extension will occur as shelter-in-place orders continue around the state.

If a claim is approved, the claimant can receive full workers’ compensation benefits as provided through their employer’s policy. Medical treatments, disability pay, and death benefits are typically provided. However, an employer can require employees to use all other types of applicable leave before the workers’ compensation benefits can be claimed. For example, employees will need to use all of their sick days first.

It is important to note that this order applies to all workers who continue to go to work during the coronavirus pandemic, not just frontline or essential workers. Police officers, paramedics, healthcare professionals, grocery store clerks, chefs, plumbers, construction crews, and so on can all apply for workers’ compensation benefits if they test positive for COVID-19. As long as you were permitted to continue going to work outside of your own home, and you had workers’ compensation beforehand, you should be eligible for coronavirus workers’ compensation benefits now.

Do you need help understanding your rights as an employee working in Oxnard, Santa Barbara, or Ventura who has been diagnosed with COVID-19? Call (805) 628-4967 and connect with Crane Flores, LLP. Our attorneys are well-versed in workers’ compensation law and take pride in helping locals through difficult times. To work with a team that has decades of collective experience, contact us today.