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California’s response to the coronavirus: the “COVID-19 presumption”

| Feb 5, 2021 | Firm News

A year ago, filing for workers’ compensation for a virus going around the office might have seemed odd. It’s not so odd anymore, as many have relied on workers’ compensation benefits after a COVID-19 infection.

As we discussed last week, the coronavirus left many workers in a difficult place. However, California responded to aid workers seeking medical coverage. The first action was an executive order signed by the governor.

Executive order N-62-20

This order was issued in May of last year. It required businesses to extend the presumption that workers contracted the disease at work. There were many important qualifications to receive that presumption:

  • You had to have a positive test and a confirmed diagnosis
  • You had to have worked at your job site after March 19th, 2020
  • Your employer requested your presence at the job site
  • Your “job site” was not where you lived

If a person met those requirements, then that person was eligible to receive workers’ compensation benefits. Considering COVID-19’s prognoses spanned from asymptomatic to death, this presumption made a big difference.

Employers frequently challenge workers’ compensation claims to control costs. While there were employers that extended the “COVID-19 presumption” without the need for a larger order, that wasn’t all employers. Some people, inevitably, fell through the cracks.

What happened to people initially denied Workers’ compensation for COVID-19?

The signed executive order was not retroactive. If a person was denied workers compensation benefits, that was not immediately overturned. However, people appealed the denial through the standard workers’ compensation process.

Is workplace sickness actually covered?

At issue — in a general sense with workers compensation and this pandemic — is this question: is a disease caught at work covered by workers’ compensation? The simple answer is “yes.” But, as we’ve discovered, there is rarely a simple or easy answer, and we will address that next week.