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Legislative changes to California’s COVID-19 response

On Behalf of | Feb 8, 2021 | Firm News

In our ongoing series on workers’ compensation and the coronavirus, we’ve looked at the first steps California took and an interesting question that step raised. Today we’ll look at the most recent legislative efforts.

When California acted in May to make things simpler and easier for workers’ suffering from coronavirus, it was done via executive action. However, that action did not have enduring statutory weight, but that is no longer the case.

Legislative protections

Though passed in September, SB 1159 came into full effect just last month. It offers the same protections as the governor’s executive order and goes further. There are two primary takeaways from the new law:

  • January 1, 2023: The benefits offered for workers’ compensation claims due to coronavirus will stay in effect throughout all this year and next year. This will cover people for infections for what could be the remainder of the COVID-19 pandemic. If that date seems far ahead for you, please keep in mind that while vaccinations may achieve herd immunity, there is a strong likelihood of infections to large amounts of the population for a long time to come. Still, Californian workers have up to a year to file a claim.
  • Worker Categories: To encourage workplaces to approve of workers’ compensation claims, the legislature allowed employers to reserve the right to “dispute” the presumed state that the individual contracted COVID-19 in the workplace.

These two takeaways provide significant benefits to workers who weigh their options for care and self-protection during this once-in-a-lifetime situation.

There are still concerns

However, if the primary change here is to make the presumption “rebuttable,” then workers who relied on these workers’ compensation benefits may have difficulty in the future. We will take a closer look at how rebuttals work in our next blog, but for now, most will see the new law as a benefit to workers.


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