California Gov. Gavin Newsom today announced that workers who contract COVID-19 while on the job may be eligible to receive workers’ compensation.
The governor signed an executive order that creates a time-limited rebuttable presumption for accessing workers’ comp benefits applicable to Californians who must work outside of their homes during the stay at home order.
“We are removing a burden for workers on the front lines, who risk their own health and safety to deliver critical services to our fellow Californians, so that they can access benefits, and be able to focus on their recovery,” Newsom said in a statement. “Workers’ compensation is a critical piece to reopening the state and it will help workers get the care they need to get healthy, and in turn, protect public health.”
Those eligible will have the rebuttable presumption if they tested positive for COVID-19 or were diagnosed with COVID-19 and confirmed by a positive test within 14 days of performing a labor or service at a place of work after the stay at home order was issued on March 19. The presumption will stay in place for 60 days after issuance of the executive order.
The American Property Casualty Insurance Association, the primary national trade group for home, auto, and business insurers, called the order “overly broad,” and argues that it could force employers to cover COVID-19 cases not contracted in the workplace.
“APCIA believes this overly broad executive order jeopardizes the stability of the workers compensation system,” David A. Sampson, president and CEO of the APCIA, said in a statement. “Maintaining proof of a causal connection that a covered injury or disease was contracted in the workplace is essential for a stable no-fault workers compensation system for employers and employees alike.”
The Workers’ Compensation Action Network also expressed concern the order will make employers responsible for COVID-19 cases contracted outside of work.
“Even ‘rebuttable presumptions’ undermine the ability of employers to determine whether the illness is related to work,” a statement from the group reads. “The practical result is that employers will pay workers’ comp benefits for COVID-19 even where there is no evidence it was related to work.”
This article was first published by Insurance Journal.