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May 7, 2020

Calif. Governor Issues COVID-19 Workers’ Compensation Executive Order

Yesterday, Calif. Governor Gavin Newsom issued an Executive Order (EO) that extends temporary workers’ compensation benefits to essential workers who claim to contract COVID-19 at their place of employment (away from home).

The EO is retroactive to March 19, the day the statewide stay at home order was issued, and will be in place through July 5, 60 days from the date the EO was issued.

According to the EO, any COVID-19-related illness of an employee shall be presumed to arise out of and in the course of the employment for purposes of awarding workers’ compensation benefits if all of the following requirements are satisfied:

  • The employee tested positive for or was diagnosed with COVID19 within 14 days after a day that the employee worked at the employee’s place of employment at the employer’s direction;
  • The employee worked at the employee’s place of employment at the employer’s direction on or after March 19, 2020; and
  • The employee’s place of employment was not the employee’s home or residence.
  • In the case of a diagnosis, the diagnosis was made by a physician who holds a physician and surgeon license issued by the California Medical Board and is confirmed by further testing within 30 days of the date of the diagnosis.

Other key provisions of the EO include:

  • The presumption is rebuttable (disputable) and may be controverted by other evidence. Employers have 30 days to accept or reject the claim, and may object to the claim by demonstrating that the employee did not contract COVID-19 at the workplace.
  • An accepted claim shall be eligible for all benefits applicable under the workers’ compensation laws of California, including full hospital, surgical, medical treatment, disability indemnity, and death benefits.
  • Where an employee has paid sick leave benefits specifically available in response to COVID-19, those benefits shall be used and exhausted before any temporary disability benefits are due and payable. Where an employee does not have such sick leave benefits, the employee shall be provided temporary disability benefits from the date of disability. In no event shall there be a waiting period for temporary disability benefits.
  • If the employee tests positive or is diagnosed, the employee must be recertified for temporary disability every 15 days for the first 45 days following diagnosis.

Click here to view the full Executive Order.

In response to the EO, WG and allied California agricultural organizations issued the following joint statement:

“As a critical infrastructure industry, agricultural businesses have been asked to continue providing our communities with safe and nutritious food during the COVID-19 crisis, and their employees – deemed essential by every level of government – have been asked to continue their critically important work. Agricultural employers have responded by enacting extraordinary measures to protect their employees and the public, all while struggling with major supply chain disruptions.

“This executive order will add more financial weight at a very difficult time. Instead, if the goal is to restart California’s economy, then the added economic burden of medical claims related to COVID-19 should be borne by the government, not the essential industries providing a public good during a global pandemic.

“Amid tremendous uncertainty, the agricultural community is working to protect the health and safety of our essential workforce while we continue a vital mission to grow, harvest, pack, process and ship hundreds of nutritious California commodities for families in our state and across the country.”