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California's Essential Workers Can File for Workers' Compensation for COVID-19

On May 6, 2020, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed an executive order creating a rebuttable presumption that any designated essential worker who contracts COVID-19 did so while at work. Essentially, this means that an essential worker who is diagnosed with COVID-19 is eligible to file for workers’ compensation, as they are automatically presumed to have contracted the virus in relation to their work.

In order for this assumption to apply, essential workers must meet all of the following conditions:

  • They tested positive for COVID-19 or received a positive COVID-19 diagnosis from a medical professional within two weeks (14 days) of performing work for their employer at their employer’s place of business
  • The positive COVID-19 diagnosis was provided by a qualified medical professional, meaning one who holds a current license from the California Medical Board, and the positive diagnosis was confirmed by additional tests no later than 30 days from the initial diagnosis
  • The essential employee performed work at their employer’s direction at the employer’s place of business on March 19, 2020 (the start of the state’s stay-at-home order) or later
  • The place where the employee performed work for their employer was NOT the employee’s home, apartment, or place of residence

If an employee meets all of the above qualifications, he or she is automatically presumed to have contracted COVID-19 while at work, meaning he or she can file a claim for workers’ compensation if he or she must take time off work to receive treatment and care or to self-quarantine.

It is important to note that the executive order does not guarantee workers’ compensation for essential employees who contract COVID-19; because it is a rebuttable presumption, an insurance provider can still dispute claims. However, the executive order will ideally streamline the process for countless essential workers who have received positive coronavirus diagnoses.

What Employees Are Eligible?

Employees who are required to perform work duties at a workplace outside of their homes—“essential” workers—are affected by the governor’s executive order.

This includes but is not limited to:

  • Physicians, doctors, nurses, surgeons, and other medical professionals
  • Health care workers, hospital staff, and other related personnel
  • Pharmacists and pharmacy personnel
  • Workers in essential medical facilities, including dental offices, laboratories, blood banks, etc.
  • First responders, such as paramedics, ambulance drivers, etc.
  • Police officers and other law enforcement officials/personnel
  • Firefighters and related personnel
  • Grocery store, convenience store, restaurant employees, certain delivery drivers, etc.
  • Warehouse operators and technicians
  • Public health workers
  • Workers who conduct coronavirus-related services, such as testing and diagnosis
  • Eligible farm workers and other agricultural workers
  • Workers who conduct mortuary services
  • Public works operators
  • Mass transit workers, such as bus drivers and subway and train operators
  • Air transportation employees
  • Maintenance workers

This list is not exhaustive; you can see a full list of all employees classified as “essential workers” in California here.

What Workers’ Comp Benefits Are Available for Essential Workers with COVID-19?

Essential workers who contract COVID-19 are eligible to file for the same workers’ compensation benefits as any other injured employee in California. These include medical benefits for all medical expenses related to treatment and wage replacement benefits. Employees may be able to recover temporary disability benefits for time they have to take off work due to their COVID-19 diagnosis (including time taken off to self-quarantine, if quarantine is mandated by their employer), as well as permanent disability benefits if they suffer a related condition that affects their ability to return to work.

For more information or to speak to an attorney at our firm about your case, contact BD&J, PC today.

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