Attention California Employers! You need to Understand the Implications of Senate Bill 1159
Yesterday, September 17, 2020, Governor Newsom signed Senate Bill 1159 into law. This law carries quite a few implications for employers with five or more employees. It shifts the burden of proof necessary for COVID-19 related workers compensation claims. Here’s what you, as an employer, need to know about to understand the implications of Senate Bill 1159.
This law changes the burden of proof necessary for workers compensation claims.
It states that if any “covered worker” contracted COVID-19 during the period of time covered by the order, the illness is automatically presumed to be work-related without any further proof.
Presumptions for Health Care Workers
This law has a special rebuttable presumption for employees who work in health care facilities. The presumption for health care workers does not apply if the employer can prove that the employee was not in contact with a patient who had tested positive for COVID-19.
Presumptions for other employers.
For California employers with five or more employees, SB 1159 works on an “outbreak analysis” as a burden of proof. The rebuttable presumption applies if an “outbreak” occurs, defined as:
- If the employer has 100 or fewer employees and four employees test positive within 14 days.
- An employer who has 100 or more employees and 4% of their employees test positive within 14 days.
- If the place of employment is ordered to close due to the risk of infection.
New Reporting Requirements for Employers
In addition, SB 1159 contains new information surrounding reporting standards for employers. Employers with five or more employees must report a claim when the employer “knows or reasonably should have known” that an employee tested positive.* Employers are required to report the following items within 3 business days:
- An employee tested positive
- The date the employee tested positive (the date of testing)
- The specific address(es) of the employee’s place of employment during the 14-day period preceding the positive test
- The highest number of employees who reported to work within the 45-day period preceding the last day the employee worked at the place of employment.
These new reporting standards are retroactive to July 6, 2020. If an employer fails to submit this information, they will be subject to a $10,000 fine.
If there is no “outbreak” as defined in the bill, an employee who files a worker’s compensation claim related to COVID-19 will be assessed using standard arising out of employment and occurring in the course of employment analysis.
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*This is irrespective of an employee’s intent to file a workers compensation claim. If an employee does not wish to file a workers compensation claim, the employer is still required to file a claim WITHOUT personal information within 3 business days.