COVID Exposure and Workers Compensation

10.13.20Baylee Olsen

COVID Exposure and Workers Compensation

A new law was signed by the California Governor that will impact all employers and their workers compensation coverage. There is an important deadline of October 19th, 2020 that should not be missed therefore, it is important to understand how this law applies to you.

SB 1159 is effective immediately and assumes certain employees who become ill with COVID-19 after July 6th, 2020 are covered by workers compensation. This occurs if the employee tests positive within 14 days of performing work at the place of employment. Employers can rebut this claim using evidence of employer safety measures and employee’s risks outside their employment. SB 1159 will be automatically repealed on January 1st, 2023.

Employers who have five or more employees are covered by SB 1159. It applies to frontline workers such as health care workers, firefighters, peace officers or those employees whose employers had an ‘outbreak’ in the workplace over the course of 14 days at a specific place of employment. An outbreak is defined as:

  • Four COVID positive employees if the employer has more than five but fewer than 100 employees at the specific place of employment
  • Four percent of employees who are positive if the employer has more than 100 employees at the specific place of employment.
  • The public health department or OSHA orders the specific place of employment closed due to the risk of COVID infection.

In addition, all employers who know or who should have ‘reasonably’ known an employee tested positive for COVID-19 must notify their Worker’s Compensation Claims Administrator within 3 business days and provide the following information:

  • Date the employee tested positive (collection date of the employees’ sample)
  • Address of the employee’s specific place of employment. This does not include the employees home.
  • Highest number of employees who reported to work at the employee’s specific place of employment in the 45-day period preceding the last day the employee worked. 
  • Employers should be careful not to provide any personally identifiable information about the employee unless they are claiming a work-related infection.

All employers have until October 19th, 2020 to report any positive COVID tests of the employees occurring between July 6th, 2020 and September 16th, 2020. This information will be used to determine if the employer has had an ‘outbreak’ as defined above.

Employers could be fined as much as $10,000 for intentionally submitting false or misleading information, or for failing to report the required information.

How Can SDHRC Help?

As California strives to slow the spread of the coronavirus and several counties are being monitored by the state, it is imperative that businesses are prepared and aware of the ever-changing regulations. We’re here for you anytime, whether it’s clarifying wage and hour laws, guidance on policy interpretation, addressing layoffs/furloughs or interpreting emergency sick leave and EFMLA under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.  SDHRC wants to bring you comfort and peace of mind through this challenging and evolving journey.  


About the Author

Traci Hagan, “Treasure Trove”

Traci is an HR Consultant who has been with SDHRC for over 2 years but has over 32 years of experience in employee relations, conflict resolution benefits administration, training and development, workers’ comp and staffing! Traci is also a Professor who enjoys traveling and spending time with her 16-year-old “puppy”.