May 1, 2020

California Executive Order Greatly Expands COVID-19 Presumption

While many states have expanded workers’ comp coverage to provide benefits for COVID-19, these actions have primarily only applied to healthcare workers, first responders, and in some cases, certain essential front-line workers. However, California has issued a much broader policy.

California Governor Gavin Newsom signed Executive Order N-62-20 on May 6th, making COVID-19 a compensable occupational disease for employees who contract the virus on the job. This applies to all employees, not just those deemed essential by the state.

The order does clarify that to receive workers’ comp benefits that the employee must test positive for or be diagnosed with COVID-19 within 14 days after that the employee performed labor or services at the employee’s place of employment at the employer’s discretion; this only applies if the initial day of service was on or after March 19, 2020. Furthermore, the employer’s place of employment cannot be the employee’s home or residence.

However, the order states that if an employee has paid sick leave benefits specifically available in response to COVID-19, those benefits must be used and exhausted before any temporary disability benefits may be activated.

This order applies to all workers’ comp carriers in California, including self-insured employers, but insurers are free to adjust the costs of their polices.

This order is considered retroactive to the date of California’ stay-at-home order, issued on March 19th. The order is set to expire July 5, 2020.

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