A new executive order issued by Gov. Newsom in California has paved the way for protecting employees under workers’ compensation laws for Covid-19 infection resulting at the workplace. Workers’ comp in the state provides benefits for workers who may have suffered an injury or illness during the course of their employment.
However, in cases where it is hard to determine whether the injury or illness occurred at the workplace, the burden of proof usually falls on the worker to establish their claim. There has been an ongoing debate regarding coronavirus illness, where it is difficult to establish whether the worker actually contracted the infection at the workplace during the scope and course of their employment.
Considering that Covid-19 is a pandemic, there is always a likelihood that the worker may have contracted the coronavirus illness outside the workplace.
New Order Reverses the Coronavirus Burden of Proof
The Executive Order N-62-20 of the California Governor has largely reversed the typical burden of proof with relation to Covid-19. Rather than the worker having to prove that they contracted the infection at work, the Order creates a rebuttable presumption (in most circumstances) that the infection occurred during the course of employment.
Going by this new Order, workers who suffer from Covid-19 illness at the workplace can claim workers’ compensation benefits in California. The Order provides that the employer has the right to dispute the claim through other evidence, but unless the claim is controverted, the Workers’ Comp Appeals Board will go by the presumption.
In simple terms, in eligible cases, the Covid-19 illness of a worker will be presumed to have occurred during the course of their employment – unless the employer is able to prove otherwise.
Conditions that a Worker should Meet
The Order says that as long as a worker meets the following conditions, their Covid-19 related illness will be presumed to have occurred at work for the purpose of receiving workers’ comp benefits:
- The worker must have been diagnosed with or tested positive for Covid-19 within 14 days “after a day that the employee performed labor or services at the employee’s place of employment at the employer’s direction.”
- The alleged date of contracting the infection should be on or between March 9 and July 5, 2020.
This means that the new presumption will only be applicable until July 5, 2020, for the purpose of claiming workers’ compensation benefits resulting from coronavirus infection.
It is important to note that this presumption is not applicable to work-from-home employees or remote workers and will this motivate businesses to not open until after July 5 putting even more burden on the state and tax payer in terms of greater numbers remaining on unemployment. In addition, if more people are not working this means they are at home even longer which could contribute to the rising domestic abuse crisis America is facing now putting mainly wives and children at risk.
With that said, social distancing is vital and all work places should be implementing these new strategies to keep employees safe from this virus.
Based on this Order, a workers’ comp claim involving a Covid-19 diagnosis also requires that the diagnosis should be done by a doctor who is licensed by the California Medical Board. Moreover, the diagnosis should have been confirmed by additional testing within 30 days of the date of the initial diagnosis.
Talk to a Knowledgeable California Employment Law Attorney
If you believe that your employer has violated your rights during the current coronavirus pandemic situation, the committed lawyers at Makarem & Associates can help you pursue a legal claim. Call us at 310-312-0299 to schedule an appointment, or email at [email protected].