Workers’ Compensation Benefits Presumed For Employees Diagnosed With COVID-19

On May 6, 2020, Governor Newsom signed Executive Order N-62-20, creating a presumption that any COVID-19 diagnosis qualifies an employee for workers’ compensation benefits.  The presumption applies if all the following requirements are satisfied: 

  1. An employee tested positive for COVID-19 within 14 days after a day of working/performing services at the employer’s place of employment;  

  1. The workday mentioned above was on or after March 19, 2020;  

  1. The place of employment mentioned above is not the employee’s home or residence; and  

  1. The COVID-19 diagnosis was done by a licensed physician and the diagnosis is confirmed by further testing within 30 days after the original diagnosis.  

Under the order, workers are entitled to full benefits including “full hospital, surgical, medical treatment, disability indemnity, and death benefits.” An employee must use all available paid sick leave before he or she can collect temporary disability benefits. If an employee was diagnosed with COVID-19 on or after May 6, 2020, the employee must be certified for temporary disability within 15 days of the diagnosis, and every 15 days thereafter.  If an employee was diagnosed before May 6, 2020, the employee must obtain certification by May 21, 2020, documenting the time period which the employee was unable to work, and must be recertified for temporary disability every 15 days thereafter.  The presumption applies to all California workers’ compensation insurance carriers and will stay in place until July 5, 2020.    

Although the presumption can be rebutted by “other evidence” within 30 days of the claim, this is a powerful incentive for employees to return to work.  Governor Newsom stated, “we are removing a burden for workers on the front lines, who risk their health and safety to deliver critical services to our fellow Californians, so that they can access benefits, and be able to focus on their recovery.”   

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