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California governor signs COVID-19 presumption, outbreak reporting laws


California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Thursday signed into law measures to make it easier for front-line workers to receive workers comp benefits if they contract COVID-19 on the job and require employers to promptly report potential coronavirus outbreaks to public health authorities.

S.B. 1159 creates a presumption that first responders, health care workers and police officers who test positive for COVID-19 within 14 days of performing labor or services contracted the virus at work and are entitled to workers compensation, unless their employers can show that they contracted the virus elsewhere.

The law requires employees who have paid sick leave to exhaust those benefits before any temporary disability benefits can be paid. It also mandates that the state’s Commission on Health and Safety and Workers Compensation conduct a study on the effect that COVID-19 claims have had on the state’s workers comp system and deliver the final report to the governor by April 30, 2022.

In May, Gov. Newsom issued an executive order creating a COVID-19 rebuttable presumption for workers who contract COVID-19 on the job that expanded to 16 different classes of workers deemed “essential.” The order expired in July.

A.B. 685 requires employers to report potential outbreaks of COVID-19 at their workplaces to public health officials within one business day of learning of the potential exposure. The law also requires employers to report known cases to workers who may have been exposed to COVID-19 within one business day and authorizes the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health to close worksites due to COVID-19 hazards.

Both laws take effect immediately and expire Jan. 1, 2023.

More insurance and workers compensation news on the coronavirus crisis here.