On May 6, 2020, Governor Gavin Newsom issued Executive Order N-62-20, which dramatically expands workers’ compensation eligibility for employees who are diagnosed with COVID-19, as part of his continued plan to create a robust safety net for California workers. The Order creates a rebuttable presumption that employees who test positive for or are diagnosed with COVID-19 within 14 days of performing work at their place of employment contracted the virus while at work.
To be entitled to this presumption, an employee must show: (1) the employee was diagnosed with or tested positive for COVID-19 within 14 days of performing work at the employee’s place of employment and under the employer’s direction; (2) the work day at issue was on or after March 19, 2020; (3) the place of employment at issue was not the employee’s place of residence; and (4) when the employee was diagnosed with COVID-19, the diagnosis was done by a California board-certified physician and confirmed by further testing within 30 days of the initial diagnosis.
If an employee is able to establish the factors above, a rebuttable presumption arises that the employee contracted COVID-19 in the course of employment for the purpose of workers’ compensation. The presumption is disputable, and the employer may present controvertible evidence, but the Executive Order also reduces from 90 days to 30 days the time in which an employer may do so. If the claim is not rejected within 30 days, the injury is presumed compensable unless new rebuttable evidence is discovered after the 30-day period. This presumption shall only apply to dates of injury occurring between March 19, 2020 and July 5, 2020.
Employees claiming a COVID-19-related injury are eligible for all workers’ compensation benefits, including “full hospital, surgical, medical treatment, disability indemnity, and death benefits.”
The Executive Order further establishes specific guidelines for employees seeking to obtain temporary disability benefits, a feature of workers’ compensation benefits that provides for payment of wages lost while the employee from an injury or illness. In order to be eligible for temporary disability under this Order, the employee must satisfy either of the following conditions:
(1) if the employee tests positive or is diagnosed with COVID-19 on or after May 6, 2020, the employee must be certified for temporary disability by a licensed physician within the first 15 days after the initial diagnosis, and must be recertified for temporary disability every 15 days thereafter, for the first 45 days following diagnosis; or
(2) if the employee tested positive or was diagnosed prior to May 6, 2020, the employee must obtain a certification from a licensed physician, within 15 days of May 6, 2020, documenting the period for which the employee was temporarily disabled and unable to work, and must be recertified for temporary disability every 15 days thereafter, for the first 45 days following diagnosis.
Additionally, an employee entitled to COVID-19 paid sick leave (including under the federal Families First Coronavirus Relief Act) must exhaust that paid leave before applying for temporary disability benefits.Executive Order N-62-20
The Executive Order will be in effect for 60 days from its issuance, or until July 5, 2020.