As California enters the next phase of reopening businesses amid the COVID-19 pandemic, employers may be concerned about what it could mean for workplace safety of its employees. What if an employee contracts COVID-19 after returning to the workplace? During this unprecedented time, California has changed the burden requirements specifically for COVID-19 workers’ compensation claims.
Governor Newsom enacted Executive Order N-62-20 (“Executive Order”), affecting workers’ compensation standards for establishing a COVID-19 claim. Essentially, making it easier for employees to establish a COVID-19 workers’ compensation claim.
The Executive Order now creates a presumption that an employee contracted COVID-19 at the workplace so long as the employee satisfies certain requirements. The requirements include:
- The employee tested positive for or diagnosed with 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 employee performed labor or services at the employee’s place of employment at the employer’s direction on or after March 19, 2020;
- The employee’s place of employment was not the employee’s home or residence.
An employee who contracts COVID-19 and satisfies the above requirements may now be entitled to full workers’ compensation benefits, including medical treatment, hospital/surgery expenses, and disability and death benefits. The Executive Order will remain in effect until July 5, 2020. However, in this unprecedented time, this Order could be extended or modified unexpectedly. We will keep you posted.
What does this mean for your organization?
When your organization plans to reopen, you should follow the recommended guidelines provided by the CDC and OSHA for mitigating exposures and tailor it to your organization’s needs. Implementing and enforcing rigorous risk management policies is essential for reopening your business to keep your workplace safe.
Moreover, your administrator should work closely with your employment attorney, HR professional, and insurance broker on properly handling workers’ compensation claims concerning an employee who contracts COVID-19. Additionally, your employment attorney should review your risk management policies to ensure that your organization complies with employment laws relating to an employee who contracts COVID-19 (e.g., engaging in the interactive process, providing a reasonable accommodation, permitting medical leave.)
What about my volunteers?
If your organization utilizes volunteers, this may pose additional exposure. As a reminder, volunteers are not covered under a workers’ compensation insurance policy unless added by special endorsement. Further, most Volunteer Accident policies specifically exclude “sickness,” “disease,” “bacterial or viral infection.” It is, therefore, imperative that you contact your broker to assist you. You may also want to review your volunteer agreements with counsel.
Let us know if you have any questions or if you would like us to provide you with a quote for workers’ compensation. As we enter this new normal, know that we are here to help with your workers’ compensation and risk management needs. Stay safe!
**This article is intended for informational purposes only and not to be construed as legal advice.