By David Beasley | May 15, 2020


SACRAMENTO — Under an executive order signed May 6 by Gov. Gavin Newsom, employees who work outside the home are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits if they contract COVID-19.

The order applies to workers who are diagnosed within 14 days after they “performed labor or services at the employee’s place of employment at the employer’s direction.” The order does not include home offices, and it requires a diagnosis by a licensed physician, confirmed by testing within 30 days of the diagnosis.

Once the employee’s claim is accepted, they are eligible for full hospital, surgical, medical treatment, disability indemnity and death benefits, the order says.

The order states that any COVID-19-related illness of an employee “shall be presumed to arise out of and in the course of the employment for purposes of awarding workers’ compensation benefits.”

The presumption that the worker contracted COVID-19 at work can be disputed by an employer and controverted by other evidence, the order states.

“But unless so controverted, the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board is bound to find in accordance with it,” according to the order.

Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse in California is concerned that the order may lead to a spike in lawsuits.

“We are concerned about the governor’s order that anyone who works outside the home and contracts the virus would be considered a work comp claim,” said Julie Griffiths, the group’s regional director. “We are watching this closely for any spikes in lawsuits, which may or may not occur if the order is followed by the carriers. We will monitor the situation over the coming year.”

The California Chamber of Commerce said the order will “unnecessarily and significantly drive up” workers’ compensation costs for California employers “at a time when they are struggling to keep Californians employed.”

The legal presumption that workers contracted the virus at work will unfairly shifts costs to employers, CalChamber said in a statement.

“The private sector did not cause this crisis, and it should not be the safety net used to pay for this crisis — that is the role of government,” a CalChamber statement said.

Originally posted on Northern California Record