COVID-19 Compensation For California Workers Law Approved

California Governor Gavin Newsom signed two new bills into law late last week approving COVID-19 compensation for workers, over the objections of multiple business groups, who believe they are “unworkable.”

covid-19 compensationPhoto Credit: Shutterstock

Companies in California must now tell their workers of any possible exposure to COVID-19 and will need to pay employees workers compensation benefit options if they get sick with the dangerous disease.

The new law allows people who have coronavirus capable of receiving workers’ compensation benefits. It took effect immediately after his signature stroked the document, and applies to all workers in the state of California. 

The law treats first responders and health care workers differently than other employees. Police officers, firefighters, and health care workers, and janitors in contact with COVID-19 patients, may be able to apply for the benefits.

Other forms of the workforce will be eligible only if their work environment has an outbreak. For companies that range between five and one hundred employees, the law defines an outbreak as four or more infected workers who are working at the same place of business within a two-week timespan.

Companies that have over 100 employees must have an outbreak defined as at least 4% of workers working in the same location being infected during a two weeks time frame.

The regulations for first responders and health care workers are permanent. For other workers, the options expire on Jan. 1, 2023.

Workers won’t need to provide evidence that they were infected on the job to get such benefits, as the law is written to assume they caught the disease while working. The law will instead force employers to prove that their workers did not get the virus while on-site to deny the benefits.

The state’s legislature stated that it appeared business groups supported that aid for first responders and other groups at high risk of catching the bug. But they also said it wasn’t fair to do that for other occupations with a lower risk of infection. They called the law “unworkable for employers.” 

The second law forces companies to tell employees if and when they may have been exposed to someone who has either tested positive, died from the virus, or been ordered to isolate. Companies will need to notify employees within one business day of learning of the exposures or they can face fines issued by the Division of Occupational Safety and Health. The new law takes effect Jan. 1.

Multiple Business groups, including California’s Chamber of Commerce, have opposed the new bills because they believe the laws are relatively vague and will be rather difficult for businesses to comply accordingly. The results could be “good business owners” facing hefty fines, they claim.

The Governor’s office disagreed, responding that the two laws will “prioritize our workforce,” including front line workers politicians “pay a lot of lip service to, but often we don’t back up.”

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