California’s essential workers to get benefit of the doubt if they contract COVID

May 07, 2020

By Barbara Feder Ostrov

California’s essential workers will get new workers’ compensation protections under an executive order signed Wednesday by Gov. Gavin Newsom — a move that could cost the state billions of dollars in claims from COVID-19-infected workers.

The order presumes that workers — including nurses, janitors, first responders, farmworkers and grocery workers who contracted COVID-19 — were infected on the job and puts the burden on employers to prove otherwise. The order, which lasts for two months, covers workers who tested positive for COVID-19 within 14 days of working after Newsom’s March 19statewide stay-at-home order. 

“We want to keep workers healthy and we want to keep them safe,” Newsom said today during his daily briefing. “The worst thing we can do is have a worker spread (disease) because he or she can’t afford not to go to work.”

The order had been the subject of intense lobbying by both labor and business groups in recent weeks...

SB 1159 by Democratic Sen. Jerry Hill of San Mateo, would apply to a larger group of essential workers, but cover only COVID-19 and would continue to allow employers to contest whether an employee actually contracted the infection at work.