California's New Virus Laws Will Keep Employers On Their Toes

September 21, 2020

By Danielle Nichole Smith

California Gov. Gavin Newsom recently signed off on a trio of laws that provide workers with more benefits and protections amid the coronavirus pandemic while creating new requirements for their employers. Here, Law360 looks at three takeaways.

The bills — S.B. 1383, S.B. 1159 and A.B. 685 — got Newsom's blessing Thursday, adding to other worker-focused legislation he signed recently, including one providing paid sick leave. While S.B. 1383 and A.B. 685 won't take effect until Jan. 1, S.B. 1159 took effect immediately.

S.B. 1159 and A.B. 685 both seem geared toward preventing outbreaks of COVID-19 in the workplace and allowing for more agency enforcement when they do occur, said Littler Mendelson PC's Alka Ramchandani-Raj. 

"Basically, they're putting the employer on notice that they have to act quickly once they find out someone has COVID," Ramchandani-Raj said. "One, to protect the employee and make sure they have coverage, and secondly, to protect other employees from exposure issues."

A "Leg Up" for Employees on Workers' Comp

S.B. 1159, introduced by Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, creates a presumption that certain covered workers' illnesses or deaths from COVID-19 are work-related and entitles them to workers' compensation, putting the onus on their employers to rebut the presumption.

Newsom previously established a rebuttable presumption in a May executive order that expired in July. S.B. 1159 is retroactive to July and will be in effect until January 2023.