Comp Proposed for California Essential Workers With Covid-19

April 28, 2020, 8:21 PM

A new California legislative proposal seeks to make all essential workers with Covid-19 eligible for workers’ compensation if they contracted the coronavirus while working.

Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez (D) is planning to amend an existing bill with language that presumes that an essential worker with Covid-19 caught the disease at their workplace.

The measure would allow workers to be compensated for their hospital stay, medical treatment, disability indemnity, or surgery, and would disburse death benefits if the disease is fatal.

“We owe it to all of our essential workers, who are at a severely heightened risk of getting sick on the job, to ensure they will receive workers’ compensation if they do get sick with COVID-19,” Gonzalez said in a statement.

The proposal comes as the state workers’ compensation agency estimates it will pay between $2.2 billion and $33.6 billion, with a mid-range estimate of $11.2 billion, to settle Covid-19-related claims.

The question of whether employers can assume a worker was infected with the coronavirus at work has been debated in other states. In Illinois, the Workers’ Compensation Commission approved, then repealed, a rule that presumed front-line workers with Covid-19 contracted it as a result of their duties.

Grocery, retail, warehouse, and transportation workers, as well as other employees deemed essential during the pandemic, would qualify for workers’ compensation, adding to a separate bill (A.B. 664) that would provide Covid-19 related workers’ compensation to nurses, firefighters, and other first responders and health-care workers.

To contact the reporter on this story: Tiffany Stecker in Sacramento, Calif. at tstecker@bgov.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Karl Hardy at khardy@bloomberglaw.com; Martha Mueller Neff at mmuellerneff@bloomberglaw.com

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