SB 1159 – Workers’ Compensation Reporting
On September 17, 2020, Governor Newsom signed Senate Bill (SB) 1159, which eases the path to workers’ compensation benefits for employees who contract COVID-19, and increases employer reporting requirements in the event of a workplace COVID-19 outbreak. The statutes take effect immediately and remain in effect through January 1, 2023.
SB 1159 creates a “disputable presumption” of a workplace illness for employees who test positive for COVID-19 on or after July 6, 2020, through January 1, 2023. Under the law, employers are allowed to introduce evidence regarding measures they have taken to reduce potential transmission of COVID-19 in the workplace to rebut the presumption.
The new law applies to dental employers with five or more employees, when an employee tests positive for COVID-19 during an “outbreak” at their specific workplace. An outbreak is defined as 1) for employers with 100 or fewer employees, 4 employees testing positive with PCR tests within a 14-day period, or 2) for employers with more than 100 employees, 4 percent of the employees testing positive in such a period. Affected employees who test positive for COVID-19 can stay home and be provided workers’ compensation benefits, thereby reducing the spread of the virus to others at work and in the community.
SB 1159 also requires an employer to report certain information to its workers’ compensation claims administrator, within three days from reasonably knowing that an employee has tested positive for COVID-19. The claims administrator will use the information to determine whether an outbreak has occurred. Employers who fail to report to the claims administrator, or who “intentionally submits false or misleading information” are subject to a $10,000 penalty assessment by the California labor commissioner.
Employers should contact their workers’ compensation insurance carrier to obtain the carrier’s reporting process. For more information on workers’ compensation, please refer to your workers’ compensation carrier, your employment attorney, or your human resources department.
AB 685 – COVID-19 Exposure Notification
Governor Newsom also signed into law Assembly Bill (AB) 685, which takes effect on January 1, 2021.
Notice to Employees
The bill requires employers to provide written notice to all employees and subcontracted employees within one day of learning of any potential occupational exposure to COVID-19. Notification must be made regardless of whether or not the initial illness is subsequently determined to be non-work related.
The notice must contain the same information as would be required in an incident report in a Cal/OSHA Form 300 injury and illness log, regardless of whether the employer is required to maintain the Form 300 log. Employers must take care to protect employee privacy and prevent disclosure of personally identifiable information or protected health information. The notice should also include information on COVID-19 benefits to which employee(s) may be entitled, and the disinfection and safety plan the employer has implemented or plans to implement in accordance with U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.
Reporting to Local Agency
In addition to employee notification requirements, under AB 685, employers must also notify the local public health agency within 48 hours any time that they exceed the threshold for an outbreak as defined by SB 1159 as described above.