Yesterday, Governor Gavin Newsom signed an executive order creating a rebuttable presumption that a California employee who contracts COVID-19 contracted it in the course of their employment. This would entitle the employee to workers’ compensation benefits, unless the employer successfully proved they did not contract it at work. In a normal workers’ compensation claim, the employee has the burden of establishing their injury arose in the course of their work.
Over the years, the California Legislature has created rebuttable presumptions for certain injuries and infections for certain employees. In those situations, the injury or infection is presumed to have arisen in the course of the employee’s work, with the burden shifting to the employer to rebut this presumption. The new executive order now places COVID-19 squarely as one of the infections where the rebuttable presumption will apply for certain employees.
The presumption applies to employees working from March 19 through July 5, 2020. The employee must test positive for or be diagnosed with COVID-19 within 14 days of working for the employer. However, the place of employment cannot be the employee’s home or residence.
While the number and costs of claims that will qualify for the presumption is unknown, carriers may use the “potential” for such claims as a reason to increase premiums when an employer is up for renewal or looking for a new carrier. Such can be anticipated whether or not the actual number and costs of those claims warrant an increase. Two other presumption bills are also being pursued in the Legislature. To the extent one of those bills passes and is signed into law, carriers are expected to increase premiums and rates even more, whether or not the costs associated with those presumption bills merits such an increase.
RPNA continues to monitor developments affecting workers’ compensation premium costs for employers who do business in California. We stand ready to assist our clients with questions and issues that you may have concerning the amount of workers’ compensation premium you are being charged. As always, contact us (or your broker) to discuss how we may be able to assist you.
Please contact Nicholas Roxborough at (818) 992-9999, ext. 222, or David Ginsburg, at ext. 228.
In the meantime, we hope you are healthy and staying safe.
The link to Governor Newsom’s Executive Order can be found here.