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New California Laws Create Presumption of Workers’ Compensation Coverage for COVID-19 Infections and Impose Additional COVID-19 Exposure Reporting and Notice Requirements on Employers

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California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Executive Order N-62-20—way back on May 6, 2020—which created a presumption that employees’ COVID-19-related illnesses were caused at work and therefore covered by workers’ compensation. That order covered COVID-19 infections from March 19, 2020 to July 5, 2020, at which time the order expired. To fill the void, on September 17, 2020, Gov. Newsom signed Senate Bill (“SB”) 1159 and Assembly Bill (“AB”) 685 into law.

SB 1159 resets the rebuttable presumption establishing workers’ compensation benefits for certain employees who contract COVID-19. At the same time, California passed AB 685, which allows the state to more closely track COVID-19 cases in the workplace by requiring employers to timely report COVID-19 related exposure information to the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (“Cal/OSHA”). AB 685 also requires employers to provide notice to employees of workplace COVID-19 exposures.

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