COVID-19 MANDATORY REPORTING GUIDELINES - CALIFORNIA
SB-1159 was enacted on September 17, 2020, and it sets up mandatory reporting guidelines for employers for reporting positive COVID-19 tests. Per SB-1159, employers are required to report COVID-19 positive tests to their Workers Compensation administrator. Reporting positive COVID-19 tests is mandatory no matter if the exposure work-related or non-work-related and remains in effect until January 1, 2023.
The Governor's original Executive Order applies from the period of March 19 to July 5, 2020. There is a second reporting period from July 6, 2020, to December 31, 2022. SB-1159 creates a rebuttable presumption of eligibility for Workers Compensation for employees who test positive for COVID-19 in the following two categories.
· Health Care Workers and First Responders
· Employers with five or more employees and employees test positive for COVID-19 during an outbreak at their specific workplace. (Outbreak Presumption)
An Outbreak is considered to exist if any of the following occurs within 14 days:
· If an employer has between 5 to 100 employees and four employees test positive
· If an employer has over 100 employees and 4% of the employees at a specific place of employment test positive
· A specific place of employment has been ordered to close by a local public health department, OSHA, State Department of Public Health, or a school superintendent due to risk of infection with COVID-19
When there is an employee who has tested positive for COVID-19, the employer must report this to the claims administrator. There are penalties up to $10,000 for failing to report as requested or for submitting misleading or false information.
The wording that this is a rebuttable presumption of eligibility means that even though it is presumed that the employee contracted COVID-19 through their workplace, it allows the employer to dispute that conclusion. The burden of proof is on the employer to prove that it was not contracted through the employee's workplace. Employers may use the safety measures that they have put in place per local health orders or other guidelines such as industry-specific guidelines as a rebuttal to the presumption of Workers Compensation eligibility.
First Responders and Health Care Worker employers have 30 days to review the claim and decide if they will reject or deny your claim. If they do not respond, the claim is presumed compensable under Workers Compensation but the employer can still give a rebuttal using the evidence gathered during the 30 day investigation period.
For Outbreak Presumption, employers have 45 days for investigation instead of 30 days. If they do not respond, the claim is presumed compensable under Workers Compensation but the employer can still give a rebuttal using the evidence gathered during the 45 day investigation period.
Employees who have their claims disputed by their employer can have the issue heard by a Judge.
From July 6th forward, employers of either First Responders and Health Care Workers or employers of All Other Employees with fewer than five employees must report a claim for an employee who has tested positive for COVID-19 within 3 business days to their claims administrator.
More information can be found on the Department of Industrial Relations website.
The full text of SB-1159 can be read here.