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California Permits Workers’ Compensation Benefits for Essential Employees Who Have Contracted COVID-19


In an executive order, Governor Gavin Newsom of California allowed essential employees to recover workers’ compensation benefits for COVID-19 cases.

The order provides some financial reassurance to workers in the state who are most at-risk for contracting the virus. Although workers will still need to undergo the claims process in order to recover benefits, “the change shifts the burden of proof that typically falls on workers and instead requires companies or insurers to prove that the employees didn’t get sick at work,” according to the Los Angeles Times. With this change, sick employees should have a greater chance of recovering workers’ compensation benefits.

The order applies to claims from March 19th and beyond that have previously filed for COVID-19 contraction. As of now, the order will cover a 60-day period from Governor Newsom’s announcement on May 6th.

As explained by the Los Angeles Times article, “The new rules apply to workers who tested positive for COVID-19 within 14 days of performing work, or those who received a diagnosis within 14 days that was confirmed by a positive test no more than 30 days later. Employers have 30 days to rebut a claim.”

Which Workers Are Considered Essential?

Under California’s laws concerning COVID-19 closures, essential workers include nurses and other healthcare workers, food service workers, grocery store workers, some retail employees, and others who are employed at businesses deemed as essential amidst the pandemic. While others in the state have been able to work from home or have been unable to work at all during this time, these workers have continued to provide these needed services — and possibly been put at risk of illness in the process.

How to File a Workers’ Compensation Claim

Governor Newsom’s executive order does not necessarily approve all coronavirus-related workers’ compensation claims. Employees who have contracted the virus will need to file a workers’ compensation claim and negotiate with their employer’s insurance company, just as in any case of on-the-job injury and occupational illness.

If you have contracted COVID-19 and believe your work to be the cause, report your illness to your employer as soon as possible and seek medical treatment. Then, contact our law firm. Smolich and Smolich can represent you in your workers’ compensation claim. We will help you recover the benefits you deserve and ensure your rights are preserved. Contact us today to discuss the details of your case.

If you are interested in speaking with our legal team, send us a message or call (916) 571-0400 for a free consultation with our attorneys.