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Workers Compensation Insights

The workers' compensation issues under debate present significant challenges to the oldest social benefit system in the country. For a discussion of these issues in the context of the current California legislative debate, please download this free report: 

Workers' Compensation Insights is the publication of Prop 23 Advisors.   Subscribers will receive in depth analyses of pending California legislation and regulations, review of important WCAB and appellate court decisions, and commentary on trends within the system both nationally and in California. Insights is published bi-monthly subject to the timing of significant legislative activity in Sacramento.

Legislature Returns. ​Senate Bill 1159 (Hill and Daly), amended April 22 to provide that until an unspecified date, “injury” for a critical worker includes illness or death that results from exposure to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) under specified circumstances, passed out of the Senate Labor, Public Employment, and Retirement Committee May 14. The bill would create a disputable presumption that an injury that develops or manifests itself while a critical worker is employed arose out of and in the course of employment. SB 1159 is not in its final form. It is distinguishable from Assembly Bill 196 (Gonzalez) and Assembly Bill 664 (Cooper) in terms of the scope of employment covered by the presumption, the presumption in SB 1159 is disputable and not conclusive, that “injury” is illness or death and does not include exposure to COVID-19 as a compensable injury, and that the amendments to the Labor Code in SB 1159 will sunset on an as yet to be specified date. 

AB 196 and AB 664 remain in the Senate Labor, Public Employment, and Retirement Committee. Per the Joint Rules of the Legislature, these bills do not have to be heard until July 31.

On May 6, Governor Gavin Newsom signed Executive Order N-62-20, establishing a disputable presumption of compensability for COVID-19 related illnesses. The specifics of the Executive Order are extensive, and not always entirely clear. Some of the issues presented by the Order also raise the question of whether it exceeds the Governor’s authority, even in these extremely trying times. Look to SB 1159 to initially codify the Executive Order before it is set to expire on July 5.

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