California Senate Sends SB 1159 Coronavirus Presumption Bill to Governor Newsom for Signature

The legislature’s passage of the bill through both houses in the final hours of the legislative session sends the urgency measure to the governor’s desk, where it will take effect upon his signature. SB 1159 has gone through several changes as it has progressed through the legislature, and will codify and expand upon Governor Newsom’s original executive order. This bill creates a rebuttable presumption that COVID-19 cases are work-related for those working outside of their home. There are special protections for healthcare workers and public safety workers as expected. However, what is new is an additional provision if an “outbreak” occurs at an employee’s place of work.

The bill’s final version defines an “outbreak” as four employees testing positive over two weeks for employers under 100 employees, or 4% of workers employed by a larger company. In addition, an amendment adds that an order by the health department or Cal/OSHA shutting down a workplace due to the risk of infection would trigger the presumption. In order to meet the requirements of the presumption, a worker must have tested positive within 14 days of the last day of work at the place of employment. The presumption remains rebuttable, meaning an employer can defend against a claim with evidence that the employer took measures to reduce the risk of transmission, that the employee received it elsewhere, among other options. Employers will have 45 days to reject a claim, or 14 days in the case of healthcare workers. The sunset date for the provision is 1/1/23.

SRTK will continue to monitor this development and provide updates as available. Please contact us with any questions about what this may mean for you.