California Governor Gavin Newsom announced an Executive Order in response to the Coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak, establishing a rebuttable presumption that a worker who tests positive for the virus contracted it arising out of and during the course of employment. This presumption would cover all employees who have been working outside of their home and have tested positive or been diagnosed by a licensed physician within 14 days after their last day working outside the home. This law is in effect as of March 19, 2020, plus 60 days from today, May 6, 2020.
It appears all workers comp medical and indemnity benefits would apply. There was no mention of changing of UR/IMR process or apportionment during the announcement. It also appears it might have the effect of reducing the timeframe to accept or reject a claim as well.
The presumption could have a huge impact in workers’ compensation cases, where employers would bear the burden of rebutting the presumption, presenting evidence demonstrating the safety measures they have had in place and evidence of strict adherence to said measures. Additionally, evidence of the employee’s activity outside of work (social media posts about visiting friends, or engaging in non-occupational activities outside of work) could become crucial to defending such a claim. Ultimately, this Executive Order would put the burden on the employer to prove that the injured worker contracted COVID-19 somewhere other than work.
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.