California Legislature Votes, Will Hold Appropriations Committee Hearing on Multiple Bills to Create COVID-19 Presumptions for “Essential” and Other Workers

The California State Senate Appropriations Committee will review the cost implications of both Assembly Bill 196 (AB 196) and Assembly Bill 664 (AB 664) during a hearing beginning on Monday, 8/17, at 9:00am. An Appropriations Committee hearing on Senate Bill 1159 has not yet been scheduled.

During a committee hearing on Tuesday, Sen. Jerry Hill said that Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez would further amend AB 196 to make the presumption in the bill rebuttable, not conclusive. While the discussion of who will be covered (and which type of presumption will apply) will continue, the Senate Committee on Labor, Public Employment and Retirement voted 3-1 to pass AB 196, and voted 3-0 to pass AB 664.

As we have written previously  the California state legislature began to hear testimony on SB 1159 on August 11th. That bill and its recent amendments would codify Governor Newsom’s Executive Order establishing a rebuttable presumption that coronavirus (COVID-19) cases contracted at work between March 19th and July 5th are compensable, adding it to the Labor Code. In addition, testimony was heard on AB 196 and AB 664. These two bills create separate presumptions, one conclusive and one rebuttable, that cover essential employees.

AB 196, as amended, proposes a conclusive (non-rebuttable) presumption that COVID-19 cases are compensable for any workers in an industry deemed “essential” in Governor Newsom’s Executive Order N-33-20 (PDF)  or later deemed essential, with the exception of firefighters, peace officers, and health care employees providing direct patient care in an acute care hospital. This presumption would apply to any case presenting after March 1 “that develops or manifests itself during a period of the person’s employment in the essential occupation or industry,” and applies for up to 90 days after the last date of employment.

AB 664, as amended, would enact a rebuttable presumption that COVID-19 injuries are compensable for the firefighters, law enforcement, and healthcare workers excluded from the presumption proposed in AB 196. The disputable presumption would apply to any exposure or contracting of a communicable disease, on or after January 1, 2020, “that is the subject of a state or local declaration of a state of public health emergency that is issued on or after January 1, 2020.” (Emphasis in original.) Employers would have 30 days to reject the claim, and the presumption would be applicable for up to 30 days following termination of employment. The bill would also create a requirement for the employer to provide or reimburse an employee for emergency equipment or  PPE, as well as provide for paid leave during a required quarantine, and “Provision of or reimbursement for housing and living expenses related to an ordered quarantine.”

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.