The COVID-19 pandemic has created new workplace challenges. Policymakers across the country are all faced with the challenge of addressing what role the workers’ compensation insurance plays when workers are infected with this disease.
Suddenly, jobs that were not considered hazardous like mass transit operators, health care workers, grocery store workers are now at high risk of infection. That’s why you need a San Rafael workers’ compensation attorney if you’ve had occupational exposure to COVID-19.
In California, the state has taken steps to protect specific workers against COVID-19 infection. The state offers workers a chance to claim workers’ compensation benefits if they contract the novel coronavirus at work.
Is There an Employment Law Protecting COVID-19 Infections?
Senate Bill (SB) 1159 was adopted as a law in California on September 17, 2020. This is a new law that complements the existing workers’ compensation laws. The new law redefines “injury” to include illness or death from COVID-19 and will be valid until January 1, 2023.
This law creates a disputable presumption that the COVID-19 infection arose during work duties and should be compensated. But the worker needs to exhaust their paid sick leave benefits first before any other COVID-19 related benefits are paid out under the Labor Code Sections.
Who Is Covered Under This Section?
The law’s presumption covers frontline workers and some non-frontline workers who suffered COVID-19 related illnesses. This is generally a broader list of workers than what other states cover.
Labor Code Section 3212.87 lists frontline workers who are covered against COVID-19 related illnesses. If you are an active firefighter member, peace officer, authorized registered nurse, or employee who offers direct patient care or comes in direct contact with COVID-19 patients, then you are covered under this section.
Other health employees, coordinating fire and rescue services, emergency medical technicians, and those providing in house supportive services outside their own homes are also covered.
Non-frontline workers are covered under a different section. The section recognizes every worker not included in the frontline workers’ list but who work for an employer with five or more employees and who test positive during an “outbreak” at their workplace.
What Are the Potential Benefits?
Those eligible are entitled to full workers’ compensation, including full hospital benefits, medical treatment, surgical, disability indemnity, and death benefits. A victim will not be subjected to a waiting period before obtaining temporary disability benefits.
Are There Requirements I Must Meet to Receive COVID-19 Related Benefits?
A frontline worker with a COVID-19 related illness must meet a number of requirements before receiving any workers’ compensation benefits.
- The worker tests positive for COVID-19 within 14 days of the worker’s last day performing work duties outside their home, at the employer’s direction.
- The worker performed work duties on or after July 6, 2020, and subsequently tested positive for COVID-19
- The place of work the employee performed work duties was not the employee’s home or residence
For non-frontline workers, the positive test must have occurred during a period of an outbreak at the place of work. An outbreak is determined if, within 14 calendar days, at least four employees test for COVID-19 at a workplace with less than 100 employees, or 4% test positive for employers with more than 100 employees.
An event is also referred to as an outbreak if the place of work is ordered to close due to an overall risk of COVID-19 infection. If a physician’s diagnosis is what’s forming the basis of your claim, you have to test positive again within 30 days for you to continue the claim.
How Do I File for a COVID-19 Workers’ Comp Claim in California?
If you suspect an occupational exposure, you are within your rights to file a California worker’s comp claim with your employer. Your health industry workers’ comp lawyer in San Rafael will help you complete and submit the Workers’ Compensation Claim Form.
Once your employer receives the form, next is to process the claim with their insurance company within 24 hours and then refer you out for medical attention. They have 14 days to accept, reject, or delay your claim. If the insurance company delays your claim, it has 90 days to either accept or reject the claim.
Why Would My Employer Reject My Claim?
Most cases will be denied due to a lack of medical evidence that links your work and the COVID-19 positive test. If your claim is denied, you won’t receive any financial compensation through the workers’ compensation system.
Most COVID-19 claims are being denied or held up. Employers are taking advantage of the existing law to claim that employees were infected outside the workplace. That’s why you need an experienced workers’ comp attorney in San Rafael to defend your rights.
Learn Your Legal Options After Contracting COVID-19
COVID-19 represents a new form of workplace hazard than the traditional slip and fall injuries that were commonplace years ago. It has created new challenges for workers as they are faced with increased exposure with an uncertain legal route.
If you are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms due to exposure at your workplace, it might be an overwhelming and challenging period for you. You don’t have to face your employer alone. Rather than getting anxious about whether your employer will accept or reject your claim, take your time to focus on getting better.
If you believe you were exposed to the virus at work, get in touch with a workers’ compensation attorney to learn your next steps. Our Bay Area workers’ comp lawyer will break down what the law says regarding your case. Call us today at 415 448-5107.