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California Employers Take Note: COVID Reporting Now Mandatory to Workers Compensation Carrier

Image of workers compensation paperworkCalifornia companies with five or more employees take note: Recently passed legislation in California now requires reporting COVID-19 cases to your Workers Compensation carrier, regardless if an employee is making a COVID-19-related claim for on-the-job infection.

What’s Happened?

Governor Gavin Newsom recently signed two bills into law directly relating to COVID-19 in the workplace and Workers Compensation: SB1159 and AB685. Employers need to be aware of these laws and their implications, as failure to comply can carry severe penalties up to $10,000 for noncompliance.

What Do These Bills Say?

SB1159 is the COVID-19 Workers’ Compensation Presumption Bill — This bill went into effect September 17, 2020 and extends an earlier executive order which addressed employee claims of contracting COVID-19 at work. That earlier executive order instituted a “rebuttable” presumption that meant the claim of becoming infected at work would stand unless the employer had other, solid evidence that the infection occurred outside of work.

What evidence could an employer provide to help prove a COVID-19 infection did not happen at work?

– Specific safety measures and protocols in place to reduce potential transmission of COVID-19

– A listing of the employee’s risks of COVID-19 infection outside of the workplace

– Any statements made (by employee or others) and other evidence normally used to dispute a work-related injury

Employers were concerned that the Governor’s initial order would be updated with a more permanent one where the presumption would be ‘absolute’ versus ‘rebuttable’ – this extension of the ‘rebuttable’ nature of these claims is definitely a bit of a relief for company owners statewide. The new SB1159 is in effect until January 1, 2023.

What’s Changed Regarding Reporting?

Beyond the extension of the ‘presumptive’ nature of COVID-19 cases at a workplace, the most critical component of SB1159 requires California employers to report all known (or reasonably known) Employee positive tests for COVID-19 to their claims administrator — Even if the employee is not making an allegation of workplace exposure.

So What Has to Be Reported and When?

Effective September 17, 2020, ALL of the following data must be reported to your insurance carrier within three (3) business days of being notified that an employee tested positive for COVID-19:

  • TEST RESULT: Report that an employee tested positive. Employees are not identified by name unless the employee claims the infection was work-related.
  • DATE: Report the date the employee tested positive. This is the date the test was taken.
  • ADDRESS: The address of the specific place(s) of employment where the infected employee worked during the 14-day period before testing positive.
  • EMPLOYEE TOTAL: The number of employees who came into work within 45 days before the date the employee tested positive. Businesses must report the highest number of employees who came to work (at the same locations where the infected employee worked) in the 45-day period before the infected employee’s last day on-the-job.

What’s Assembly Bill 685?

Under the also recently passed law, California businesses must notify employees who may have been exposed to COVID-19 at their worksite within one business day and document the communication through very specific reporting requirement beginning January 1, 2021.

Your insurance broker can work with you now to review the requirements and get your systems in place to ensure OSHA compliance at the first of the year.

It’s definitely a confusing time with a whole new set of requirements and regulations layered in to the already complex web of Workers Compensation. If you have additional, specific questions, please feel free to contact the Snapp & Associates team at 619-908-3100.

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