Today Governor Newsom announced an executive order establishing a rebuttable industrial presumption that COVID is work related for certain workers who have a documented COVID diagnosis from March 19, 2020 til 60 days from the announcement of today’s order (see text of the order at the bottom of this post).
Citing gubernatorial power during a declared emergency pursuit to Government Code sections 8567, 8571 and 8627, Newsom did not wait for legislative action on several recently introduced presumption bills.
Newsom’s order will cover “labor or services at the employee’s place of employment at the employee’s direction” but will not cover COVID acquired from employment at home during the stay-at-home order.
Although the intent seems to be to provide a presumption for workers exempted from the March 19 stay-at-home order, the terms of the executive order does not limit application of the presumption to public safety personnel, medical personnel or any other specific group of “essential workers”. Arguably the terms of the order may provide a COVID presumption to workers who reported for work at jobs despite or in defiance of the stay-at-home order.
The industrial presumption is for diagnosed claims within a limited period, and is rebuttable. A number of employer-side groups had announced opposition to any presumption measure that would provide for a conclusive, non-rebuttable presumption.
Newsom’s order shortens the time to dispute a claim from 90 to 30 days. After 30 days from the date of filing, an eligible COVID claim could be contested only with evidence discovered after the 30 day time window.
The executive order is in many ways similar to the policy recently announced by State Compensation Insurance Fund that SCIF will accept these claims diagnosed during the COVID stay-at-home period.
The order provides for an offset of eligible sick leave benefits against any temporary disability indemnity.
The order will be a great relief to many workers and their families, most of whom will not have to struggle to establish their claims.
Here is the text of Newsom’s order: