Governor Newsom signed Senate Bill 1159 (“SB 1159”) on September 17, 2020, which could expand the definition of injury under the workers’ compensation system to include illness or death resulting from COVID-19. In May, the governor had issued an executive order which created a presumption that any COVID-19-related illness of an employee shall be presumed to arise out of and in the course of employment to award workers’ compensation benefits if certain conditions were met. However, this Executive order expired in July.

Similar to the prior Executive Order, SB 1159 creates a disputable presumption that COVID-19 injuries arose out of and in the course of employment and are compensable. The bill also makes a claim relating to a COVID-19 illness presumptively compensable, as described above, after 30 days or 45 days, rather than 90 days.

The bill also allows for the presumption of injury for employees whose coworkers test positive for COVID-19. This presumption will remain in effect until January 1, 2023.

As this bill includes an urgency clause, it goes into effect immediately.

Jackson Lewis will continue tracking state legislation that is relevant to employers. If you have questions about the effects of this or other recent legislation contact a Jackson Lewis attorney to discuss.