Governor Gavin Newsom has moved forward with making significant changes to the workers’ compensation system in California. On May 6 Governor Newsom signed an Executive Order to expand the scope of benefits provided to employees in regard to COVID-19. The order is retroactive to March 19 and will extend through July 5, 60 days from the date it was issued.
Accepted claims will be eligible for the full range of compensation benefits after having tested positive for COVID-19 within 14 days of employee working on the premises. The test must be performed by a physician or surgeon who is licensed by the California Medical Board. Once diagnosed, the employee must be tested within 30 days to confirm the diagnosis. Disability payments will only begin after an employee exhausts any other wage benefits such as paid sick leave. The order presumes that anyone who has been working outside the home during the timetable that was ascribed and is diagnosed with COVID-19 was infected while working.
There are a number of concerns among industry members that the order will have a massive financial impact on employers. As AgNet West previously reported, the cost of such an order would be around $11 billion and would likely lead to increased rates for employers. A coalition of California agricultural organizations which includes the Agricultural Council of California, California Farm Bureau Federation, California Fresh Fruit Association, and Western Growers highlighted concerns about the changes to the workers’ compensation system in a prepared statement.
“This executive order will add more financial weight at a very difficult time,” the statement reads. “Instead, if the goal is to restart California’s economy, then the added economic burden of medical claims related to COVID-19 should be borne by the government, not the essential industries providing a public good during a global pandemic.”