California Workers’ Comp Bills Signed into Law

October 2, 2020

California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a handful of bills related to workers’ compensation, including bills dealing with COVID-19 and reporting the virus in the workplace.

The Legislature recessed for the year on Aug. 31, and the governor had until Sept. 30 to sign or veto any bill passed by the Legislature.

The following is a summary of the bills compiled by the Worker’s Compensation Insurance Rating Bureau that are related to workers’ comp signed by the governor:

Senate Bill No. 1159

This bill went into effect immediately as an urgency statute and will remain in effect until Jan. 1, 2023. Subject to requirements, the bill has created a disputable presumption that an employee’s COVID-19 infection arose out of and in the course of employment if the employee is tested or diagnosed as COVID-19 positive within 14 days of working at their place of employment (not including their residence) and at their employer’s direction.

The bill has generally codified the governor’s Executive Order N-62-20 for the timeframe between March 19 and July 5. For on and after July 6, the bill has specific provisions relative to the disputable presumption for first responders and healthcare providers who provide direct care to patients, and employees who contract COVID-19 as the result of an “outbreak” at their place of employment.

Assembly Bill No. 685

This bill modifies occupational safety standards to require employers to provide notice and report information related to COVID-19 workplace exposure. The bill also expands the Cal/OSHA authority to enforce COVID-19 related notice requirements and impose civil penalties for an employer’s failure to comply. The changes will be in effect from Jan. 1, 2021 until Jan. 1, 2023.

Assembly Bill No. 2257

This bill was signed by the Governor on September 4, 2020 and went into effect immediately as an urgency statute. With respect to wages, workers’ compensation and other benefits, there is a presumption that an entity’s workers are employees unless the worker meets the “ABC Test.” In order to qualify as an independent contractor, the ABC Test requires that:

1) The worker is free from the control and direction of the hirer in connection with the performance of the work, both under the contract for performance of the work and in fact; 2) The worker performs work outside the usual course of the hiring entity’s business; 3) The worker is customarily engaged in an independently established trade, occupation or business of the same nature as the work performed for the hiring entity.

Several professions and business relationships are exempt from the application of the ABC Test and are instead governed by the multifactor test set forth in S.G. Borello & Sons, Inc. v. Department of Industrial Relations (1989) (Borello Test). This bill has clarified the application of the ABC Test to certain professions, modified existing exemptions and included additional exemptions.

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