While people have gone back to work and schools have gotten back to normal routines, that doesn’t mean that coronavirus is gone. It’s still out there, and while some have managed to get it, others are on their second, third, etc. rounds with this virus.
California’s Non-Emergency COVID-19 Prevention Regulations became effective on January 1st. They are now active in conjunction with COVID-19 Prevention Emergency Temporary Standards. Both of these rules address the pandemic and its effects on workers and workplaces.
Even with COVID vaccinations, the disease remains prevalent. According to the CDC, about 15.4% of the population (ages 5 and up) have been vaccinated and had at least one booster. There were almost 471,000 new cases during the first week of January and more than 2,700 deaths.
During the last two months of 2022, even with 72.5% of the state’s population vaccinated with the first round of the new vaccines, California saw around 6,220 new cases each day and around 34 deaths each day. It’s clear that this virus is going to remain a problem, but many people don’t think about it until it hits their household.
Senate Bill 1159 required employers to pay for COVID-19 supplemental paid sick leave through 2022. If you get one of the strains of COVID in 2023, can you still get paid? Will you qualify for worker’s comp?
Senate Bill 1159 Explained
Back on September 17, 2020, Governor Newsom signed Senate Bill 1159. This bill covered emergency responders and health care workers and companies with five or more employees. required employers to report COVID-19 infections to the company’s workers’ comp insurance company.
Companies could then provide proof of the measures they were taking to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace. It was designed to help prevent workplaces from being responsible for worker’s comp claims as it was hard to determine if a person really got COVID at work or while out shopping or using public transportation.
SB 1159 also made it possible for workers who did contract COVID-19 at work to claim workers’ comp. Until December 31, 2022, California employers had to provide up to 80 hours of supplemental paid sick leave due to COVID. Companies with 26 or more workers also had to provide paid time off for workers who heeded to stay home to care for a family member with COVID.
All of that ended on December 31st. So, what happens in 2023 if you get COVID at work?
Assembly Bill 1751 Offers Some Protection
Assembly Bill 1751 is in effect until January 1, 2024. It extends the right to an employee to apply for workers’ compensation if there was an outbreak at their work. An outbreak is defined as 4% of the workforce. They must have tested positive for COVID within 14 days of working at the company during that outbreak.
But, employers can dispute your claim if they were taking precautions to prevent the transmission, such as having employees still wear masks or having workers spaced to prevent the spread. Employers need to keep notifying employees of exposure to COVID within the workplace (AB 2693) by a poster or memo posted in a visible location or through written notification. But, businesses no longer need to inform their local health department.
You Have COVID, What Happens Now?
One of the biggest changes in 2023 is that workers with COVID are no longer going to be paid if they stay home. While some might be able to use up vacation, personal, and sick leave, many won’t want to do so. It’s going to lead to more people getting COVID and going to work anyway as they can’t afford to go without pay.
You can see if you can get workers’ comp. It doesn’t hurt to try. The key is you must prove you caught the virus at work and not at the store, at your child’s school, at a local gym or theater, etc. Proving that you caught the virus at work can be challenging.
If you can deal with the lack of income, FMLA does allow you unpaid time off to care for a sick family member. That may offer some help in keeping your job while you take extended time off.
The California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board is working on ways to bring back supplemental sick leave for people who get COVID at work, but it’s still in negotiations. Concerns are that people will feel no choice but to go to work while sick, and that will lead to massive outbreaks again.
For now, these new temporary regulations are in effect and will last until 2024. Governor Newsom is expected to end the Coronavirus Emergency Declaration in February, which will add to the shift in policies that have been ongoing since 2020.
What If You Were Previously Denied Pay After Getting COVID?
Workers’ compensation is a form of insurance that pays for the medical treatments and percentage of pay that you’re missing due to an illness or injury that happened during the course of employment. If you became ill during an outbreak at your place of employment, you could be covered.
Even with the emergency laws in place, some workers had a hard time getting paid when they took time off from work due to COVID. Sometimes, management didn’t take the precautions they should have to prevent the spread of COVID.
The government had rules for workplaces to follow that covered ventilation, mask policies, and social distancing. Proving that you contracted the virus at work and were not exposed anywhere else is the issue you have to contend with, but it can be easier to do if your workplace was slow to implement safety or reporting procedures.
From January 2020 to June 2021, a third of all COVID-19 workers’ comp claims came from healthcare workers. More than half the claims were from workers who were covered by a presumed outbreak at work.
If you contracted COVID in the pandemic and took time off and didn’t get paid you might be able to claim it retroactively. You need to have evidence of a positive COVID test, documentation from your doctor, and proof that you informed your company.
If you did everything right and were denied COVID pay, it’s important to talk to an attorney who specializes in employment law and workers’ compensation. Or, if you have COVID now and know you got it at work, gather the proof you can and fill out an application or reach out to a specialist in employment law.
Shegerian Conniff helps you get the pay you deserve. Whether you were denied and don’t feel that it was a valid denial or need guidance deciding if you qualify, it’s best to get an expert’s opinion. Arrange a free consultation with our workers’ compensation team.