With many of California's workplaces facing serious and significant changes due to Covid-19, state legislators are considering whether labor laws need to evolve too.
Legislators have proposed expanding workers’ compensation eligibility so that more employees will be covered if they are diagnosed with COVID-19, increasing the number of sick days for food service workers and requiring employers to pay a portion of utility and internet bills for teleworkers.
As currently written, AB 196 would go a step further than Hill’s legislation by creating a presumption that essential workers who contract COVID-19 were infected while on the job, with no ability for the employer to contest that finding.
Gov. Gavin Newsom said that he plans to work “hand in glove” with the Legislature to expand workplace protections, including guaranteeing COVID-19-related sick leave, easing workers’ compensation claim requirements, enforcing labor laws and ensuring employers are reporting outbreaks.
SB 1159 would add coronavirus-related illness or death to the list of on-the-job injuries covered under the state’s workers’ compensation program while removing a requirement that workers prove they contracted the virus on the job. Instead, employers would have to prove that COVID-19 wasn’t contracted in the workplace.
The California Chamber of Commerce opposes AB 196, calling it a “drastic” measure that would “create an astronomical financial burden on California employers and the workers’ compensation system, at a time when they are already struggling for their livelihoods and can least afford it.”