SB 1159, signed into law in September, requires that when a California employer learns that an employee has tested positive for coronavirus, it must report that positive case to its workers’ compensation carrier within three business days.

There is a lot of ground to cover in these reports and the legislation was passed without much fanfare, so many employers may not even know about their obligations. And that could cost them: the fine for non-compliance is $10,000 per incident.

The report must include a number of details that legal experts say will create a significant reporting burden for employers.


• The date the worker tested positive,
• The address of the worker’s place(s) of employment during the 14-days preceding the positive test, and
• The highest number of employees who reported to work in the 45 days preceding the last day the employee worked in the workplace.

The task will be made even more difficult if an employee works at multiple worksites, and an employer could have to spend a significant amount of time doing all that detective work.

Employers will have to go through the same process for each COVID-19 case among its staff.

The law creates a presumption that workers who come down with COVID-19 between July 6 this year and Jan. 1, 2023, contracted the virus at work, which makes them eligible for workers’ compensation benefits.
The presumption applies to all workers: (1) who test positive during an outbreak at work; and
(2) whose employer has five or more employees.


All of the following conditions must exist for the COVID-19 presumption to apply:
• The employee tests positive within 14 days of working at a worksite;
• The address of the worker’s place(s) of employment during the 14 days preceding the positive test, and
• The positive test occurred during an outbreak at the workplace.


What is an ‘outbreak’?

An “outbreak” exists if, during a 14-day period, one of the following occurs at a worksite:
• If the employer has 100 employees or fewer at a specific place of employment, four employees test positive for COVID-19;
• If the employer has more than 100 employees at a specific place of employment, 4% of the number of employees who reported to the specific place of employment test positive for COVID-19; or
• A specific place of employment is ordered to close by a local public health department, the State Department of Public Health, the Division of

Occupational Safety and Health, or a school superintendent due to a risk of infection with COVID-19.

The takeaway

The most important thing is that you are prepared for the paperwork and detective work you’ll have to engage in in case one of your workers contracts the coronavirus.

You may want to put systems in place now so that gathering the information will be easier in case of a COVID-19 infection at your workplace.

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