Nursing & Healthcare News

COVID-19 and Workers Comp in California

S.B.1159 defines illness or death from the coronavirus as a workplace injury for nurses

Nurses have been putting their lives on the line fighting the pandemic. A new state law makes healthcare workers who contract COVID-19 at work eligible for expedited workers’ compensation benefits.

Sick at Work

If you’re a healthcare worker or first responder during a pandemic, is contracting the disease a work-related injury? When it comes to the current pandemic, California law now says it is. S.B.1159, which Gov. Newsom signed into law on September 17, 2020, Podefines illness or death due to COVID-19 as a workplace injury for certain workers, including registered nurses.

Under the new law, if an RN or other healthcare worker involved in direct patient care is diagnosed with COVID-19 within 14 days of a day on which they worked, the illness is now presumed to be a workplace injury.

Workers’ Comp Benefits

If you submit a claim related to COVID-19, your employer can present evidence to dispute that the presumption that you contracted the disease at work. However, if the appeals board doesn’t reject the claim within 30 days, it will be considered eligible for workers’ compensation, whose benefits can include hospital, surgical and medical treatment; temporary disability benefits; and death benefits.

Healthcare workers who become temporarily disabled due to COVID-19 must use up any paid sick time before becoming eligible for temporary disability benefits, and must be recertified for disability coverage every 15 days.

Nursing Education

Retroactive Back to March

If you got sick earlier this year, you may still be able to file a claim under the new law, which applies to cases of COVID-19 diagnosed on or after March 19. These new provisions will remain in effect until Jan. 1, 2023.

ANAC Executive Director Marketa Houskova, RN, DNP, MAIA, whose organization advocated for S.B.1159, welcomes its enactment. “Nurses have been risking their lives on the COVID-19 front lines every day,” she says. “This new law will ensure they are provided the necessary care and compensation.”

Read the full text of the bill at leginfo.legislature.ca.gov.


Aaron Severson is a freelance writer, editor, and writing consultant as well as the associate editor of Working Nurse.


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