A common theme of many states’ Workers’ Compensation laws is change. It is very common for states to update their laws, policies, and regulations for Workers’ Compensation in order to better protect that state’s workers. Recently, two states have implemented new laws and regulations regarding Workers’ Compensation. New Jersey and California have made new additions to their laws. The decision appears to be heavily influenced by the global pandemic, as thousands of employees may now be able to collect Workers’ Compensation benefits if they have tested positive for COVID-19.
New Jersey passed the new legislation on September 16, 2020. It will allow more residents to become eligible for Workers’ Compensation benefits. The law specifically denounces the ability of employers to contest that employees cannot provide sufficient evidence that they became infected with COVID-19 at work. The National Law Review elaborates more on this law on their website. The source states that the rule applies to any employee that is deemed essential during the pandemic, including public safety workers, first responders, medical and healthcare workers, social services, and emergency transportation employees. Also, the law establishes a “rebuttable presumption” that an essential employee retained COVID-19 in the workplace. This is because an employer is not able to prove that workers will not receive COVID-19 at work. Multiple states have also implemented a rebuttable presumption similar to New Jersey’s law.
On the day following New Jersey’s enactment, California’s Governor, Gavin Newsom, signed a similar piece of legislation into effect. On the contrary to New Jersey’s law, the rule for California defines and establishes five new and existing laws. The National Law Review explains the following statues on their website. The law specifically defined the term “injury” under Workers’ Compensation to include illnesses and deaths that may or have occurred from COVID-19. Also, it created a “disputable presumption” during a certain time frame for those essential employees seeking Workers’ Compensation, and workers at places where there have been confirmed cases of an outbreak that has caused illnesses or deaths from COVID-19. The law created a system of reporting requirements for employers to claims administrators, as well as civil penalties for employers who do not comply with reporting the requirements. In addition, it restated the Governor’s Executive Order on disputable presumption for all mandatory workers on the site for Workers’ Compensation of COVID-19 cases between March 19, 2020, and July 5, 2020.