Question: I heard that employees who contract COVID-19 at work are automatically entitled to workers’ compensation benefits.  Is this true? If so, what am I required to do if my employee tells me he/she contracted COVID-19 at work?

Answer: On May 6, 2020, Governor Newsom signed Executive Order N-62-20 ( which provides that an employee who contracts any COVID-19 related illness between March 19, 2020 and July 5, 2020 is presumed to have contracted it at his or her jobsite, making the employee eligible for workers’ compensation benefits if all of the following conditions are met:

  1. The employee was diagnosed by a medical doctor who holds a physician and surgeon license issued by the California Medical Board or tested positive within 14 days after a day the employee worked, at the direction of the employer, at the employer’s job site, excluding the employee’s home or residence;

  2. If the employee was diagnosed by a medical doctor, the diagnosis must be confirmed by a further testing within 30 days of the date of the employee’s medical diagnosis; and

  3. The employee must have worked at the employer’s jobsite on or after March 19, 2020.

An employee who meets these criteria is presumed to have contracted COVID-19 at work regardless of whether the employee was providing essential services.  The presumption applies to all employers (not just essential businesses) and regardless of the number of employees employed.  An employer can dispute this presumption by presenting evidence that the employee did not contract COVID-19 at work.  Employers have 30 days to investigate an employee’s claim and decide whether to accept or deny the employee’s claim. If an employer fails to deny an employee’s claim within 30 days, the COVID-19 claim is presumed to be a compensable workers’ compensation claim.  However, an employer can still rebut the presumption if evidence is discovered after the 30-day period.

This workers compensation presumption favors employees and employers because it makes it simpler for employees to qualify for benefits, and, in most cases, limits employee damages to those provided by the workers compensation program.

All employers have a duty to determine whether the employee contracted COVID-19 at work pursuant to the new Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requirements.  Employers must perform a reasonable investigation to determine if the employee was exposed to COVID-19 at work based on information reasonably available to it at the time of its investigation.  Employers should ask certain key questions about the employee’s work environment to determine if exposure was possible and refrain from making inquiries that would violate the employee’s right to privacy.

Unless an employer has 10 or fewer employees or is in certain low-hazard industries, if it determines the employee has a confirmed case of COVID-19, contracted it at work, and the illness resulted in the employee’s death, loss of consciousness, absence from work, work restrictions, or required more than first aid treatment, the employer must record the illness on OSHA Form 300 (“Log of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses”).  Low-hazard industry employers are only required to report work-related COVID-19 illnesses if they result in the employee’s death, in-patient hospitalization, amputation, or loss of an eye.  A complete list of low hazard industries can be viewed at

If you are unsure what you should do if your employee tells you he/she has contracted COVID-19 at work, you should contact an attorney and take the necessary precautions to ensure your employees, customers and public remain safe.