The California Senate has passed legislation to require critical workers who contract COVID-19 to exhaust pandemic-specific paid sick leave benefits or compensated leaves of absence before receiving temporary disability benefits.
S.B. 1159, introduced by Democratic Sen. Jerry Hill, passed Friday in a 28-11 vote. The legislation would provide full hospital, surgical, medical, disability and indemnity benefits to essential workers who are presumed to have contracted COVID-19 on the job. To qualify, a worker must have been positively diagnosed with COVID-19 and worked at their employer’s workplace or at the direction of the employer outside of their residences within 14 days of their diagnosis.
However, employees are required to exhaust sick leave benefits specifically available for the pandemic or paid leave of absence benefits — such as those offered to first responders — before receiving temporary disability.
The bill also states that if liability for a COVID-19-related claim is not rejected within 30 days of the filing, it will be presumed to be compensable.