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SB1159 and AB685 Worker's Comp Coverage for COVID-19 Related Cases and Reporting Requirements

California Governor Gavin Newsom recently signed two bills into law: SB1159 and AB685 and both laws remain in effect from 09/17/20-01/01/23. Please review this information carefully as these obligations carry severe administrative penalties (up to $10,000) for failure to comply.

SB1159 – Worker’s Comp Coverage for COVID-19 related cases

  • Affects most employers with 5 or more employees
  • Extended coverage for COVID-19 infections.
  • Coverage applies in the event of an outbreak (for most employers).
  • Outbreak is defined as any of the following:
    • If the employer has 100 employees or fewer at a specific place of employment, four employees test positive for COVID-19 within 14 calendar days.
    • If the employer has more than 100 employees at a specific place of employment, 4 percent of the number of employees test positive within 14 calendar days.
    • Public authorities order the place of employment closed due to a risk of COVID-19 infection.

SB1159 – Reporting requirements for COVID-19 related cases

When an employer with five or more employees “knows or reasonably should know” that an employee tests positive for COVID-19, the employer must inform their workers’ compensation carrier. The obligation applies even if the employee does not make an allegation that the infection resulted from workplace exposure.

Positive tests after September 17, 2020, must be reported to your current worker’s compensation carrier within 3 business days. Positive tests between July 6, 2020-September 16, 2020, must be reported to your current worker’s compensation carrier within 30 days (some carriers noting October 29, 2020 as deadline).

All of the following must be reported in either scenario:

  • Positive test results (only identify by name if the employee claims the infection was work related)
  • Date the positive test was taken.
  • Address of the work location(s) the infected employee worked during the 14-day period before testing positive.
  • The number of employees who came into work within 45 days before the positive test date and before the infected employee’s last day on the job.

AB685 – Employer’s Written Notice for Exposed Employee

Effective January 1, 2021 all CA employers must notify their employees who may have been exposed to COVID-19 at the worksite within 1 business day. The following must be included in the notice:

  • Written notice to all employees and employers of subcontracted employees who were at the worksite within the infectious period.
  • Written notice regarding COVID-19 related benefits that the employee(s) may receive (including worker’s compensation benefits, COVID-19 leave, paid sick leave and the company’s anti-discrimination, anti-harassment, and anti-retaliation policies;
  • Notice of the company’s cleaning protocols and safety plan to eliminate further exposures (per CDC guidelines).

COVID-19 Training Requirements

Ensure employees understand the following COVID-19 related items to prevent workplace exposure and reporting requirements. Also ensure employees understand all COVID-19 benefits they are eligible for.

  • Workplace safety protocols
    • Workplace hygiene practices and cleaning protocols
  • FFCRA Paid Leave Benefits


Final takeaways from these updates are to ensure your workplace safety protocols follow the CDC, state and local guidelines. These include hygiene practices, social distancing, face covering requirements and cleaning protocols.

Ensure your employees understand the importance of not coming in to work when they are feeling sick, have tested positive for COVID-19, have been exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 or reasonably knows they may be infected.

Ensure your supervisors and managers understand their reporting obligations so that you mitigate risk for failure to comply. Consult with your legal counsel and worker’s compensation administrators on how to best implement compliance procedures quickly.


Reference materials:


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