What are your rights if you have been exposed to COVID-19 at work?

Does My Employer Have to Notify Me If I Have Been Exposed to COVID-19?

Yes, your employer must notify you in writing of a potential exposure within 1 business day. Your employer must also provide you with information regarding COVID-19 related benefits that you may be entitled to.

What Benefits Am I Entitled to If I Was Exposed to COVID-19?

If you have been exposed to COVID-19, you are entitled to a free COVID-19 test during working hours. If you test positive and/or need to quarantine, you may be entitled to a number of benefits including Workers’ Compensation and paid sick leave.

How Do I Obtain COVID-19 Workers’ Compensation Benefits?

In order to receive COVID-19 related Workers’ Compensation benefits, you must file a workers’ compensation claim with the California Department of Industrial Relations. The California Department of Industrial Relations published a guide for filing a Workers’ Compensation claim available at https://www.dir.ca.gov/dwc/iwguides/IWGuide01.pdf. Don’t wait, if you do not report your injury within 30 days you could lose your right to workers’ compensation benefits.

What Do I Have to Prove to Obtain COVID-19 Workers’ Compensation Benefits?

Under California law, a presumption exists that you contracted COVID-19 at work if you reported to work within the past 14 days if 4% of the employees at your worksite tested positive for COVID-19. For workplace exposures occurring after July 6, 2020, you must get tested using a PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) or a culture test. The presumption does not apply to serologic more commonly known as antibody tests. Therefore, if you believe that you have been exposed, it is incredibly important that you get tested as soon as possible and/or upon showing symptoms. Note that this presumption does not apply to employers with less than 5 employees and that a different heightened presumption applies to healthcare workers and first responders.

What Workers’ Compensation Benefits Am I Entitled to If I Test Positive for COVID-19?

While your claim is pending during the 45-day COVID-19 presumption investigatory period, you are eligible to receive up to $10,000 in medical treatment for your COVID-19-related illness. You may also be eligible for COVID-19-specific paid sick leave benefits.

If you test positive for COVID-19, you are also entitled to receive the following benefits:

  • Free Medical Care: You are entitled to free medical treatment for COVID-19 paid for by your employer.
  • Temporary Disability Benefits: Payments if you lose wages because your injury prevents you from doing your usual job while recovering.
  • Permanent Disability Benefits: Payments if you don’t completely recover from COVID-19.
  • Job Displacement Benefits: Vouchers to help pay for retraining or skill enhancement if you don’t completely recover and cannot return to work.
  • Death benefits: Payments to your spouse, children, or other dependents if you die from COVID-19.

Am I Entitled to Paid Sick Days If I Contract COVID-19 At Work?

All employees in California who have worked for their employer for at least 90 days are entitled to take time-off if they contract COVID-19 or are otherwise sick regardless of whether or not they contracted COVID-19 at work. The amount of sick time that an employee is entitled to in California varies significantly because many cities enacted local sick leave ordinances. This is important because the first 10 days off under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (“FFCRA”) are unpaid. At a minimum, full-time employees are entitled to accrue one hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked or 24 hours per year. However, many cities, such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Jose require employers to provide additional time-off.

In addition, if you contract COVID-19 at work, you are eligible for additional paid time-off.

How Much Paid Time-Off Am I Entitled to If I Contract COVID-19 At Work?

Full-time employees exposed to COVID-19 and/or who contract COVID-19 whether or not they contract COVID-19 in the workplace are entitled to 80 hours of paid sick leave either under the FFCRA (for employers with less than 500 employees) or the California Supplemental Paid Sick Leave for Large Employers or Labor Code section 248.1 (for employers with more than 500 employees).

Part-time employees are also entitled to paid sick leave based upon the number of hours they normally work over a 2-week period. For instance, if an employee works 30 hours per week, they are entitled to 60 hours of paid COVID-19 sick leave, which represents 2 weeks of work.

If you work an irregular schedule, the amount of paid sick leave they you are entitled to under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act is determined by calculating the total number of hours you worked over the preceding 6-month period, divided by the number of days worked, multiplied by 14.  

In addition, if you contract COVID-19 at work and/or are subject to the COVID-19 workplace presumption, you may also be eligible to be paid for lost wages associated with time-off through Workers’ Compensation temporary disability benefits. If you are unable to return to work because of COVID-19, you may also be eligible for permanent disability benefits.

If I Contracted COVID-19 at Work, Can I Get My Paid Sick Days Back?

It depends upon whether you used general paid sick days under Labor Code section 246 or a general employer plan or received paid time-off through the Families First Coronavirus Response Act or California Supplemental Paid Sick Leave for Large Employers:

  • If you received paid-time off because of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act or other COVID-19 specific supplemental leave, then you are not entitled to have the paid time-off you received reinstated and you must exhaust this leave before receiving temporary disability benefits.
  • If you used regular sick days, you are entitled to receive temporary disability benefits from the time that you became sick or missed work because of COVID-19. That means that if you used regular sick days, vacation days, personal time off (PTO) then your employer must reinstate any time-off you used.

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