The fight over making it easier for essential workers in California who are sickened with COVID-19 has ended in a victory for the workers. Gov. Gavin Newsome recently signed an executive order that creates the presumption that an essential worker diagnosed with the illness caught it on the job.

What the executive order does

Usually, when a worker is injured or sickened, they must show that the injury or illness occurred in the course of their job duties, such as when a construction worker falls off of scaffolding and injures his back, to get approved for workers’ compensation. The same is true for families seeking death benefits following their spouse or parent’s dying on the job. This executive order, on the other hand, creates a rebuttable presumption that an essential worker’s COVID-19 diagnosis is work-related. It is now up to the employer or their workers’ comp insurance company to prove otherwise.

Worker groups like the California Federation of Labor asked Newsome for this change. After Newsome issued the order, the group noted that it would help workers who are putting their lives on the line to keep essential services available, such as emergency medicine, law enforcement and food service.

The California Chamber of Commerce and several other groups representing employers opposed the idea on financial grounds. They suggested that sickened workers should seek federal relief funds instead of workers’ compensation after being sickened at work.

Proving a link between your job and your condition

For other types of workplace injuries and illnesses, it is still necessary to prove that you were hurt at work. An attorney who practices workers’ compensation law could help you with your application, or your appeal if you were rejected.