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Labor, Business Sectors Debate Who Gets Workers Comp And How During COVID-19

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 23:  World Central Kitchen volunteers Peter Oliva (L) and Atara Valdez (R) hand out meals at the Bronx Draft House on April 23, 2020, in the Bronx borough of New York City. Bronx Draft House is serving free daily lunch to first responders on the front lines of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic as well as assisting World Central Kitchen to distribute free meals to people in vulnerable situations in the community. (Photo by David Dee Delgado/Getty Images)
David Dee Delgado/Getty Images
Two employees hand out meals at a partially closed restaurant.

While the vast majority of California’s economy has shut down to some degree, essential workers like nurses, delivery drivers and grocery store workers are still clocking in each day, and with that comes the increased risk of contracting COVID-19. But if an essential employee tests positive for COVID-19, how can you determine whether the virus was contacted as a result of work and who should be responsible for footing the bill?

While the vast majority of California’s economy has shut down to some degree, essential workers like nurses, delivery drivers and grocery store workers are still clocking in each day, and with that comes the increased risk of contracting COVID-19. But if an essential employee tests positive for COVID-19, how can you determine whether the virus was contacted as a result of work and who should be responsible for footing the bill?

Governor Gavin Newsom is looking at this issue right now as he considers signing an executive order that would create a blanket presumption that essential employees who contract COVID-19 did so on the job. The intent is to make it easier for those employees to qualify for workers comp benefits. Labor advocacy organizations argue that the burden of proof on the employee is already high in workers’ comp cases, and that not providing a blanket presumption will only further hinder employees from getting medical and other benefits if they contract the virus on the job. The business sector, however, is pushing back, saying a blanket order like this would further strain the state’s workers comp system and force the private sector to foot the bill in the process.

Today on AirTalk, we’ll hear from labor and business interests about the ongoing discussion over who should qualify for workers comp benefits from COVID-19.

Guests:

Mitch Steiger, legislative advocate for the California Labor Federation, an organization representing more than 1,200 unions and more than 2 million workers in the state of California

Stuart Waldman, president of the Valley Industry and Commerce Association (VICA), a business advocacy organization representing businesses in Southern California

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