COVID-19 & Work: California Signs Urgent Workers’ Compensation Bill, SB 1159

In the month of September, California Governor Gavin Newsom approved numerous bills to assist those who have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. On September 17, he signed Senate Bill 1159, which supports employees who contract COVID-19 while on the job. 

Workers’ Compensation Claims in California

According to statistics from the Department of Industrial Relations, over 40,000 claims have been filed by workers who say they contracted COVID-19 while at work. Of this 40,000, approximately 11,000 claims were denied due to a negative COVID-19 test. 

The Goal of SB 1159 

SB1159 was established to relax the burden of proof for employees to receive workers’ compensation benefits. If there is an outbreak of the virus in the workplace, employees will be presumed to have contracted COVID-19 on the job. 

The law applies to workplaces with 5 to 100 employees when 5 or more employees contract the virus, and workplaces of over 100 employees when 5% of employees contract the virus. Both circumstances are measured within a 14-day period. 

During the bill-signing ceremony, Newsom stated that the goal is to, “prioritize our workforce, our workers, our frontline essential workforce that we pay a lot of lip service to but, often, we don’t back up.”

In order to ensure that this remains a top priority, the State is taking immediate action. Typically, new laws adhere to a January 1 start date, however, SB 1159 was passed as an urgency bill. This means it will go into effect immediately to help police, firefighters, doctors, grocery store checkers, and other essential workers on our frontlines who are risking their lives to ensure the health and safety of our communities. 

For more information regarding COVID-19 and returning to work, click here

Experienced Employment Law Attorney, Mediator, Arbitrator, Investigator, Legal and Media Commentator 

Angela Reddock-Wright is an employment and labor law attorney, certified workplace and Title IX investigator (AWI-CH), mediator, and arbitrator in Los Angeles, CA. Known as the “Workplace Guru,” Angela is an influencer and leading authority on employment, workplace/HR, Title IX, hazing, and bullying issues.

Angela is a regular legal and media commentator and analyst and has appeared on such media outlets as Entertainment Tonight, Law and Crime with Brian Ross, Court TV, CNN, ABC, CBS, Fox 11 News, KTLA-5, the Black News Channel, Fox Soul – The Black Report, NPR, KPCC, Airtalk-89.3, KJLH Front Page with Dominique DiPrima, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the LA Times, Yahoo! Entertainment, People Magazine, Essence Magazine, the Los Angeles Sentinel, LA Focus, Our Weekly and the Wave Newspapers.

Angela also is a member of the panel of distinguished mediators and arbitrators with Judicate West, a California company that represents the gold standard in dispute resolution. She also owns her own law firm, the Reddock Law Group of Los Angeles, specializing in workplace and Title IX discrimination, harassment, and sexual assault investigations.

For more information regarding resources for employers, businesses and employees during this time, connect with Angela on LinkedIn for new updates, or contact her here


This communication is not legal advice. It is educational only. For legal advice, consult with an experienced employment law attorney in your state or city.