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SB-1159 Workers’ compensation: COVID-19: critical workers.(2019-2020)

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Date Published: 04/22/2020 09:00 PM
SB1159:v97#DOCUMENT

Amended  IN  Senate  April 22, 2020
Amended  IN  Senate  April 01, 2020

CALIFORNIA LEGISLATURE— 2019–2020 REGULAR SESSION

Senate Bill
No. 1159


Introduced by Senator Hill
(Principal coauthor: Assembly Member Daly)

February 20, 2020


An act to amend Section 98 of, and to add Section 98.15 to, the Labor Code, relating to employment. An act to add and repeal Section 3212.86 of the Labor Code, relating to workers’ compensation.


LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL'S DIGEST


SB 1159, as amended, Hill. Labor Commissioner: wage claims: online platform: reports. Workers’ compensation: COVID-19: critical workers.
Existing law establishes a workers’ compensation system, administered by the Administrative Director of the Division of Workers’ Compensation, to compensate an employee for injuries sustained in the course of employment. Existing law creates a disputable presumption that specified injuries sustained in the course of employment of a specified member of law enforcement or a specified first responder arose out of and in the course of the employment.
This bill would, until an unspecified date, define “injury” for a critical worker, as described, to include illness or death that results from exposure to coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) under specified circumstances. The bill would create a disputable presumption, as specified, that an injury that develops or manifests itself while a critical worker is employed arose out of and in the course of the employment.

Existing law creates within the Department of Industrial Relations the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement, which is under the direction of the Labor Commissioner, and generally commits to the commissioner the authority and responsibility for the enforcement of employment laws. Existing law authorizes the Labor Commissioner to provide for a hearing in any action to recover wages, penalties, and other demands for compensation that are within the jurisdiction of the Labor Commissioner, as specified. Existing law requires, within 15 days after the hearing on the claim is concluded, the Labor Commissioner to file in the office of the division a copy of the order, decision, or award and to serve a copy of the decision on the employee (claimant) and employer (defendant). Existing law requires that the notice also advise the parties of their right to appeal the decision or award and further advise the parties that failure to do so within the prescribed period results in the decision or award becoming final and enforceable as a judgment by the superior court. Existing law creates the Labor Enforcement and Compliance Fund as a special account in the State Treasury, and authorizes moneys in the fund to be expended by the department, upon appropriation by the Legislature, for the support of activities performed by the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement.

This bill would require the Labor Commissioner to direct the creation of an online platform by January 1, 2023, to facilitate the wage claims process. The bill would require the platform to allow for employees to electronically file and track claims.

The bill would require the Labor Commissioner to submit a report to the Legislature on or before March 1, 2021, and annually thereafter on or before March 1, concerning the effectiveness of the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement. The bill would require the report to include, among other things, the total number of claims received by the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement and the average time it took for a claim to complete the process. The bill would set forth specified goals that the Legislature expects unpaid wage claims outcomes to meet.

Vote: MAJORITY   Appropriation: NO   Fiscal Committee: YES   Local Program: NO  

The people of the State of California do enact as follows:


SECTION 1.

 Section 3212.86 is added to the Labor Code, immediately following Section 3212.85, to read:

3212.86.
 (a) This section applies to critical workers who directly interact or previously directly interacted with the public during the COVID-19 pandemic.
(b) The term “injury,” as used in this division, includes illness or death resulting from exposure to COVID-19 if all of the following circumstances apply:
(1) The injury develops or occurs during a period in which a critical worker is in the service of an essential critical infrastructure employer.
(2) The injury is confirmed by a positive laboratory test or, if a laboratory test was not available, as diagnosed and documented by the critical worker’s physician based on the employee’s symptoms.
(3) The injury results in hospitalization or significant lost time beyond the critical worker’s work shift at the time of injury of at least ____ days due to the illness.
(c) The compensation that is awarded for injury pursuant to this section shall include full hospital, surgical, medical treatment, disability indemnity, and death benefits, as provided by this division.
(d) An injury that develops or manifests itself while a critical worker is employed is presumed to arise out of and in the course of the employment. This presumption is disputable and may be controverted by other evidence. Unless controverted, the appeals board is bound to find in accordance with the presumption.
(e) For purposes of this section, the following definitions apply:
(1) “COVID-19” means coronavirus disease 2019.
(2) “Critical worker” means a public sector or private sector employee who is employed to combat the spread of COVID-19. It is the intent of the Legislature that this group of workers be explicitly identified in order to ensure that they receive all necessary health care through the workers’ compensation system.
(f) This section shall remain in effect only until January 1, ____, and as of that date is repealed.

SECTION 1.Section 98 of the Labor Code is amended to read:
98.

(a)The Labor Commissioner is authorized to investigate employee complaints. The Labor Commissioner may provide for a hearing in any action to recover wages, penalties, and other demands for compensation, including liquidated damages if the complaint alleges payment of a wage less than the minimum wage fixed by an order of the Industrial Welfare Commission or by statute, properly before the division or the Labor Commissioner, including orders of the Industrial Welfare Commission, and shall determine all matters arising under the Labor Commissioner’s jurisdiction. The Labor Commissioner may also provide for a hearing to recover civil penalties due pursuant to Section 558 against any employer or other person acting on behalf of an employer, including, but not limited to, an individual liable pursuant to Section 558.1. It is within the jurisdiction of the Labor Commissioner to accept and determine claims from holders of payroll checks or payroll drafts returned unpaid because of insufficient funds, if, after a diligent search, the holder is unable to return the dishonored check or draft to the payee and recover the sums paid out. Within 30 days of the filing of the complaint, the Labor Commissioner shall notify the parties as to whether a hearing will be held, whether action will be taken in accordance with Section 98.3, or whether no further action will be taken on the complaint. If the determination is made by the Labor Commissioner to hold a hearing, the hearing shall be held within 90 days of the date of that determination. However, the Labor Commissioner may postpone or grant additional time before setting a hearing if the Labor Commissioner finds that it would lead to an equitable and just resolution of the dispute. A party who has received actual notice of a claim before the Labor Commissioner shall, while the matter is before the Labor Commissioner, notify the Labor Commissioner in writing of any change in that party’s business or personal address within 10 days after the change in address occurs.

It is the intent of the Legislature that hearings held pursuant to this section be conducted in an informal setting preserving the rights of the parties.

(b)When a hearing is set, a copy of the complaint, which shall include the amount of compensation requested, together with a notice of time and place of the hearing, shall be served on all parties, personally or by certified mail, or in the manner specified in Section 415.20 of the Code of Civil Procedure.

(c)Within 10 days after service of the notice and the complaint, a defendant may file an answer with the Labor Commissioner in any form as the Labor Commissioner may prescribe, setting forth the particulars in which the complaint is inaccurate or incomplete and the facts upon which the defendant intends to rely.

(d)No pleading other than the complaint and answer of the defendant or defendants shall be required. Both shall be in writing and shall conform to the form and the rules of practice and procedure adopted by the Labor Commissioner.

(e)Evidence on matters not pleaded in the answer shall be allowed only on terms and conditions the Labor Commissioner shall impose. In all these cases, the claimant shall be entitled to a continuance for purposes of review of the new evidence.

(f)If the defendant fails to appear or answer within the time allowed under this chapter, no default shall be taken against the defendant, but the Labor Commissioner shall hear the evidence offered and shall issue an order, decision, or award in accordance with the evidence. A defendant failing to appear or answer, or subsequently contending to be aggrieved in any manner by want of notice of the pendency of the proceedings, may apply to the Labor Commissioner for relief in accordance with Section 473 of the Code of Civil Procedure. The Labor Commissioner may afford this relief. No right to relief, including the claim that the findings or award of the Labor Commissioner or judgment entered thereon are void upon their face, shall accrue to the defendant in any court unless prior application is made to the Labor Commissioner in accordance with this chapter.

(g)All hearings conducted pursuant to this chapter are governed by the division and by the rules of practice and procedure adopted by the Labor Commissioner.

(h)(1)Whenever a claim is filed under this chapter against a person operating or doing business under a fictitious business name, as defined in Section 17900 of the Business and Professions Code, which relates to the person’s business, the division shall inquire at the time of the hearing whether the name of the person is the legal name under which the business or person has been licensed, registered, incorporated, or otherwise authorized to do business.

(2)The division may amend an order, decision, or award to conform to the legal name of the business or the person who is the defendant to a wage claim, if it can be shown that proper service was made on the defendant or the defendant’s agent, unless a judgment had been entered on the order, decision, or award pursuant to subdivision (d) of Section 98.2. The Labor Commissioner may apply to the clerk of the superior court to amend a judgment that has been issued pursuant to a final order, decision, or award to conform to the legal name of the defendant, if it can be shown that proper service was made on the defendant or the defendant’s agent.

(i)The Labor Commissioner shall direct the creation of an online platform by January 1, 2023, to facilitate the wage claims process. The platform shall allow for employees to electronically file and track claims.

SEC. 2.Section 98.15 is added to the Labor Code, to read:
98.15.

(a)The Labor Commissioner shall submit a report to the Legislature on or before March 1, 2021, and annually thereafter on or before March 1, concerning the effectiveness of the activities of the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement under this chapter. The report shall include, but not be limited to, all of the following:

(1)The total number of claims received by the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement.

(2)The total number of claims that were dismissed before hearing, settled outside of hearing, or proceeded to hearing.

(3)The total number of claims awarded to petitioning employees, with the dollar value of awards.

(4)The total dollar value of awarded claims successfully collected.

(5)The average time it took for a claim to complete the process.

(b)The report shall be submitted in compliance with Section 9795 of the Government Code.

(c)The Legislature expects unpaid wage claims outcomes to meet the following goals:

(1)Forty percent of awarded wages collected from the employer by January 1, 2024.

(2)Seventy-five percent of awarded wages collected from the employer by January 1, 2030.