California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara alerted insurance companies that all workers affected by COVID-19 on the job are eligible for workers’ compensation benefits regardless of their immigration status. This includes workers engaged in front-line occupations such as health care, emergency services, food production, sales and delivery, among others.
Commissioner Lara issued a Notice to remind insurance companies, agents and employers that California law requires the payment of workers’ compensation benefits to injured workers regardless of their immigration status. His action supports Governor Gavin Newson’s March 12 executive order stating that workers may be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits if they were exposed to or contracted COVID-19 on the job.
According to the Notice, “Workers’ compensation injuries caused by COVID-19 that arise out of and occur in the course of employment are compensable to the same extent as any other compensable injury or disease. This notice is a reminder that such claims may not be denied on the basis of the injured workers’ immigration status.”
“This unprecedented pandemic has sparked questions and concerns among essential workers in the immigrant community who are showing up for work every day, bringing us vital goods and services,” Commissioner Lara said in a statement. “Hard-working Californians who are exposed to COVID-19 are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits if they fall ill, regardless of their immigration status.”
In 2015, SB 623, authored by Commissioner Lara when he was a member of the California State Senate, expressly expanded protections for undocumented workers in the event they are injured on the job, to include compensation pursuant to the Uninsured Employers Benefits Trust Fund or the Subsequent Injury Fund, in addition to standard workers’ compensation benefits.
“During this pandemic, essential workers face great risk to their health every time they clock in,” California Labor Federation Executive Secretary-Treasurer Art Pulaski said in a statement. “If they are injured or get sick at work, they should know they can rely on workers’ compensation to provide the health care and benefits they need, regardless of immigration status. We commend Commissioner Lara for standing up for the workers who are among the most vulnerable in this time of crisis.”