Senate Bill 893 introduced by Senators Caballero and Skinner on 1/28/20 would add Sections to 3212.13 and 3212.14 of the Labor Code, inserting right to presumptions of injury for hospital employees.

The language in SB 893 proposes to amend Labor Code Section 3212.13 to provide for a presumption of injury for infectious diseases that develop or manifest in hospital employees who provide direct patient care in acute hospital settings.

The term “infectious disease” is limited in scope to cover meningitis, tuberculosis, methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus skin infection, and injuries sustained by vis a vis “blood born infectious diseases” defined as disease caused by exposure to pathogenic micro-organisms that are present in human blood that can cause disease in humans, including those pathogenic micro-organisms defined as bloodborne pathogens by the Department of Industrial Relations.

Turning next to Labor Code Section 3212.14, the language in SB 893 would add a presumption of musculoskeletal injury for injuries that develop or manifest in a hospital employee who provides direct patient care in an acute care hospital shall be presumed to arise out of and in the course of the employment. “Musculoskeletal injury” is defined as an acute injury or cumulative trauma of the muscles, tendons, ligaments, bursas, peripheral nerves, joints, bones, or blood vessels.

Presumptive injuries establish significant advantage for workers who have increased exposure or susceptibility to particular work-related injuries or illnesses. The presumptions set forth by SB 893 may be rebutted, but unless rebutted, the appeals board shall presume the infections disease arose out of and in the course of employment.

Whether an injured worker’s condition constitutes a presumed injury raises both legal and factual issues which may be subject to significant dispute calling for targeted discovery and legal strategy.

SB 893 remains referred to the Labor, Public Employment and Retirement committee for hearing on review. Amid coronavirus quarantines and shelter-in-place mandates, the committee meeting on review set for March 25, 2020 had been postponed. A new committee hearing date has not yet been publicly noticed.

Employees across industries are adjusting to a new reality due to the coronavirus pandemic. Hospital workers in particular, are in the front lines in terms of risk. Of note, the prior version of SB 893 introduced in 2019: SB 567, would have expanded the presumption to hospital workers to also cover cancer, post-traumatic stress disorder and respiratory disease. It remains to be seen whether the court of public opinion will press legislators to expand the presumptions to again include respiratory disease in codified presumed injuries. SB 893 will be one to watch.