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Q&A with Compass HR: Changes Coming with SB 1159

With so much changing as the new SB 1159 law has come into effect, Mike Stromsoe of Stromsoe Insurance Agency sits down virtually with Daneen Ashworth of Compass HR to find out how this law affects business owners across California.

Mike Stromsoe: Hey, everybody. My name is Mike Stromsoe, and I’m here with…

Daneen Ashworth: I am Daneen Ashworth with compass HR.

MS: And I’m Mike at Stromsoe Insurance Agency. We wanted to share with you some important updates to a recent law in California that affects most business owners. And this is such a big update, we want to make sure we get the information to you as quickly as possible. So we put together some topics on this recent update, and I’ve got Daneen, who’s one of our authorities in the HR world, and we’re going to share it with you today. So Daneen, what is this newest law, and when does it actually take effect?

DA: So this is SB-1159, and it takes effect immediately as of September 17th when it was signed. And it’s going to go back retroactively at the beginning of COVID, yes. The governor had signed an executive order about workers’ compensation relating to COVID in the workplace, and it went through July 5th, and this will take over from July 6th all the way through January 1st of 2023.

MS: January [inaudible 00:00:01:12], so this is extended for quite a long time.

DA: Yes, it is.

MS: It’s possible things could change with regard to this update, right?

DA: Correct. Absolutely.

MS: That’s crazy. That’s crazy. So it’s important to have a qualified professional by your side to work through this together, such as you in the HR realm. Thank you.

DA: Absolutely. As well as a worker’s compensation agent to work with, that can help you on that end as well, like yourself.

MS: Thank you so much. But Daneen, who’s affected by this new law update?

DA: So it is any business with five, or more employees. So it is going down to the small employers, and it would involve any business who’s had an employee testing positive for COVID-19 in the workplace, unless employees are solely working from home, they’re teleworking, telecommuting, whatever term you’re going to put on that, and they’re never reporting to a work site. They would be exempted from this as well.

MS: Never report to work site, so I know that’s a key facet.

DA: Yes.

MS: So just to clarify, this doesn’t apply to businesses that have less than five employees?

DA: Correct. It does not apply, for right now, unless we see a change, which I try to stay on top of, unless we see a change on that, and unless people are just at home working from the job site.

MS: Yeah. So as employers in the state of California, we have a lot of obligations, and so what are the employer requirements under this new updated law SB-1159?

DA: Yes. So this is going to be, if you’ve had any positive cases in your workplace, regardless of whether it was contracted in the workplace or not, and your employees are reporting to the job site, from July 6th on, you need to submit in writing, via email or fax, your workers’ compensation carrier, certain information. You cannot give certain personal information unless that employee has presented a claim on workers’ compensation, but you actually need to call your carrier and alert them, so that they can take the appropriate steps.

MS: Wait a minute, what if the employer is asymptomatic, tested positive, was out for a few days in late July, does a claim still need to be submitted even in the event that the employee is fine, and back to work?

DA: Yes, it does, even if someone is asymptomatic, even if someone, “Hey, I’m not feeling good.” Or, “Hey, I’m just going to go get a test. I think I was exposed to someone with it.” And they go home, and take a test, and they never have any symptoms, which I’ve seen quite a bit, even if they go home, and they’re teleworking, you still have to report it to your workers’ compensation carrier.

MS: Wow. This sounds like another load of administrative work for the employer just to juggle on top of their already heavy workload.

DA: Oh, it absolutely is. And if a business doesn’t do it appropriately, if they refuse to do it because they’re like, “I don’t have the time.” Or, they don’t know they’re supposed to do it, the fines are $10,000. It’s a huge fine. They’re really looking to force businesses to do this. And businesses also need to be very careful about what information they’re sharing, because it has to be in writing, there’s going to be a record of that. And if they accidentally share something that is medical nature to the carrier, if that employee does not file a claim, there can be issues there as well. So there’s very narrow guidelines, and very narrow area that you need to operate within to be compliant with this. It’s rough.

MS: Well, again, just to reiterate, even more important to have a qualified professional by your side to work with you through this ongoing adversity, shall we say.

DA: Absolutely.

MS: But what other issues can you see as a result of SB-1159 so far?

DA: I’m a little worried, and unsure that the carriers are going to be aware of this. Most carriers are national. This is a California specific law, and so when we have national things like that, the carriers may not even know what to do with this information. And is that then the liability going to rest on the carrier, or on the employer? I’m not sure. What do you think about this, Mike?

MS: Well, I agree with you that there’s a lot of national carriers out there. The good news is we’ve already seen information come down the pike, electronically, from a couple of national carriers, as well as of couple regional carriers, not all of them, but some of them. So we’re in the process of making phone calls out to our top workers’ comp carriers to find out how they’re going to handle it, what the recommendations are as far as efficiency in helping these people who we’re now mandated by law to help. And we want to be there for them, but there’s a lot of moving parts. And then we don’t have time to go into it today, but the medical care professionals, and the firefighters, and our first responders, they have a whole different set of circumstances that are mentioned in this particular law. So…

DA: Right.

MS: And if you’re watching this video, I’m sure we’ll put a link to the law somewhere around this, and you can take a look at it yourself. And of course, our greatest encouragement is if you have any questions, contact Daneen Ashworth at Compass HR, or myself, or my team at Stromsoe Insurance, and we’re here to help. We may not have all the answers right away, but we’re going to get you the right answers to help you and your business go through this.

So Daneen, if an employer is unaware, and fails to file a claim as required by the new law, you mentioned they could be fined up to $10,000, did I hear that correctly?

DA: Yes.

MS: Wow.

DA: That is specifically written in the bill. I read the bill, I read the interpretation of the bill. I looked at some of my legislative sites that I am actively on, and some of them aren’t even up to date on this. So this is groundbreaking information, but it specifically says there is a $10,000 fine for the business.

MS: That’s great.

Daneen, our observation with employers is they’re just trying to survive right now. I mean, we’re all trying to survive. It’s the next normal, if you will, that’s just the mindset we’ve taken because we will get through this together as long as we keep working together. So how can they get clarity, and help on these issues? What’s your recommendation?

DA: So obviously, they could reach out to someone like yourself. I come across some businesses who don’t even carry workers’ compensation, shockingly, insurance. That is a requirement for every business who even has one employee. If you don’t have that, you’re already in trouble. And your carrier, your brokers, definitely, can help you with some of those issues, as well as an HR professional helping you file those claims. I do that on behalf of my clients, and really just help them through the process, give them the forms that they need. And we’re not really allowed to hold hands right now, but I virtually hold their hands.

MS: As long as we’re six feet apart, right?

DA: Exactly.

MS: With a mask.

DA: Yes.

MS: So fantastic.

Thank you. Thank you for standing by our side, so faithfully, and adequately, and doing a great job for us for so many years, we appreciate you, and are grateful for you.

DA: Thank you. And I’m grateful for you.

MS: Yeah. And when you need HR help just with questions, or anything else, please reach out to Daneen Ashworth at Compass HR.

Daneen, thank you for the update today. Any last information to add.

DA: Hold your breath because more’s coming. Sorry.

MS: Yeah. Not surprised, not surprised.

DA: No. Yeah.

MS: And our world, it’s constantly changing day by day, so our greatest recommendation is just please keep in contact with us. And back to submitting claims in writing also, if you decide to send information in via email, you may want to be diligent and put, at least in the email, please confirm receipt of this information. Because as we know, with hundreds of emails coming down the pike every day, sometimes they fall into a junk file, et cetera, et cetera, with the ratcheted up security. So one never knows. So make sure you put in the email, when you send it into your agent, or your insurance partner, please confirm receipt, just to make sure that it’s in motion.

DA: Absolutely.

MS: Yeah. Fantastic.

DA: It’s not in writing, and you don’t have a receipt, it didn’t exist.

MS: Exactly, unfortunately, right?

DA: Yeah.

MS: And we’re on the hook, we get to, within three business days, submit the claim information once all the other criteria happens, so on we go.

DA: Yes. Absolutely.

MS: Anything else to add, Daneen.

DA: I don’t think so. Thank you so much for your time, Mike. I’ve [crosstalk 00:10:29] this a lot.

MS: Oh, no. Thank you for the update. And I hope anybody watching this, again, if you have any questions, there’s contact information for Daneen Ashworth at compass HR, as well as our agency, and our team, please reach out to us. We want to help. Thank you so much everybody. Stay safe out there, and stay aware, and informed most importantly.

DA: Absolutely.

MS: All right. Take care everybody.

DA: Bye.


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