Workers’ Comp classifies on-the-job COVID cases as occupational injuries

Senate Bill 1159 (Hill, D-San Mateo) directs the state Workers’ Compensation system to presume that an employee’s COVID-related illness is an occupational injury and therefore the worker eligible for Workers’ Comp benefits if specific criteria are met.

SB 1159 specifically allows school employees to automatically qualify for Workers’ Comp if their school is closed for COVID-related issues. Employees who are sick can stay home and receive Workers’ Comp benefits, reducing the spread of the virus at work and in the community.

When an employer knows or reasonably should know that an employee has tested positive for the coronavirus, the employer must report certain information to its claims administrator. Employers may be subject to civil penalties up to $10,000 for intentionally submitting false or misleading information or failing to report required information.

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Resolving conflicts of interest on personnel commissions

Assembly Bill 2234 (Chau, D-Arcadia) makes improvements to school personnel commissions and ensures their right to independent legal counsel. The bill extends existing law by allowing school personnel commissioners to have a role in determining if a conflict of interest exists between the commission and local school board, entitling them to independent legal counsel.

Personnel commissions often rely on legal guidance when finding solutions to personnel issues, but many turned to the legal counsel employed by the school district. This led to potential conflicts of interest. AB 2234 gives unions the ability to require personnel commissions to use a different legal counsel than the district.

  • Governor Newsom signed AB 2234 on September 9.

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Smart investment in school water, ventilation and electrical systems

Assembly Bill 841 (Ting, D-San Francisco) will make air safer to breathe and water safer to drink by replacing water fixtures and appliances in K-12 public schools. AB 841 will also give a boost to zero-emission transportation by installing electric charging stations, and keep workers on the job while unemployment is soaring.

AB 841 will shift funds the Public Utilities Commission has already authorized, but not yet allocated, to an Energy Commission program that upgrades heating, cooling, and ventilation systems in public schools.

Using energy efficiency funds for three years to make schools safer and more efficient is a timely and important investment. AB 841 prioritizes schools in underserved communities and near freeways or other sources of pollution that aggravate COVID-related health risks.

  • Governor Newsom signed AB 841 on September 30.

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School districts can limit affordable housing rentals to employees

Assembly Bill 3308 (Gabriel, D-Encino) empowers school districts in California to use low-income housing tax credits to construct affordable housing for teachers and school staff on district-owned land. The bill also clarifies that local governments and districts can work together to build affordable housing for employees and the general public.

California’s affordable housing crisis is particularly acute for teachers and classified employees, many of whom cannot afford to live in communities where they work. In Los Angeles, for example, an entry-level teacher would have to spend more than 85 percent of their income to rent a median-level unit.

“We must do more to address California’s affordable housing crisis, particularly for those who have committed themselves to educating our kids and protecting our communities,” said the bill’s author, Jesse Gabriel.

“AB 3308 provides an amazing opportunity for school districts to build affordable housing for educators so that they can strengthen relationships with their students, families, and school communities. It’s a win-win situation for all,” said Marcela Chagoya, chair of CFT’s Special Education Services Committee.

  • Newsom signed AB 3308 on September 28.