Press Release

Nurses applaud introduction of Cortese’s bill to protect frontline nurses and other health care workers

Presumptive Eligibility stats

S.B. 213 to provide presumptive eligibility for workers’ compensation for RNs and other health care workers who are injured on the job, including exposure to Covid-19

In response to the ongoing Covid-19 crisis, California Nurses Association (CNA) is pleased to cosponsor S.B. 213 (Cortese) to protect California’s frontline nurses and other health care workers by providing presumptive eligibility for workers’ compensation.

California is one of many states that have laws that grant some public safety employees, such as police officers and firefighters, “presumptive eligibility” for workers’ compensation. However, nurses have no such protections at all, even though, by the nature of their work, they suffer some of the highest risks of injury and illness of any profession. This bill would correct this unfair treatment.

Sponsored by CNA and recently introduced by Senator Dave Cortese, S.B. 213 will ensure that nurses and other health care workers have presumptive eligibility for workers’ compensation if they are injured on the job or fall ill to Covid-19 or any other communicable disease.

“Our nurses are at the forefront of our state’s efforts to combat Covid-19, putting their own health at risk every day of this pandemic to provide life-saving treatment and care.” said Senator Dave Cortese. “These frontline heroes deserve adequate and equal protections to ensure their own safety and the safety of all of us.”

“Presumptive eligibility” for workers’ compensation, means that if the employee sustains certain injuries or becomes infected with certain diseases such as Covid-19, the injury or illness is presumed to be job related and makes him or her automatically eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. Workers' compensation presumptions exist for certain first responder professions, such as firefighters, because they are inevitably exposed to dozens of potential illnesses as a condition of their work; many of which lead to health issues such as infectious diseases, respiratory diseases, and cancer.

“Nurses across the country still do not have the protections they need during this pandemic, which is why it’s so critical that they are automatically eligible for workers’ comp for Covid-19,” said Bonnie Castillo, RN, executive director of CNA/National Nurses United (NNU). “Nurses are testing positive and contracting Covid-19. Some nurses have been told they contracted their Covid-19 infection in the community and that they should use their sick or vacation time. That is outrageous, especially given the highly contagious nature of the virus that causes Covid-19. Nurses on the front lines of this crisis deserve presumptive eligibility now.”

As of Feb. 8, 2021, there are 89,507 confirmed positive Covid-19 cases of nurses and health care workers, and 32 fatalities among nurses in California.

“These deaths could have been prevented if only nurses had been provided with the proper equipment to protect themselves and their facilities were following proper infection control protocols,” said Zenei Triunfo-Cortez, RN and a president of CNA/NNU. “It is time to change the workers’ compensation system to benefit nurses rather than big employers. We want to take care of the sick, but when we ourselves fall ill because of our daily sacrifices, we should all be provided with the security written into S.B. 213. Protect nurses now so we can keep taking care of your friends and families during this pandemic.”

S.B. 213 recognizes that health care workers such as nurses are on the front line and face many of the same health risks as public safety officers. Specifically, this bill creates a workers' compensation rebuttable presumption for hospital employees who provide direct patient care in an acute hospital setting for issues such as infectious disease, respiratory disease, cancer, post-traumatic stress disorder, and musculoskeletal injuries.

This bill will modernize outdated California laws by making it easier for registered nurses to access the workers' compensation system, just like the law currently protects other frontline healthcare workers. This will ensure all frontline health care workers have access to the same workers' compensation presumptions and is a vital step in achieving economic and gender equality.