COVID-19 changed everyday life significantly for most Americans, especially those working in the most critical industrial sectors of the country. In addition, the health care policies implemented throughout the United States during the last few years have had various effects on communities across the country, for better and worse. For example, in California, workers dubbed “essential” to the everyday living needs of state residents faced some of the most demanding workloads they have ever faced, while thousands more were forced to leave their jobs, adjust to working from home, or seek new employment due to business closures.

It’s important to know what it means to be an essential worker during the pandemic. While life seems to have returned mostly to normal for many Californians, the pandemic continues to strain the state’s health care system and impose significant economic challenges on residents across the state. While most California workers are entitled to paid sick leave for COVID-19 and have access to workers’ compensation insurance when they develop illnesses from work, essential workers face unique challenges because of the pandemic.

If any disputes arise concerning your recent request for paid sick leave due to COVID-19, you will need to consult an attorney to assist you. Essential workers have faced extraordinary challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic, and many of them have unfortunately experienced adverse health events due to the nature of their job duties.

Essential Workers in California

All California employees should know their status when it comes to the essential or nonessential nature of their work. Some of the most critical sectors in which most employees would qualify as “essential” during the pandemic include:

  • Health care. Most of the nation’s health care systems have been stretched to their limits throughout the pandemic, and due to the slow rate of replacement among health care workers throughout the country and various other factors, many essential health care workers have faced workplace illness claims and other legal entanglements throughout the pandemic.
  • Education. Many schools were forced to close across the country to slow the spread of COVID-19. While many districts switched to remote virtual learning and/or implemented more robust sterilization practices in school facilities, teachers and other education sector employees largely qualify as essential during the pandemic.
  • Food service and grocery retail. Anyone working in the food sector, from agriculture to shipping, distribution, and grocery store retail, qualifies as essential. Many businesses in the food industry face additional strain from panic-buying in the early stages of the pandemic, later followed by supply chain disruptions throughout the country.
  • Emergency response. Emergency medical technicians (EMTs), ambulance drivers, police, and other first responders and emergency services personnel are always deemed essential during public health crises, natural disasters, and other similar events.
  • Pharmacy and urgent care. While the pandemic has overtaxed hospitals and large health care systems, smaller yet also critical health sectors have also been strained. Pharmacists, pharmacy techs, urgent care personnel, and other specialized health care workers also qualify as essential for most purposes during the COVID-19 pandemic in California.

Many other industries also have components that qualify as “essential business,” and countless industries and employers completely overhauled their operations in response to the public health crises presented by COVID-19. Unfortunately, many injured and sick workers have struggled to secure the benefits they need and legally deserve under state law due to the severe administrative delays caused by the pandemic. If you work in any essential business in California and have any legal questions regarding your recovery options after a work-related illness or injury, it’s vital to speak with an attorney you can trust as soon as possible.

The attorneys at English, Lloyd & Armenta have carefully tracked the latest pandemic news and legislation enacted in response to the ongoing health crisis. Essential workers have faced and overcome extraordinary challenges recently, yet many have struggled to secure the support and benefits needed to recover from workplace injuries and illness due to infrastructure strain from COVID-19. We can help you determine your best recovery options if you are unable to work due to infection with COVID-19 or any other critical health condition you developed from work in California.


Q: What Does California Define as “Essential” Business During the Coronavirus Pandemic?

A: “Essential business” is any business operation critical for ensuring the health, safety, and basic living needs of the community. Food service, transportation, health care, and essential retail are just a few sectors that fall within the purview of essential business during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Q: Are Human and Animal Food and Feed Sector Workers Part of the Essential Infrastructure Workforce?

A: The food and agriculture sector as a whole qualifies as an essential business in California and throughout the United States. While all aspects of the food and agriculture industries were forced to adjust to account for the pandemic, these industries were heavily supported to ensure they could continue accommodating basic living essentials for California communities.

Q: Can I Claim Workers’ Compensation Benefits for COVID-19 Infection in California?

A: Workers’ compensation applies to any injury or illness from work. If you contract COVID-19 from work, your employer may claim that you caught the virus elsewhere. While it may be difficult, you might need to firmly prove that you caught the virus at work to succeed with a workers’ compensation claim. If you develop long-term symptoms of COVID-19 infection that interfere with your ability to work, workers’ compensation benefits could offer ongoing financial support.

Q: How Long Can I Have Paid Leave for COVID-19 in California?

A: California’s new Supplemental Paid Sick Leave for COVID-19 can provide up to 80 hours of paid medical leave for California workers afflicted by the pandemic. Employers are required to respond to requests for paid sick leave promptly and in good faith. Employees also have responsibilities and must abide by all applicable health and safety regulations to qualify for paid sick leave.

If you are struggling in the aftermath of the COVID-19 infection you acquired from work, English, Lloyd & Armenta can help you determine your best available recovery options. Contact us today to schedule your consultation with our firm to find out how we can help essential workers recover from COVID-19 in California.