Are disaster service workers considered employees?

No, not exactly. California Labor Code Section 3352.94 states that DSW’s are not employees.  The big issue here is whether the public employer is going to take on the worker’s compensation liability for the employee while performing DSW services.  Luckily, California Labor Code provides some relief in this area.  In addition, schools can not ordain their own DSW’s because this must be done by a disaster service council.  Unfortunately, school districts are not allowed to become a disaster service council.

3352.94. “Employee” excludes a disaster service worker while
performing services as a disaster service worker except as provided
in Chapter 10 of this part. “Employee” excludes any unregistered
person performing like services as a disaster service worker without
pay or other consideration, except as provided by Section 3211.92 of
this code.

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