Workers’ Compensation during COVID-19

Workers’ Compensation during COVID-19

Across the country, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and economic fallout, millions of employees continue to work. While some became “remote” working from the comfort of their homes, others still have to go into work. These “essential” employees confront the risk of contracting COVID-19 at work.  Emergency legislation on federal, state, and local levels has increased paid and unpaid sick leave time off and unemployment insurance benefits for COVID-19-related absences and loss of work, but what about the essential employees who contract COVID-19 at work? While there is always a chance that your health could be put in jeopardy on the job, it’s times like these, especially, that warrant careful action and attention. While looking out for yourself to get what you deserve, there are several things you should keep in mind about workers’ compensation during COVID-19.

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) released a statement saying that “the employment-related incidence of COVID-19 is more likely to occur among members of law enforcement, first responders and front-line medical and public health personnel, and among those whose employment causes them to come into direct and frequent in-person and close proximity contact with the public.” Legislation is pending or has passed in many major states addressing COVID-19 and workers’ compensation benefits, but what if this legislation doesn’t cover you, how can you get workers’ compensation insurance to cover you? The broad mechanics of the workers’ compensation insurance system are simple. The employer pays insurance premiums for a workers’ compensation insurance policy that provides employees coverage and benefits for any illness or injury “arising out and occurring in the course of their employment.” A normal injury, like falling or cutting your hand at work, obviously is “arising out and occurring in the course of their employment.” But things start getting a little unclear when an employee contracts a fast-spreading, novel airborne illness while working during a pandemic.

The DOL acknowledges this difficulty in determining the precise moment and method of virus transmission. Accordingly, they have created new procedures to specifically address COVID-19 claims. If a COVID-19 compensation claim is filed by a person who is not considered to be “high-risk”, the Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs (OWCP) will require the claimant to provide a factual statement and any available evidence concerning exposure. The key evidence needed for a COVID-19 Workers’ Compensation Claim as required by the law are the following:

  • Exposure– Federal employees who are required to interact with the public or front-line medical and public health personnel are considered to be in high-risk employment. If your position has not been identified as a high-risk position, you will be asked to provide any evidence of the duration and length of your occupational exposure. This evidence may include information such as a description of job duties, which federal agency you worked for, and the location of the work.
  • Medical– You will need to provide medical evidence establishing a diagnosis of COVID-19. You will also need to provide medical evidence establishing that the diagnosed COVID-19 was aggravated, accelerated, precipitated, or directly caused by your work-related activities.

According to New Jersey’s newly laid pandemic plans, a person who has COVID-19, or symptoms of COVID-19, may be eligible for worker’s compensation if they contracted the virus from waiting on or working with someone who had the virus, or contracted the virus for any other work related reason. It is essential that employers, insurance carriers and the employee engage a law firm whenever a workers’ compensation dispute arises. David H. Kaplan has, over the years, worked with clients to settle workers compensation cases, and provides compassionate legal defense to the injured party while they recuperate. Contact us today for more information!

Disclaimer: we don’t handle federal WC claims