In nearly every news article or social media post, COVID-19 is the topic. Americans are rushing to the unemployment offices with claims surpassing the 1982 record. What if you are not laid off, but instead, are sickened with coronavirus on the job. Would workers’ compensation for coronavirus apply to you?
Workers’ compensation laws vary by state. Because a one-size approach doesn’t apply, the information here is not a comprehensive nor exhaustive list for each state. Contact The Hayes Team to navigate your individual state’s workers’ compensation laws.
I contracted coronavirus at work. Can I claim workers’ compensation?
As mentioned, each state has different workers’ compensation rules. Washington state, for example, allows workers to file for workers’ compensation up to two years after being exposed to a disease while at work. Joel Sacks, director of the Washington Department of Labor & Industries (L&I), unveiled a new policy on March 5th. The policy stated first responders and health care workers would have workers’ compensation protection. L&I would provide benefits for the workers while quarantined due to COVID-19.
Just because Washington state is solidifying its position with workers’ compensation and healthcare/front line workers, this is not necessarily the case for every other state. Even if they do follow suit, the workers must show documentation that the virus was a direct result of their work.
For workers outside of the healthcare profession, proving their job caused the contraction of the virus will be a bit more difficult. With COVID-19 becoming more mainstream, pinpointing the job as the sole exposure of the virus is difficult for most workers. An employee does not need to prove it was the employer’s fault, but rather, the virus was because of their employment.
What about occupational disease classification and COVID-19?
Classification of the virus as an “occupational disease” indicates the employee must show their acquiring coronavirus was due to their occupation. In other words, a nurse who is working with coronavirus patients who acquires the virus would do so directly because of her profession. Without her job, her exposure would not have resulted in COVID-19.
The second thing an employee must prove is the illness was because of conditions specific to their line of work. In this case, the lack of personal protective equipment or their particular job’s duties would cause them to be of higher risk. Like most workers’ compensation claims, the employee must be doing something of benefit to their employer that caused the exposure.
Many states have a list of what they consider occupational diseases. As COVID-19 is a new virus and there is not much data, it is highly unlikely to have made it on those lists. Some states interpret occupational diseases to be ones that only happen because of the job. Other states, such as South Carolina, dismiss any disease that a person would have an equal chance of acquiring by being in the general public.
As specific states roll out new amendments to their workers’ compensation guidelines, it is helpful to reach out to experts to determine your case. At The Hayes Firm, we work with lawyers throughout the country to navigate these laws with our clients.
I traveled for work and now have COVID-19. Would this qualify for workers’ compensation?
As with any workers’ compensation questions, individual states have distinct rules. With COVID-19, most states determine if the exposure was during a working function or non-working hours. For example, did you contract the virus while site seeing or during your business luncheon?
Once an employee establishes the virus was contracted during the trip, then a determination must be made as to when exactly the employee caught the virus. State laws and regulations also need to be considered. Legal counsel is best for determining if the specifics of your situation fits within your state’s workers’ compensation guidelines.
If you were required to travel from work and contracted COVID-19 while abroad, your employer should report this to their workers’ compensation insurance carrier. Despite if the claim is processed and approved, the report requires completion.
If I don’t qualify for workers’ compensation, is there any help available?
With the passing of the stimulus package, there is help on its way and available. Even if you do not qualify for workers’ compensation, that does not necessarily mean there is no help for you. The Hayes Firm can help you navigate the specifics of the stimulus package, as well as your state’s individual laws. By working with our team, you can ensure you are obtaining the maximum benefit possible while we pass through this uncertain time.
As more information comes out about the novel coronavirus, reports of varying symptoms trickle in. According to the WHO, the symptoms of COVID-19 are:
- Dry cough
- Nasal congestion
- Runny nose
- Sore throat
- Loss of smell/taste
Seek legal help for COVID-19 workers’ comp claims
This is a new territory. While infectious diseases are not novel, a pandemic causing businesses to shut down, displaced workers to scramble for options, and employees rightfully concerned their risk increases every day they are not at home is novel.
If you are sick, the last thing you want to do is research ways to ensure you are compensated. Let us do that part. If you have COVID-19 and believe your profession puts you at risk of contracting the virus, contact The Hayes Firm. We value your health and employee rights. Our job is to match you with the best lawyer for your case while you recover.