Does workers’ compensation cover exposure to COVID-19?

During the COVID-19 pandemic, employees who are considered “essential personnel” have stayed on the job. Some have gotten sick, and questions are being asked about workers’ compensation coverage.

For example: if you are working as a nurse or doctor on the front lines of the pandemic, will you receive workers’ compensation benefits if you become sick?

A workers’ comp insurance industry website sums it up: “Maybe.”

Each state has its own workers’ comp system and laws. As the pandemic unfolds, workers’ comp law could be subject to change.

Is proof of a work-illness connection needed?

The COVID-19 virus is invisible. How is it possible to prove that a worker contracted the virus at work?

In New York, the New York State Insurance Fund (NYSIF) says it will evaluate each claim on a case-by-case basis:

“Generally, mere exposure or quarantining of an employee would not qualify for workers’ compensation benefits, although certain quarantined employees might qualify for disability benefits…Claims by employees who actually contract COVID-19 may be compensable if the evidence shows that the contraction was work-related.”

Last week in Ohio, an Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation administrator encouraged anyone who faces a special hazard or risk at work and has gotten COVID-19 to file a workers’ comp claim. The Ohio workers’ comp office had received 18 claims; it rejected three claims and was investigating the others.

The Ohio administrator said workers need to provide proof that there was a connection between their job and their illness.

Will laws be changed?

In Minnesota, some state lawmakers in Minnesota want to change its state law to remove the burden of proof.

The author of a new bill said in a letter to the Minnesota governor that the law should be: “For any employee who contracts COVID-19 and who has been directly dealing with this disease in their daily work, the Minnesota Workers’ Compensation Law is extended to presume that the disease occurred in the course and scope of their employment.”

The Minnesota governor says the new legislation has merit.

Get answers to your questions

The “last word” has not been written on workers’ comp and COVID-19. Changes in New York and other states could happen at any time.

If you are an essential worker in New York state and have questions about COVID-19 and workers’ comp, contact the workers’ comp law firm of Sawers & Sackel for the latest information.

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