Workers’ Compensation in the COVID-19 Pandemic
Written by AskTheLawyers.com™ on behalf of Sarah E. Stottlemyer with Stottlemyer & Associates, LLC.
The COVID-19 pandemic has created a worldwide crisis in many ways, requiring new measures from policymakers around the world regarding the way business is conducted, all the way down to workers’ compensation. While workers’ compensation is typically intended to cover medical bills and lost wages for employees injured while on the job, there has been debate as to whether workers should receive workers’ compensation benefits if they contracted COVID-19 at work.
The problem with offering workers’ compensation for COVID-19 is that it can be hard to trace the exposure back to its source.
Just because an employee comes down with COVID-19 doesn’t necessarily mean that they contracted the virus in the course of their daily job. Unless an employee works in an environment where their job requires them to be regularly exposed to the virus, it may be difficult to prove that contraction of the virus was work-related. However, families affected by coronavirus may be eligible to receive aid in the form of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), separate from workers’ compensation.
That being said, if a coworker begins to show symptoms of coronavirus, or you begin to be symptomatic yourself, document each symptom and the time that it arises. This may help your employer track when and where you likely contracted the virus.
First-responders and healthcare workers may be eligible to receive workers’ compensation benefits if they contract the virus.
Due to the close proximity to infected individuals that first-responders and healthcare workers may regularly find themselves, it makes sense that workers’ compensation benefits should extend to cover these parties. While not every state has taken measures to include the coronavirus as an eligible work-related illness to receive workers’ compensation, many appear to be moving in that direction.
Currently, every state already has their own workers’ compensation law which may differ widely from place to place. However, workers’ compensation attorneys point out that if your coronavirus symptoms are not severe, it may not be worth it to pursue a workers’ compensation claim, as you’ll likely have recovered by the time it is resolved.
If you suspect you have contracted COVID-19, contact your employer and stay home.
It’s important to stay home and inform your employer as soon as possible that you have contracted COVID. This may help them identify others who are at risk of contracting the virus so that proper precautions can be taken. If you are feeling unwell and suspect it may be the virus, quarantine yourself at home and contact your healthcare provider to decide how to move forward with testing and/or treatment of your symptoms.
Most cases of the virus are relatively mild and can be recovered from without medical assistance. However, if your symptoms are extreme it may be necessary to seek emergency medical assistance. If you suspect you may have the virus, avoid public areas and stay in a specific room away from other members of your household if possible. Monitor your symptoms and keep your employer apprised of any changes. Similarly, contact your human resources (HR) department to discuss your eligibility for workers’ compensation benefits if you suspect you contracted the virus while at work.