Will Workers Compensation Change Because of COVID?

close up image of an exhausted-looking medical professional wearing a mask and gloves

National Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic

Along with cultural and economic changes during the 2020 surge of the COVID-19 pandemic came the struggle for employers to figure out how to healthily and effectively maintain their businesses. This virus became an occupational hazard in some industries, including healthcare and food services, which forced many to reconsider what could be covered underneath insurance policies and workers compensation.

Here’s how companies and institutions are responding across the U.S.

State Workers Compensation Policies

Workers compensation, provided by employers in varying industries, is secured to cover any injuries or illnesses that are directly related to your job functions. Usually provided in the form of medical bills and lost wage security, employers can choose whether or not their specific businesses are covered.

Following the surges in case numbers and positive test results, states were left to decide whether this virus was something they should be including as part of this insurance. As of December 2020, 17 states and Puerto Rico moved to extend their coverage to include COVID-19 as a work-related illness through bills and Executive Orders, with 9 states enacting presumptive legislation. However, several states who have moved to make this kind of change had all attempted legislation fail, including:

  • Colorado
  • Kansas
  • Minnesota
  • North Carolina
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • Virginia

Several other state House Bills are still pending, while others - including Alaska’s order - have expired. While many introduced bills that would cover anyone who contracted COVID-19 at work, the ones most commonly enacted specifically targeted essential workers or singularly first responders and medical personnel. You can view the list of state actions on the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) website here.

New Policy for Federal Employees

The U.S. Department of Labor also outlined their adjustments to the Federal Employees Program coverage, citing in-person jobs that have close public proximity as “high risk employment.” If a high-risk employee were to contact COVID-19, they would be entitled to workers’ compensation if a claim is filed within 30 days of exposure.

However, should a non-high-risk employee contract the virus, evidence must be submitted and approved by the appropriate agency to receive compensation. These are what must be submitted for the Federal Employees’ Compensation Act (FECA) Claim to be approved:

Exposure

For those who are not high-risk employees, this may include the duration of occupational exposure, job duties and which agency you work for, and your working location. The agency you work for will also be contacted for occupational exposure purposes.

Medical

A medical diagnosis of COVID-19 is required. You will also need a medical provider to establish that this diagnosis resulted from or was aggravated by job functions.

For more information on filing your claim as a federal employee, click here.

How This Changes for Remote Employees

You probably already know that a significant number of companies transferred to an all-remote work structure in mid-to-late 2020, but did you know that remote employees may be entitled to certain workers compensation benefits at home too?

In a 2006 workers compensation case, a judge ruled that working from a home office indicates an “approved work premises,” therefore extending the protections you would normally have at your corporate office. Should you be injured from your company-supplied equipment or doing your day-to-day tasks, you may be entitled to compensation.

In this new era of working, it is best to ask your specific employer about what kind of protections you may be entitled to when working at home.

Workers Compensation Questions? Call Our Office

Illinois is one of the states that has enacted presumptive legislation for first responders and frontline workers to be entitled to workers compensation benefits after contracting COVID-19. If you are struggling to get workers compensation after exposure to the novel coronavirus at your place of work, contact Turner & Sackett LLC today. Our Geneva workers compensation attorneys will work with you to seek maximum compensation for your medical bills and lost wages. Call (800) 653-0198 to schedule a consultation.

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