Yes and no. The COVID-19 pandemic has created countless challenges across the nation in every area of life, and businesses are no exception to these problems. Specifically, in the area of workers’ compensation.
Every state has its workers’ compensation policy, further complicating the legal landscape, as states look to other states to evaluate their policies and employees apply for benefits, which in some cases are approved, and in others, denied.
Traditionally, workers’ compensation does not cover community-spread illnesses like colds or the flu because they cannot prove to have been contracted in the workplace. Absent specific exceptions for employees exposed to extreme conditions, such as firefighters and other first responders, employers would typically not cover a virus that an employee cannot prove to have gotten at work.
However, as we all know, COVID-19 has joined the ranks of the worst pandemics in world history. Because of its severity, seriousness and the category that this illness now belongs to (not merely “just a cold”), it directly affects employment law and, as we will explore in this article, workers’ compensation.
What is workers’ compensation?
In simple terms, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines workers’ compensation as compensation established to provide medical care and income protection to employees who are ill due to an illness contracted through their employment. Most employers carry workers’ compensation insurance to cover these claims when appropriate, either through private insurance companies or state-certified compensation insurance funds. Each state manages its workers’ compensation laws, as does the federal government.
If I get COVID-19 at work, can I file a claim for workers’ compensation insurance?
Yes, you may file a claim for benefits, but whether the claim is approved or denied will involve an in-depth evaluation of your claim.
In effect, most states are trying to catch up with the consequences of COVID-19 and the impact it has had on businesses and employees. Remember that we are treading on unfamiliar territory here. COVID-19 is a new issue, and the legislature is trying to catch up. In the meantime, it is best for everyone to stay updated on the evolving rules and regulations.