The Covid-19 pandemic presents a unique scenario where many jobs not typically considered hazardous have suddenly become so. Is the coronavirus compensable under workers’ compensation laws? The answer is: Maybe. Depending on the specific circumstances surrounding a claim – and on which state is involved.
Every state has its own unique workers’ compensation landscape.
Generally, workers’ comp does not cover community-spread illnesses because they cannot be directly tied to the workplace. However, several states have taken action to extend coverage to include first responders and healthcare workers who contact Covid-19. For instance, in the state of Washington, these employees are eligible for coverage during the time they are quarantined after being exposed to t the virus on the job.
- A common approach is for a state to amend its policy so that Covid-19 infections in certain individuals are presumed to be work related and therefore covered. This places the burden on employers and insurers to prove otherwise.
- States differ considerably in their rules for compensability. While a few apply the test of whether a disease arises out of and in the course of employment, many states instead have lists of covered illnesses in their existing workers’ compensation statutes, and unless amendments have been made, Covid-19 isn’t likely on them.
- Specifics vary from state to state, but there must be documented evidence of work-related exposure in any case. As an employer, you may challenge any finding of causation. And if you continue to pay employees who are quarantined, you may not need to file a workers’ comp claim.
Some workers may be able to obtain coverage under federal laws.
Within the U. S. Department of Labor, the Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs Division of Federal Employees’ Compensation has announced that a federal employee who contracts Covid-19 while in performance of their job duties will have full coverage for related medical treatment and for wage loss or disability related to their condition.
Other federal mandates may also apply. For example, the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act provides for the payment of compensation for medical care and vocational rehab services from on-the-job injuries and illnesses that occur in navigable U.S. waters or in loading, unloading, repairing or building sea vessels.
Are you up-to-date on the rules and changes?
The rules and regulations surrounding workers’ compensation have always been fluid and often complicated to follow. This rings especially true during the Covid-19 pandemic. To help keep your company compliant and up to date, why not partner with the safety and risk management experts at Lyons HR? As part of our full-service menu as a professional employer organization (PEO), we can assist with workers’ comp coverage and procurement, along with custom safety plans and training, OSHA reporting, claims management, accident and fraud investigation, and more. Read our related posts or contact us today to learn more.