We’ve spent the last year adjusting to our “new normal.” While there is a bright spot on the horizon given the state of the U.S. vaccine rollout, we’re still not out of the woods when it comes to COVID-19.
As such, many employees may be worried about what might happen if they’re being required to return to the worksite too soon. Although many employers are continuing to offer remote work options to keep their staff members safe, others are eager to return to regular operations. In some cases, it may simply be necessary to come back to the office or job site.
Making matters more complicated is the fact that everyone has different comfort levels when it comes to coronavirus restrictions. Some people err on the side of caution, while others believe that COVID-19 presents only a minimal threat. In the average workplace, you might see a mix of both (as well as everything in between). And since it’s largely up to business owners and managers to uphold health and safety guidelines, there’s potentially significant room for error and oversight.
Because of this, you might be wondering whether you have any recourse if you contract COVID-19 through the course of your work. Let’s take a closer look at whether you might be covered by workers’ compensation in this situation.
Workers’ Compensation and COVID-19
The novel coronavirus has impacted all kinds of legal cases, from delays in custody court to illegal evictions. An attorney SEO case study would likely show that web searches related to legal matters probably increased during 2020 as a result. Of course, searches related to health information also went through the roof. Not surprisingly, you may be curious about what might happen if you were to contract COVID-19 at work.
So can you file a workers’ compensation claim if you become ill with the coronavirus? There’s not a simple answer here, but it’s important to consider the requirements that need to be met for any occupational disease in order to file a claim.
First of all, there needs to be a direct connection between the disease and the work conditions performed. This connection needs to be causal, rather than correlational. The disease also needs to be tied to the result of exposure caused by the nature of employment and it must be fairly traced to the employment. In other words, it can’t be tied to an out-of-work hazard. Your exposure to COVID-19 must be directly connected to the conditions you experienced at work and most likely confirmed through medical means. This can be difficult given privacy laws related to healthcare or individual reluctance to be tested for COVID-19.
Simply put, you will not be entitled to file for workers’ compensation if you were to contract COVID-19 outside of work or if it can’t be confirmed that the conditions at your workplace could have reasonably lead to the transmission of COVID-19. However, first responders and healthcare workers will typically have more leeway here. Since their jobs require them to have an increased risk of exposure, it’s likely that they may be able to file for workers’ comp if they contract the novel coronavirus and their illness results in some type of disablement.
If you have a confirmed case of COVID-19 and you believe that you were infected at work or in a way that directly occurred due to your employment, you’ll need to notify your employer within seven days of learning of your illness. Even if your case is relatively mild at the start, it’s recommended that you complete a Notice of Accident or Illness form to let your employer know in writing, as this could help you if you do need to file a claim. You’ll also need to obtain medical treatment within 90 days and complete a Claim for Compensation form if you intend to file a workers’ compensation claim to account for lost work hours or wages due to your illness.
For the majority of people who contract COVID-19, filing for workers’ compensation may not even be an issue. Most people do recover within a relatively short period of time. And while some patients have experienced lingering symptoms, these symptoms may not impact your ability to work in many cases. If you have contracted COVID-19 due to your job or to unsafe work practices, however, it may be wise to contact a lawyer to assess your options and to determine whether filing a claim is the best course of action.