COVID-19 & WORKERS’ COMPENSATION CLAIMS
In prior blogs I have written about employee rights as they relate to Workers’ Compensation benefits for on the job injuries (READ MORE), as well as claims for retaliation as a result of employer discipline for exercising those rights (READ MORE). Recently, with the COVID-19 pandemic, those employees who have become infected and unable to work have found that the ability to collect Workers’ Compensation benefits is at best a blurred line. In order to be eligible for benefits, the employee normally needs to show that the injury or illness arose out of, and in the course of employment. To show that the actual COVID-19 exposure results from the workplace is often a difficult task. That task is made easier for essential workers as a result of Executive Order NO. 7JJJ issued by Governor Lamont on July 24, 2020.
The Order provides a rebuttable presumption for “health care professionals, grocery store clerks, first responders and other essential workers” that a diagnosis or symptoms of COVID-19 resulting in any missed work between March 23, 2020 and May 20, 2020 arose out of and in the course of employment. The Order includes specific requirements for the presumption to apply, including confirmed testing of the COVID-19 diagnosis, and reduces benefits as a result of any payments received under the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act and the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. Once the employee requests benefits and satisfies the criteria set forth in the Order, the employer may only rebut the presumption of eligibility by demonstrating to a Commissioner by a preponderance of evidence that the employment was not the cause of contracting COVID-19.
The presumption of eligibility for benefits is a powerful tool for those employees who sustained long lasting consequences from COVID-19 exposure, or to the survivors of employees who sadly succumbed to this dreadful disease. If you or a loved one have been diagnosed with COVID-19 while employed, you may be entitled to benefits pursuant to the Workers’ Compensation Act.