While workers’ compensation is complicated under normal circumstances, it is increasingly complicated as a result of COVID-19. With companies and workers dealing with unprecedented challenges, more and more workers are learning of the many difficulties that come with trying to collect workers’ compensation. Although the rules concerning workers’ comp have not necessarily changed, many are open to new interpretations due to the pandemic. As for what you need to know about workers’ compensation for the rest of 2020 and beyond as the pandemic plays out, here are some of the most important details.
Working from Home
Now that many workers are required to stay home and perform their jobs, questions are arising as to whether or not these home-bound workers will qualify for workers’ compensation should they get sick. For example, if an accountant is forced to work from home due to the pandemic and contracts the virus from a family member, workers’ compensation will come into play. Though working from home, the case can be made that the person could or could not qualify for workers’ comp benefits. Often, this will depend on how the employer approaches the situation. Many times, the employee will need the services of an experienced workers’ compensation attorney to help them gain the benefits they believe are deserved.
Whether it is workers in grocery stores, warehouses, or other occupations and settings, many people who have been deemed as essential workers have been in positions where they have been exposed to hundreds or even thousands of people on a daily basis. As a result, they have been at much higher risk of contracting COVID-19. In these cases, workers’ compensation can once again be a tricky area to maneuver. Since there is no precedent for employers to fall back on regarding how to deal with a pandemic, workers’s comp laws are again subject to various interpretations. While some employers may attempt to claim COVID-19 is not an illness that can be subjected to normal workers’ comp laws, most attorneys who specialize in workers’ comp cases tend to differ on their outlook. In these cases, if an employer is deemed to have put the employee at an increased risk while on the job, workers’ comp should be awarded.
As businesses across the U.S. have been opened up and had employees on the job and thus exposed to the coronavirus, the question of liability exposure for various businesses is a topic that is considered to be more and more important. For workers who are in high-risk jobs such as healthcare workers, first responders, and other related occupations, some workers’ compensation claims may be initially denied due to the workers being involved in occupations they know are high-risk. However, as more workers in these occupations file their claims, it is likely they will be approved, since it may be determined the employer aggravated the working conditions and thus increased the risk to workers.
The Policy in Effect
When it comes to workers’ compensation claims in 2020 regarding the pandemic, one of the determining factors as to which claims are approved or denied is the policy that is in effect at the time the worker was last exposed to the illness. In these situations, it is important to note that even if a person leaves an employer where they contracted COVID-19 to go work elsewhere, they are still entitled to be allowed to file a workers’ comp claim against their previous employer. Also, should an employee retire and then later be diagnosed with COVID-19, they can also file a claim against their previous employer.
With so many questions surrounding COVID-19 and how employers and employees should deal with the risks associated with it, it is always best to seek out the advice of an attorney who handles workers’ comp claims on a regular basis. In doing so, you can get answers to your most important questions.