State Requires Workers’ Compensation for Workers on the Front Lines of COVID-19
In normal situations, getting workers’ compensation for contracting illness or disease is very difficult. As you can imagine, the workers’ compensation system would fall in on itself if everyone who got the flu, or strep throat, could get workers’ compensation.
As a general rule, the same laws apply to COVID-19. However, lawmakers are trying to make sure that workers that are on the front lines of treating COVID-19 patients, get some workers’ compensation relief.
When is Workers’ Compensation Coverage Provided?
No matter what kind of injury you sustain while on the job, you must show that your injury (or in this case, disease) was caused by, or “arose out of,” your work or employment. Your workplace or the industry in which you work, must contribute in some way, or must expose you to the risk that caused your injury. Some courts ask whether a worker’s employment creates or allows the risk of injury to exist.
How does this analysis relate to diseases? It makes it very difficult, in most cases, to get workers’ compensation for diseases, because we don’t ever really know where we contract diseases from. If you get the flu, you could have gotten it from someone at work, but you also could have gotten it from the store, or from a family member at home. There is no test to tell you exactly when and where you contracted disease.
However, this legal test would then exclude any doctors, nurses, or medical staff, from getting workers’ compensation when they get COVID-19, even though it seems pretty clear that these workers are getting the disease as a natural result of their work environment.
State Mandates Coverage for COVID-19-industry Employees
The state previously ordered that all state employees who work with COVID-19 victims should be given workers’ compensation coverage when and if the workers contract the disease. This was in recognition of the fact that the current workers’ compensation law, as written, would likely exclude these claims.
The Florida Department of Insurance Regulation is now making it easier for health related workers who work for non-state employers to get workers’ compensation benefits when they contract the Coronavirus. A memorandum has been issued by the department requiring that any “public servant” (which wouldn’t necessarily be limited to health workers), who is on the “front lines” of COVID-19, be afforded workers’ compensation insurance.
The memorandum essentially clarifies that when these workers contract the disease, the illness “arises out of” the worker’s employment. By doing so, the memorandum saves these vital workers from having to fight for benefits when they get sick. The Department included in its memorandum a threat of repercussions for any insurer that tries to ignore its obligation to provide benefits to workers on the front lines of working with patients.
The Tampa workers’ compensation attorneys at Barbas, Nuñez, Sanders, Butler & Hovsepian can help you if you are injured on the job. Call us today to discuss obtaining workers’ compensation benefits for your injuries. Schedule a consultation today.