Workers’ Compensation and the Coronavirus
With the spread of the coronavirus, many Florida workers are probably wondering whether or not they can or would be able to receive workers’ compensation for contracting coronavirus. Of course, because the virus is so new, there is no actual legal precedent for this question, but it is an interesting legal question to ask and to try to predict, if required.
Who Would be Covered
For many workers whose jobs require that they be exposed to the virus, workers’ compensation would likely assist them if they had to miss work because of the illness. This would include the obvious, such as health care workers.
It could also possibly encompass any workers who work in or near medical facilities, or even those who may work in public places where large crowds gather. It could include those who work in or around schools or airports, including in-plane staff such as pilots or flight attendants.
“Arising Out Of” Requirements
But other professions may be a bit more difficult to predict, because the nature of the job is not one that would naturally lead to getting the virus. Under Florida’s workers’ compensation laws, the injury or illness must “arise out of” the work performed by the employee.
Some courts ask whether the job necessarily exposes the worker to the risk that caused the injury or illness. Other courts ask whether the employment contributed in some way to the conditions that put the worker at risk for the injury.
This is a tough question to answer when it comes to the Coronavirus. For example, one could say that any job that requires a worker to be around other people in a public place—especially any public business—puts a worker in conditions that expose him or her to the virus.
One way to think of the question is whether exposure to the virus is related or unrelated to a worker’s employment, is whether the risk exists in the employee’s “non-employment” life. That means that if exposure to the coronavirus is higher because of someone’s work, the illness may be covered, whereas if it is the same—for example, a secretary going to work in a private, mid-sized office who gets Coronavirus—it may not be covered.
Workers’ Compensation for Diseases
Certainly, many insurers will take the position that workers’ compensation is not available for every common cold or even the flu. And as a general rule, most Florida courts have only agreed that workers’ compensation covers diseases that are strictly related to a worker’s job, such as lung disease in firefighters, or radiation sickness for someone who works at or near radiation. Under that rationale, absence from the coronavirus may not be covered under workers’ compensation.
The issue may not be one that ever gets litigated, because many businesses could close long before workers contract the disease.
The Tampa workers’ compensation attorneys at Barbas, Nuñez, Sanders, Butler & Hovsepian can help you if you are out of work because of illness or injury. Call us today to discuss obtaining workers’ compensation benefits for your injuries. Schedule a consultation today.