My employee alleges that they contracted the coronavirus while at work. Will this result in a compensable workers’ compensation claim?
If the employee is a health care worker or first responder, the answer is likely yes (subject to variations in state law). For other categories of employees, a compensable workers’ compensation claim is possible, but the analysis would be very fact-specific.
If there was an exposure to COVID-19 in the work place is the employee likely to establish a compensable workers compensation claim?
Each state has different laws around what establishes a work related injury. In most cases an exposure to COVID-19 is similar to an exposure to the flu which would not be compensable. There are exceptions with certain classes of employees and different state jurisdictions. The employee must still prove that the contagious disease resulted from the work environment.
My employee reports to his supervisor that he believes he was exposed to COVID-19 at work because a co-worker who has a confirmed exposure. Does the employer need to report the alleged work exposure to the WC carrier/TPA?
In most circumstances – no. Exposure does not mean the employee sustained a compensable injury. A compensable injury is one that causes a disability or the need for medical treatment.
My employee contracted COVID-19 while on a business trip for my company. Is this a compensable workers’ compensation claim?
While an employee who contracts a disease while traveling for business may be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits in many jurisdictions, the analysis will be very fact-specific. In most states, the worker will need to satisfy the test for compensability outlined above. States often differentiate between exposures that occur while “working” during a business trip versus exposures that occur during “down time.” Some states create almost strict liability for any injury that occurs on a business trip, whether the employee is working or not. But again, in order to have a compensable claim, the employee must, at a minimum, establish that they had an exposure to the coronavirus while traveling for business.
My employee has been diagnosed with a confirmed case of COVID-19. If that employee reports to his supervisor that he believes he acquired the illness through an exposure at work, what should the employer do?
Follow your normal employer protocols for when any employee reports an alleged workers compensation claim or occupational disease.
- Complete an incident report and investigation paperwork – this should include who at work they have been in contact with over the 14 days
- Provide the employee with the proper notices
- Report the claim to your WC carrier/TPA
If an employee has an exposure to an COVID-19 and is medically removed from work as a result of the exposure is TTD owed?
No. Temporary disability benefits would not be payable because there has been no injury – an exposure is not an injury
Can employers send employees home who exhibit potential symptoms of contagious illnesses at work?
Yes. If an employee displays viral or influenza type symptoms at work, the ADA Act does not prohibit an employer from encouraging or requesting that the employee leave work. Note: Employers should instruct their employees to inform management if they have been exposed to the virus or show symptoms of infection, or if they or another member of their household have vulnerabilities such as a weakened immune system.
May an employer encourage employees to telework as an infection-control strategy?
Yes. The EEOC has opined that telework is an effective infection control strategy. The EEOC has also stated that employees with disabilities that put them at high risk for complications of pandemic influenza may request telework as a reasonable accommodation under the ADA to reduce their chances of infection during a pandemic.