During these rapidly changing times and the increase in COVID-19 cases, companies must take steps to mitigate risk for employees and their business.
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has established a website, updated daily, to assist employees and employers.
- The California Department of Industrial Relation also provides Guidance on Requirements to Protect Workers from Coronavirus.
- OSHA has also developed measures and guidance for protecting employees from exposure to COVID-19.
Below we have provided a few recommendations for companies, as it relates to California workers’ compensation claims compensability and communication, along with some guidelines for reporting potential COVID-19 claims.
COMMUNICATION WITH EMPLOYEES
It is important to have effective communication with your employees. You want to make sure your employees know that their health and safety are a priority, and it is important for them to mitigate any potential exposure to COVID-19. The current situation is very fluid in nature and subject to change daily. Your employees should be advised of your current policies and procedures as it relates to work hours or working remotely, and how this affects them. You want to minimize any anxiety and confusion, and to ensure that your employees are completely informed and aware of your policies and procedures.
CDC has established Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers to Plan and Respond to COVID-19. Please refer to the CDC website for additional information: cdc.gov
HOW COMPENSABILITY WILL BE DETERMINED
For California workers’ compensation claims arising out of COVID-19, details and facts will be used to determine compensability. AOE/COE means arising out of employment, or in the course of employment, is the initial bar in determining whether a workers’ compensation claim might be compensable. The burden of proof will bear on the employee being able to demonstrate that the exposure was during their employment by a preponderance of evidence.
It may be difficult to prove that the exposure to COVID-19 was contracted during work activities versus non-work activities. However, in some cases, job location and the nature of their job could help in sorting out the alleged industrial exposure. Public safety and health employees have the benefit of a presumption of industrial injury respecting certain medical conditions. In most cases, we would expect these claims would be compensable.
Employers should provide employees with CDC guidelines that both explain how to limit the potential spread of any contagions, and how to prepare and prevent the spread.
Another best intervention practice is social distancing to mitigate potential exposure. Employers should take precautions to limit employee exposure to COVID-19, including limiting travel, canceling meetings, and in some cases having employees work remotely if possible.
REPORTING A CLAIM TO YOUR CARRIER/TPA
In the event an employee would like to file a claim related to COVID-19, we are recommending that you file a claim with your carrier or TPA. In most cases, the carrier or TPA will delay the claim in order to conduct a proper investigation and evaluate the evidence of exposure prior to making the determination of a claim. Ultimately, the facts will determine the compensability of a workers’ compensation claim. For assistance, please contact your EPIC Representative or Claims Advocate.
For more of our coronavirus coverage, visit epicbrokers.com/coronavirus