The global pandemic COVID-19 has affected the manner in which we address each other in public as well as how people work today. For occupations where it is practical, most employees work from home, however, for other occupations working from home is not an option; for example, if you are a plumber, electrician, etc. It is with these forms of employment that employees contract COVID-19, which begs the question whether employees are able to receive workers’ compensation benefits for contracting COVID-19 while at work.
It is possible for an employee to contract COVID-19 due to exposure to the virus while on the job or traveling for work. Speak to AK compensation lawyers for legal advice on whether you can receive workers’ compensation benefits from contracting COVID-19 at work. As for other work-related diseases, if an employee contracts such a disease while working or traveling for work they are covered by workers’ compensation benefits. However, with regards to COVID-19 being compensated by workers’ compensation it may be difficult for an employee to receive such benefits. That being said, unless the employee is a healthcare provider or first responder who attended to an individual infected by the virus they may be entitled to compensation. Therefore, workers’ compensation benefits for COVID-19 are largely dependent on the following factors: the
- nature of your job
- circumstances surrounding infection based on your case
- rules of the state where you live;
- changes to such state rules relaxing the qualifications for compensation during the pandemic
The legal wording used with regards to applicability of workers’ compensation for employees is occupational diseases “arising out of and in the course of employment”. That being said, common infectious diseases such as flu are not considered occupational illnesses. However, COVID-19 may be treated differently in some cases. While eligibility requirements for occupational diseases vary from one state to the next, some general requirements are:
- The nature of your employment caused your illness or put you at a high risk of being exposed to the virus as compared to the general public
- Specific exposure to the illness happened while you were doing your job
In cases whereby an infectious disease becomes widespread in the community, such as in the case of COVID-19, it becomes very difficult to meet the above requirements. As one generally is unable to pinpoint where exactly they contracted the disease from. Further, the individual would need to prove that something specific about their work increased their chance of contracting the coronavirus; which is a tall order. This is likely why, only first responders and healthcare workers are able to claim for workers’ compensation benefits as the nature of their work puts them at the highest risk of being exposed to COVID-19. That being said, workers in other forms of employment may also be able to show that the nature of their work put them at a higher risk as compared to the general population. For example, bus drivers, grocery store workers and correctional officers. As a result, many states have extended special protections to certain employees who are said to be ‘working on the front lines of the pandemic’.