Lauded for their service and hailed as heroes, essential workers who become infected with the coronavirus on the job have no guarantee in most states that they’ll qualify for workers compensation to cover lost wages and medical care, Associated Press reports.
Fewer than one-third of the states have enacted policies that shift the burden of proof for coverage of job-related COVID-19 so workers like first responders and nurses don’t have to show they got sick by reporting for a risky assignment.
And for most employees going back to job sites as the economy reopens, there’s even less protection than for essential workers. In nearly all states, they have to prove they got the virus on the job to qualify for workers comp.
Workers comp is not health insurance, or an unemployment benefit. In exchange for coverage, workers give up the right to sue their employers for job-related harms. Employers pay premiums to support the system. Complex rules differ from state to state.
Dealing with job-related injuries is fairly straightforward, but diseases have always been trickier for workers’ comp, and COVID-19 seems to be in a class of its own.
“You don’t know per se where you inhaled that breath whereby you became infected,” said Bill Smith, president of the Workers’ Injury Law & Advocacy Group, a professional association of lawyers representing workers.
Families of health workers killed by COVID-19 fight for denied workers comp benefits (Philadelphia Inquirer, July 16, 2020)
Workers comp in the new world of the COVID-19 pandemic (Law.com, July 16, 2020)
Report: Sharp drop in California workers’ comp premiums expected from COVID-19 (Insurance Journal, July 14, 2020)