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Open Letter to Governors and State Legislatures Regarding Workers Compensation Coverage for Personnel Fighting COVID-19

Open Letter to Governors and State Legislatures Regarding Workers’ Compensation Coverage for Personnel Fighting COVID-19 from the Worker’s Injury Law & Advocacy Group.

Our country now has more confirmed cases of COVID-19 than any other country in the world.  Many workers have, and will, contract this dreaded virus as a result of their work activities. Physicians, nurses, hospital employees, law enforcement officers, and first responders work around the clock on the front-line providing care and in direct contact with those suffering from this illness.  Many of these brave caregivers have contracted the disease themselves or will in the near future.  Others, while not yet testing positive, have lost wages as a result of quarantine.  Those that have contracted COVID-19 have lost significant wages, incurred substantial medical bills, and some have even died as a result of their exposure at work.

Are these soldiers in this invisible war covered by workers’ compensation?  Unfortunately, the answer is very complicated and in many states the answer may be, “No”.  Several states deny compensation for “ordinary diseases of life.”  Other states require clear and convincing evidence that the virus was acquired at work as opposed to exposure on the street, in a restaurant, or from a friend or family member.  This burden of proof imposes a virtually insurmountable barrier to receiving benefits.  The unintended consequence is that those who put their life on the line to protect all of us are left without a remedy when harm strikes their family.  These are the most essential workers – the workers who go in every day knowing they will be directly exposed to this contagion, but also knowing that without their efforts more people will die. How can we send these workers into these dangerous situations as part of their work and not have them covered by workers’ compensation?  Surely, none of us would want this result.

Many states have already taken some action to allow coverage of these workers if they contract COVID-19. On behalf of WILG® (Workers’ Injury Law and Advocacy Group®), I ask and urge all Governors and members of state legislatures to take whatever action necessary – whether that be executive order or legislation- to make sure these medical workers, first responders, and law enforcement officers are covered by your state workers’ compensation law, should they become ill as a consequence of their work caring for infected citizens.

WILG® is the national non-profit membership organization dedicated to representing the interest of millions of workers and their families who suffer the consequences of workplace injuries and illnesses.  If WILG® can assist in any way to ensure coverage and protection for your front-line workers during this pandemic, please let us know.  We stand ready to assist.

                                                                                          

Respectfully submitted,

William L Smith II

WILG® President (at time of letter)


Workers’ Compensation Coverage Presumptions for COVID-19

Prepared by the Workers’ Injury Law & Advocacy Group

As of November, 2020

 

State

Status

Coverage

Legal method of enactment

Details

Type of Presumption

Alaska

Passed

First responders and health care providers

Legislation

Senate Bill 241

Conclusive

Arkansas

Passed

All workers

Executive Order

Executive Order 20-35

No presumption, but removes prohibition of coverage of “ordinary diseases of life”

California

Passed

First responders in all cases; other workers only after “outbreak” at employment

Legislation

Senate Bill 1159

Rebuttable

California

Passed

All workers

Executive order

Executive Order N-62-20

Rebuttable

Colorado

Failed in Senate

“Essential workers” including a wide range of occupations

Legislation

Senate Bill 216

Rebuttable by “clear and convincing evidence”

Florida

Passed

First responders

Administrative rule

Link

Unknown

Illinois

Passed-withdrawn

First-responders and front-line workers

Administrative rule

Emergency Rule 9030.70 (withdrawn after lawsuit)

Rebuttable

Illinois

Passed

First-responders and front-line workers (broadly defined)

Legislation

Senate Bill 471

Rebuttable

Kansas

Failed

All workers

Legislation

House Bill 2007

Rebuttable

Kentucky

Passed

Healthcare workers, first responders, grocery workers, and others

Executive order

Order 2020-277

Contestable

Massachusetts

Proposed

First responders and emergency medical workers

Legislation

House Docket 4949

Evidentiary occupational exposure--rebuttable

Michigan

Passed

First responders

Administrative rule

Link

Conclusive

Minnesota

Passed

First responders and health care workers

Legislation

House File 4537

Rebuttable

Missouri

Passed

First responders

Administrative rule

Link

Rebuttable by “clear and convincing evidence”

New Jersey

Passed

Emergency and healthcare workers

Legislation

Senate Bill 2380

Rebuttable by a preponderance of the evidence

New Mexico

Passed

State emergency workers and first responders

Executive Order

Executive Order 2020-025

Unstated

New York

Proposed

First responders

Legislation

Senate Bill S8041A

Unstated (conclusive)

North Carolina

Proposed

First responders, healthcare workers, and other “essential” workers such as “food service” and “retail” workers

Legislation

House Bill 1057

Rebuttable by “clear and convincing evidence”

North Dakota

Passed

Emergency workers

Executive order

Link

Special eligibility--no presumption

Ohio

Proposed

First responders and emergency medical workers

Legislation

House Bill 571

Rebuttable

Pennsylvania

Proposed

“Life-sustaining” occupations, which includes first responders but also grocery workers, pharmacists, trash collectors, and others

Legislation

House Bill 2396

Conclusive

South Carolina

Proposed

First responders and healthcare workers

Legislation

House Bill 5482

Unstated (conclusive)

Texas

Passed

First responders

Administrative rule

Link

Special eligibility--no presumption

Texas

Proposed

First responders and public safety workers

Numerous legislative proposals

Senate bill 107; House bills 310 and 34

Rebuttable by a “preponderance of the evidence”

Utah

Passed

First responders

Legislation

House Bill 3007

Rebuttable

Vermont

Passed

“Front-line workers” including a wide range of occupations

Legislation

Senate Bill 342

Rebuttable by a “preponderance of the evidence”

Wisconsin

Passed

First responders and front-line workers

Legislation

Assembly Bill 1038

Rebuttable

Wisconsin

Proposed

Wider group of “critical” workers than covered by previous legislation

Legislation

LRB-6522

Rebuttable

Wyoming

Passed

All workers

Legislation

Senate File 1002

Conclusive presumption of “increased risk” from work

 

 

 

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