Months have passed since the first outbreak of COVID-19 and frontline workers (grocery store clerks, nurses, doctors, EMTs, etc.) are still fighting for protective gear and compensation from their employers if they contract this dangerous disease while on the job.
With supplies still in high demand, even hospitals and other health facilities are struggling to find the proper equipment. Face masks, gloves, hand sanitizer and protective eyewear are being handmade to help with this shortage, but these don’t guarantee employee health.
The sad truth is:
If a worker contracts COVID-19 and applies for workers’ compensation, they are going to have an uphill battle to receive those benefits for several reasons.
First and foremost, workers must prove they contracted COVID-19 at work. In order to receive workers’ compensation for an illness, in many states that worker carries the burden of proving that the disease they contracted was caused by exposure unique to their workplace versus an ordinary disease of life.
If a worker is able to prove they contracted COVID-19 in the workplace, they still have to make sure they live in a state that considers the disease as a workplace hazard. Alaska, for instance, is one of the few states that allows workers to receive compensation for the coronavirus. Georgia, however, currently does not.
Lack of support
Essential businesses remain open, but not all of them are ready to keep their employees safe due to supply shortage and no policies addressing the coronavirus. Grocery store workers, for example, are some of the most exposed, and many of them don’t have protective gear provided by their employers.
First responders and healthcare workers are at the highest risk for the coronavirus as they do battle on the frontlines; however, even they are having a difficult time securing benefits should they contract the disease themselves from a patient.
We’ve even heard that some workers’ compensation insurance companies are requiring infected medical personnel to pinpoint which particular patient was the one who exposed them to the coronavirus or the moment their protective gear failed.
In New York alone, “there are just over 1 million frontline workers citywide, staffing emergency rooms, driving buses, cleaning buildings, providing childcare, and running shelters and soup kitchens,” and each business is staffing dozens, if not hundreds of positions.
If even a tenth of these workers catch the coronavirus while on the job, the price tag for insurance companies would go through the roof, possibly totaling up to $31 billion, which is the biggest reason why workers are forced to jump through hoops.
That’s only 1 state.
In Washington, over 800 cases have been filed for COVID-19 alone, and over 600 are from doctors, nurses and first responders.
Hardworking individuals should know that they don’t have to climb this hill alone. Our job as workers’ comp lawyers to help them overcome these obstacles. It’s the least we can do for the brave folks who are on the front lines.
Gerber & Holder Workers' Compensation Attorneys