covid-19 call to action and legislative updates

 

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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


  • Alaska: The legislature passed legislation providing for a conclusive presumption of work-relatedness for COVID-19 diagnoses among first responders and health care providers (SB 241).
  • California: The governor issued an executive order to offer presumption to all essential workers that worked outside of their home after the enactment of his stay-at-home order dates March 19, 2020.
  • Florida: The state says it will cover first responders exposed to coronavirus on the job.
  • Illinois: The Illinois Workers' Compensation Commission issued a Notice of Emergency Amendment to ensure first responders and front line workers, who are most susceptible to exposure to COVID-19, are afforded the full protections of the Workers’ Compensation Act in the event they are exposed to or contract the virus.
  • Kentucky: Governor Andy Beshear issued Executive Order 2020-277 entitling workers exposed to COVID-19 to TTD benefits by presumption. 
  • LouisianaSB 475  Provides relative to workers' compensation claims filed by essential workers in the workplace. 
  • Massachusetts: The legislature is considering legislation to allow workers’ compensation coverage for first responders and emergency medical workers (House Docket 4949).
  • Michigan: The Workers’ Compensation Agency published an emergency rule providing for a presumption of coverage for first responders diagnosed with COVID-19 or ordered to quarantine due to exposure.
  • Minnesota: The legislature enacted legislation to allow workers’ compensation benefits for firefighters diagnosed with or quarantined due to “pandemic” diseases such as COVID-19 (SF 4458/HF 4537).
  • Missouri: This emergency rule implements changes to the Missouri Workers’ Compensation Law effected by the Governor’s Executive Order 20-02 and Executive Order 20-04 and pursuant to the Governor’s emergency powers under Chapter 44, RSMo.
  • New York: The legislature is considering legislation to allow workers’ compensation coverage for first responders (Senate Bill S8041A).
  • North Dakota: The Governor issued an emergency rule providing for workers’ compensation benefits for emergency workers infected with COVID-19.
  • Ohio: The legislature is considering legislation to allow workers’ compensation coverage for first responders and emergency medical workers (House Bill 571).
  • Pennsylvania: The legislature is considering legislation to presume that COVID-19 is work-related for a long list of “life-sustaining” occupations, which includes first responders but also grocery workers, pharmacists, trash collectors, and others (House Bill 2396).
  • Texas: The Department of Insurance lowered barriers to first responders seeking workers’ compensation benefits for coronavirus exposure by temporarily waiving some restrictions on disease coverage.
  • Utah: The legislature passed legislation to provide a rebuttable presumption of work-relatedness for first responders who contract COVID-19 (House Bill 3007).
  • Wisconsin: The Governor proposed legislation to provide a presumption of work-relatedness for exposure to coronavirus for front-line workers.
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