Can I Get Workers’ Comp For COVID-19?
President Biden will soon declare an end to the years-long national emergency caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Although contamination rates have dropped, the novel coronavirus persists. People around the country are still contracting the virus, which can knock even fully vaccinated people off their feet for several days. Many people are still being hospitalized by COVID-19, and many workers are forced to stay home if they test positive regardless of symptoms.
If you contract COVID-19 at work, are you eligible for workers’ comp? Have the rules changed? Read on to learn about workers’ comp benefits and COVID-19 in California. If you contracted COVID-19 or any other illness from your workplace, call a dedicated Riverside workers’ compensation attorney for help obtaining the benefits you are owed.
Workers’ Comp Covers COVID-19, but Proving It Can Be Tough
In California, workers’ compensation applies to any injuries or illnesses that an employee contracts at work or while performing work-related tasks. Workers’ comp covers employees for injuries caused by workplace accidents, as well as conditions such as cancer or asbestosis caused by exposure to harmful chemicals in the workplace.
Workers’ comp does cover infectious diseases and viruses as well. If you contracted COVID-19 at work, you can apply for workers’ comp benefits. If you can prove that you got sick at work, you can obtain coverage for any related medical costs, wages lost due to missed work, and other relevant benefits.
For most workers, however, proving they caught COVID-19 at work, as opposed to during their off-hours, can be a challenge. Under most circumstances, in order to obtain coverage for an infectious illness, a California worker must show two things: (1) their job involves a special exposure hazard that is greater than the general public’s risk; and (2) they contracted the illness because of a specific, identifiable instance of exposure at work.
Thankfully, California enacted a special law providing additional workers’ comp protection for COVID-19 infections. Under this law, discussed below, certain employees can enjoy a presumption that they contracted COVID-19 at work.
Special Employee Categories and COVID-19 Outbreaks
As of September 2020, certain categories of employees benefit from a rebuttable presumption concerning COVID-19. If an employee tests positive for COVID, and they fall into one of the specified categories, then there is a rebuttable presumption that they contracted the disease at work. Employers and workers’ comp insurance companies must provide relevant workers’ comp benefits to these employees unless the employer or its insurance provider can “rebut” the presumption and prove the worker caught the contagion elsewhere.
Two groups of employees benefit from the presumption. The first presumption applies to workers in certain industries. California law presumes that these workers are at higher risk of contracting the illness and should be afforded special treatment accordingly. Specifically, the following workers get the rebuttable presumption that they caught COVID-19 at work:
- Peace officers
- First responders
- Health care workers
The second presumption applies to all workers who catch COVID-19 during an outbreak at their place of employment. An outbreak occurs when a minimum number of people at the company test positive for COVID-19 within a 14-day period. The minimum number varies depending on the size of the workforce.
If you or someone you love has suffered illness or injury on the job in California, get help seeking the workers’ compensation benefits you’re owed by contacting the Riverside offices of Ochoa & Calderón for a consultation on your case.