The coronavirus pandemic has infiltrated the state of Missouri and swept the nation as a whole. While many of us are working remotely and avoiding social interaction, there are essential employees who still leave their homes and face high-risk COVID-19 exposure every day. Health care professionals and service workers are at the top of this high-risk category. There are many unanswered questions about coronavirus, but for essential employees, one question you’re guaranteed to have is this: are coronavirus and COVID-19 related injuries covered by workers’ compensation?
Like all other facets of life, the coronavirus is a gray area under current workers’ comp laws and it varies state by state. For the most part, “diseases of life” such as the common cold or seasonal flu are not covered by work comp. However, COVID-19 is a specific and identifiable illness caused by the novel coronavirus strain officially referred to as SARS-CoV-2. In Missouri, under current workers’ comp laws, this means COVID-19 could qualify as an “occupational disease”. Again, workers’ comp laws vary state-by-state so it is best to consult your attorney on whether your state’s laws cover occupational diseases.
Missouri has recently announced that state first responders who contract COVID-19 will now be eligible for workers’ comp. This announcement came directly from Gov. Mike Parson at a briefing on Tuesday, April 7 and more information can be found here.
Because the current pandemic is unprecedented since workers’ compensation began, no one can say for certain what will or won’t be covered. The state or federal government may enact legislation at some point to address these cases in the work comp system. Generally speaking, for a COVID-19 related workers’ comp claim to be acknowledged, the employee will have to show that their risk of exposure at work was high-risk and greater than that of the general public. It seems easier for healthcare workers and first responders to qualify for work comp benefits as they are working in high-risk, high exposure fields and environments. Other “front line” workers like retail store employees and essential business employees who must deal with fellow workers as well as the government are also at high risk of contracting the disease at work. Ultimately proving the cause of infection presents different issues that will vary from case to case. As long as the employee can prove their job duties and work environment lead their contraction of COVID-19, there is a potential to receive benefits under workers’ comp. We expect that employees in jobs that require being in close proximity to or actual physical contact with people or that require travel to areas with large outbreaks will likely be more successful in filing a workers’ comp claim.
Employers should take precautionary measures and follow safety guidelines to protect their employees from COVID-19. Unless exempted by the state and local stay at home orders, employees should work remotely, preferably at their homes. If this is not possible, employers must provide their employees with a safe work environment, including equipment and protective gear to reduce the risk of coronavirus exposure.
According to recent federal legislation, many employers are required to provide paid time off or paid sick leave to employees for coronavirus related reasons whether or not they have actually contracted the disease. Federal employees have rights to claim workers’ comp relating to COVID-19 according to the Department of Labor.
Make sure you are aware of your rights and your risks under your current working conditions. To stay updated on all COVID-19 updates, follow the CDC. Visit this site to stay updated on Missouri’s coronavirus updates relating to work.
If you or a loved one falls ill with COVID-19 after work-related exposure to coronavirus, The S.E. Law Firm can help you with your workers’ comp claim. Contact us for a free consultation. You can call us at 314-252-9937, our toll-free number 866-955-5297, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.