Covid-19 Infection and Worker’s Compensation

May 5, 2020 9:49 am Published by Leave your thoughts

Does Worker’s Compensation Cover Covid-19?

Many people have been asking whether worker’s compensation covers a Covid-19 infection.

The Covid-19 impact on workers has varied widely. Some have been able to work from home while barely missing a beat. Others have jobs where interacting with the public is necessary. Restaurants and retail stores laid off many. But some industries never shut down, or even expanded. For example, many  grocery store clerks, warehouse workers, and  delivery drivers have been working more hours than they ever did before. Covid-19 has made all of these jobs something different than what the employees thought when they signed on. Of course, healthcare workers are on the front lin Covid-19 made these job much more risky.

Yet another frequently mentioned example are the outbreaks in meatpacking facilities. It is virtually impossible to adequately socially distance in these facilities.

If a worker catches Covid-19 while on the job is their employer responsible?

The Employer May Responsiblebut It Can Be Hard to Prove

Keep in mind that we only practice in New Hampshire. Worker’s compensation laws are different in every state. Anyone who needs legal advice about their particular rights should consult a lawyer in their own jurisdiction.

Having said that, the answer is generally yes, an employee who gets Covid-19 on the job should be covered by worker’s compensation. There is a big BUT which is that the worker will probably have difficulty proving he or she acquired the disease on the job.

How Was the Worker Infected?

Of course, certain jobs present much more risk than others. For example, a nurse may work with many Covid-19 patients on the job. Off the job she primarily shelters in place at home. In that case, if the nurse contracts Covid-19, it is highly likely, but not certain, that she contracted it on the job.

On the other hand, take the example of a package delivery driver. The driver visits many locations during the day. However, he wears a mask and usually picks up and delivers the packages away from other people. Of course, it is far from perfect, and the driver does have to have some contact. There is still a heightened risk of infection.

Suppose further that the delivery driver is married to a grocery store clerk. She deals in closer contact with more people all day long. If both the driver and his wife test positive for Covid-19 they will not know who caught it first. They might make an educated guess that the wife was more likely to have caught it and passed it on to her husband because she has the riskier job. But that’s just a guess. It could certainly be the reverse.

To get workers compensation, the employee may not need to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he contracted Covid-19 on the job. But he will at least have to prove that it was more likely than not. The exact standard of proof will vary by jurisdiction.

In the above examples, it seems very likely that the nurse will qualify for worker’s compensation. On the other hand, if both the delivery driver and grocery store clerk make claims against their respective employers, they may both be denied. Each employer will  respond that it is impossible to prove how the infections happened. It could be have been through one job, or the other, or from a different place altogether.

What to Do If You Have Been Infected on the Job

When compensation is allowed the employer is responsible for all related medical bills, lost wages, and possibly other benefits.  If you believe you were infected on the job, do not delay in contacting a lawyer. There are immediate steps to take to document your claim.  Cohen & Winters handles worker’s compensation cases in New Hampshire and would be happy to speak with you about your claim.

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This post was written by Andrew Winters

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