Can I File a Workers’ Compensation Claim if I Get COVID-19 at Work?
COVID-19 has caused a global pandemic throughout the world and changed Americans’ economic, social, and even educational environments. Many workers were deemed essential during quarantine periods. Even as some of those quarantine measures are now lifted, some workers fear returning to work due to the fact that they may face exposure to the Coronavirus virus. The following will help you understand if you can file a California workers’ compensation claim if you get COVID-19 in the workplace.
Federal employees who contract COVID-19 are entitled to workers’ compensation coverage through the Federal Employees’ Compensation Act (FECA). While it remains challenging to determine exactly when a person contracted a virus, if a person has reason to believe that in their employment as a federal employee they contracted the virus, if they have substantial evidence, medical records, and reasonable proof, they may apply to receive workers’ compensation through FECA.
Those workers employed in the private sector have a much more challenging answer to the question of whether or not they have the ability to receive workers’ compensation if they get COVID-19 at work. Currently, the answer is “maybe.” Every state is developing its own set of guidelines to determine whether or not COVID-19 is an “occupational disease” (a disease contracted at work) versus an “ordinary disease of life” (a disease contracted outside of the workplace). Given that is nearly impossible to tell where a person actually contracted COVID-19, this answer may take time to resolve. The National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI) continues to carefully monitor all COVID-19-related state regulatory and legislative action.
Coronavirus Workers’ Compensation Benefits and The State of California
The State of California uniquely addressed the issue of the intersections between employment and contracting Coronavirus on May 6, 2020, when Governor Gavin Newsom of California issued Executive Order (EO) N-62-20. This Executive Order indicated that workers in the State of California may have the ability to apply and receive workers’ compensation benefits through the state if they can show that they contracted COVID-19 in the workplace. As a result of this executive order, Governor Newsom effectively allowed workers to seek wage reimbursement through workers’ compensation benefits and allow sick workers to stay home, decreasing the spread of this extremely contagious virus. If you get Coronavirus from work, and can prove it you may be able to file a workers’ compensation claim for benefits under this executive order. The following are two important takeaways from this novel new law:
- Workers’ compensation benefits will be provided to diagnosed workers that were employed outside the home.
- The presumption will be that the worker contracted the COVID-19 virus in the workplace, and will have the right to apply for workers’ compensation benefits. Any COVID-19 diagnosis “within 14 days after a day that the employee performed labor or services at the employee’s place of employment” was covered by this particular presumption.
- The employer will have the right to refute this presumption through evidence.
Expiration of Executive Order (EO) N-62-20
While the Executive Order (EO) N-62-20 signed by Governor Newsom was a much-needed relief for workers throughout the state of California, this Executive Order officially expired on July 5, 2020. It remains completely unknown whether there will be an extension to this particular Executive Order ensuring the rights of workers in the state of California to receive workers’ compensation benefits if they contract COVID-19 in the workplace. Without this Executive Order, workers may find it extremely difficult to prove that they contracted COVID-19 in the actual workplace since the presumption under this Executive Order rests with the worker.
The ways in which employers handle workers that contract the COVID-19 virus and the rights of workers remain ever-changing. With the expiration of the Executive Order, workers have fewer guarantees regarding the receipt of workers’ compensation when they contract Coronavirus in the workplace. Visiting with an experienced employment attorney can help ensure that your legal and financial rights remain protected regarding workers’ compensation benefit if you happen to contract COVID-19 in the workplace. The following is a list of resources that workers in the state of California may find beneficial as they attempt to navigate this legally complex landscape.
California Employment Resources
- Labor and Workforce Development Agency
- Labor Commissioner’s Office FAQs
- Department of Fair Employment and Housing
California and Federal Health Resources
- Covered California
- California Department of Public Health
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- World Health Organization
Contact an Experienced Workers’ Compensation Attorney
With over 20 years of experience representing workers injured on the job, and those who have a potential claim against their employer regarding Coronavirus (COVID-19), Castillo & Associates are workers’ compensation & personal injury lawyers who serve Southern California from our offices in Indio, San Diego, Pomona, Riverside and Calexico. We have a proven track record of impressive results and are proud to have recovered nearly $300 Million in compensation for our clients. If you are struggling to understand your employment rights during the COVID-19 crisis, contact our experienced workers’ comp attorneys at Castillo & Associates either online or by phone at 800-497-9774 and visit with one of our experienced attorneys today to help you understand your legal rights, and learn how you may have the right to file a workers’ compensation claim in the state of California after you contract Coronavirus in the workplace.