This has created a tense situation for businesses. Some such as white-collar offices have transitioned to work-from-home setups because the nature of their operations allows for it. Other industries, however, such as construction, must continue to do things the traditional way, with the added risk of possible infection.
So now that COVID-19 is something that is a part of life for the moment, does that make it something that should be part of workers' compensation as well? The answer to that is complicated.
The purpose of workers’ comp is to provide financial support to employees who find themselves injured while on the job as a result of certain occupational hazards. This means that a construction worker, for example, who is required to handle dangerous equipment or work at great heights would likely receive workers’ comp from a slip and fall at a construction site or an accident with power tools. That same employee would not receive workers’ comp for horseplay with other employees that resulted in injury.
So while COVID-19 is part of the "new normal" in the USA and the rest of the world right now, there's the question of whether it would qualify as an occupational hazard. For example, someone who works in an office is not likely to receive workers’ comp for food poisoning from take-out food that was consumed in the office. Carpal tunnel syndrome, on the other hand, due to hours of typing on a computer keyboard may qualify.
In The Line Of Duty
On the other side of the equation, there are certain lines of work, such as those in the medical sectors, where exposure to a wide array of different illnesses is a daily risk that employees take. In those instances, first responders and other health care workers may find that infection due to COVID-19 may be covered by workers’ comp as part of the occupational disease theory. However, because this is workers’ comp, the coverage will only be provided if there is a provable likelihood the contraction of the disease was work-related.
In other words, even for medical workers, exposure may not be enough to justify workers' comp. Because COVID-19 symptoms take several days before manifesting—if they do at all—it can be challenging to pin down when the exposure and subsequent infection took place. This becomes even more difficult if the person making a claim has been extremely mobile, visiting crowded bars, restaurants, parks, or beaches where the likelihood of infection is far higher than one’s place of work.
On the other hand, if you have a clear case of getting injured on the job because of an incident that is an occupational hazard in your line of work, you're entitled to workers’ comp. If you are finding it difficult to get, talk to a workers’ comp lawyer today about resolving the situation.