By Attorney Danielle Bird of Bird, Jacobsen & Stevens.
We are currently living in uncharted territory in how we socially interact and remain healthy to due COVID-19. It is affecting our home life, social life, and, in many cases, our work life.
This is especially true for those workers who are on the “front line” of this epidemic. The legislature just passed an emergency measure that provides these workers will not be denied workers’ compensation benefits if they contract COVID-19. This applies to firefighters, paramedics nurses, medical assistants, health care workers, correctional officers (including security counselors employed by the state), emergency medical technicians, and health care providers in a home care or assisted living environment, who have direct or secondary exposure to COVID-19 patients, and all workers who provide child care to first responders or health care workers.
Importantly, if a worker in one of these categories contracts COVID-19 and needs medical care or treatment or misses time from work as a result, it will be presumed that contraction of the illness was work related and benefits will be provided.
This does not prevent other workers from making claims related to COVID if they were infected on the job, but, to do so, they must show a connection to their jobs and that their illness was “arising out of and in the course of employment.” Obvious candidates include grocery store employees, food service workers, and others who are still exposed to the masses as a function of their jobs.
We are happy that the state lawmakers recognize how important these workers are to keeping this epidemic in check by risking their own personal safety. We wish everyone well and best wishes to stay safe and healthy.