Keches Law Group would like to address some common questions regarding workers’ compensation, employment and the coronavirus (COVID-19). First and for most, call your doctor if you believe you have been exposed to COVID-19 and develop a fever and other symptoms. Other symptoms may include coughing or difficulty breathing. These symptoms can surface 2-14 days after exposure. Illnesses that have been reported thus far have ranged from mild symptoms to severe illness as well as death.
Workers’ Compensation & COVID-19
If I get COVID-19 at work, am I eligible for workers’ compensation?
If an employee contracts the virus for any work-related reason, he or she could possibly be eligible for workers’ compensation. This will depend on where the employee works/what their position entails. If the employee is a first responder or health care worker, then it is likely yes that he or she may be eligible for workers’ compensation. For other workers, a worker’s compensation claim is feasible, but there would have to be several facts to support the claim.
Workers’ compensation claimants need to prove that the contraction of the virus took place at work and was caused by working at the location of the employer. Although COVID-19 is not an injury, it is described under state law to determine if it is an “occupational disease.” For it to be categorized as an occupational disease, an employee must prove the following:
- The illness/disease derived from the workplace
- The illness/disease must arise out of or be caused by conditions unusual to the work and creates a threat of contracting the disease in a greater degree and in a contrasting manner than in the public generally.
The biggest test to figure out whether an injury/illness “derives out of and within the course of employment” is whether the worker was involved in some activity where he or she was serving the employer and was exposed to the virus. As mentioned earlier, it is possible there will be more consideration dealt with health care providers and first responders as these individuals could contract the virus as a result of their occupation.
For all other employees, a workers’ compensation claim will be monitored on a case-by-case analysis. The key essence will be whether the worker became infected with the virus at work and whether or not the contraction of the virus was “unusual” to their employment. For any employee who is filing a workers’ compensation claim due to COVID-19, he or she must be able to show medical evidence to support their claim.
To conclude, COVID-19 is spreading across the United States rapidly. It will become more and more challenging to prove that one’s workplace was the sole source of exposure rather than exposure from the public. If an employee can prove that they have contracted COVID-19 specifically from their work environment, it’s important to provide benefits to these employees for the time they are quarantined.
Unemployment & COVID-19
Amidst everything occurring with COVID-19, the Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA) and the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development (EOLWD) continues to work side by side with the U.S. Department of Labor (USDOL) to take the necessary actions to aid workers and employers.
Many people have been laid off and will continue to be laid off due to the ongoing pandemic. If you are someone who has lost their job, you could potentially qualify for temporary income to support you for the time being. If you need to file an unemployment claim, please do so here.
I have been told to quarantine by a medical professional. How do I get paid?
The Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA) could potentially pay unemployment benefits to someone who has been ordered to quarantine by a medical professional. DUA may also offer these benefits to individuals who leave employment due to reasonable risk of exposure/infection or to take care of a family member. The employee does not have to have medical documentation and can return to work when they are able to.
To help those who cannot work because of the impact the coronavirus is currently having, the governor’s office has filed an emergency act that will grant new claims to be paid quicker. The one week waiting period for unemployment benefits will be waived. Having said that, DUA will have to pay benefits (without any waiting period) to individuals who:
- Lose their job due to lay-offs or businesses shutting down
- Quarantine orders
- Illnesses that forbid them from leaving their homes
- Having to stay home to care for a sick/quarantined family member
My work has been temporarily shut down. How will I be compensated?
There have been emergency arrangements filed so that people who have been affected by this virus can collect unemployment benefits if their work has been temporarily shut down. Whether you are a full or part-time employee, and your workplace has shut down, this applies to you. If you need to file an unemployment claim, please do so online, here.
It is necessary that you stay in contact with your employer throughout the shutdown period. It is important you stay available for any work that your employer may have you complete.
How do I apply for unemployment benefits?
To help control the spread of COVID-19, all in-person services for unemployment walk-in areas are currently unavailable. As described above, the safest and fastest way to file a claim during this unprecedented time is online. If you scroll down to ‘downloads’ and click ‘COVID-19 Unemployment Handbook (Initial claims filed on or after March 15, 2020)’ there is a step by step PowerPoint on how to apply for unemployment benefits.
Information needed when applying for unemployment:
- Social Security Number
- Home address
- Email address
- Phone number
- Employment information
- Names of all employers, addresses, & phone numbers
- Reasons for leaving each job
- Start & end dates of employment
- Recall date (laid off but have a date you will be returning to work)
Sometimes you may need more information including:
- Alien registration number (if you are not a U.S. citizen)
- DOB & Social Security numbers of your children
- Union name & Local number (if you are apart of the Union)
- DD-214 Member 4 Form (if you were in the military)
- SF8 Form – optional (if you worked for the federal government)
Note: if you would like to receive direct deposit payments, you will need to give your bank name, account number, and routing number.
Can I stay home under FMLA to avoid getting COVID-19?
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) protects individuals who are disabled and have a serious health condition. This may be the case when someone contracts the coronavirus. This also includes those who are needed at home to care for a covered family member with this virus.
The FMLA will not cover you if you leave work solely to avoid exposure to the virus. Having said that, it is important that employers encourage their workers to stay home if they are ill or if they are exposed to anyone who is sick. Employers should have flexible leave policies in place for employees under such circumstances.