State Representative Christopher Hendricks (D-MA) has introduced an emergency bill in the statehouse which will provide extended workers’ compensation benefits to specific emergency personnel. The bill would enable those on the front lines; EMTs and emergency room staff, to be quickly approved for benefits if they are diagnosed with COVID-19.
With workers’ compensation, there is typically a due diligence process before benefits are approved. This bill will expedite that process so our front-line health workers can quickly remove themselves from spreading the virus without worrying about loss of income. The bill was filed on 3/17/2020.
Representative Hendricks added “This bill is critical to those who are battling on the front lines every day to save lives and will have an immediate impact on the greater public health.”
What About Non-Emergency Personnel?
If any 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 falls under current state law as an “occupational disease.” For it to be approved as an occupational disease, an employee must prove the following:
- The illness/disease derived from the workplace.
- The illness or disease must arise out of or be caused by conditions unusual to the work and creates a threat of contracting the disease to a greater degree and in a contrasting manner than in the public generally.
Two Massachusetts representatives have also filed a bill to help create a new fund to aid hourly wage employees who may have to miss work due to contracting the COVID-19 illness.
Senator Paul Feeney filed a bill to guarantee any state employee who must miss work because of coronavirus infection, has been ordered by a healthcare professional to quarantine, and does not possess enough leave to cover their absence be given the leave necessary. The employee will also be compensated for the time they are out of work due to the virus. As of now, these bills have not yet been approved.
Employees Eligible to take FMLA leave
The following workers are entitled to take FMLA leave if they work for a covered employer and:
· Have worked for this employer for the last 12 months (at least)
· Have completed at least 1,250 hours of work over the last 12 months; and
· Work at a place where at least 50 workers are employed by the same employer within 75 miles
The FMLA will not cover you if you leave work solely to avoid exposure to the virus.
The team at Keches Law Group continues to work hard to bring all our clients up-to-date information regarding the COVID-19 pandemic and actions you can take if you’ve been impacted. Please continue to check our website for updates. For any further questions please contact Keches Law Group at 508-822-2000.
About Representative Chris Hendricks and Keches Law Group
Christoper Hendricks is an attorney at Keches Law Group and a State Representative currently serving in the Massachusetts House of Representatives representing Acushnet and New Bedford as the 11th Bristol District. He has been serving since 2018 and is a member of the Democratic Party. Hendricks serves on the House Committee on Redistricting, Joint Committee on Housing, Joint Committee on the Judiciary, and the Joint Committee on Veterans and Federal Affairs. At Keches Law Group, his practice focuses on workers’ compensation claims and labor rights.