COVID-19 & Workers’ Compensation
The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act and Workers’ Occupational Disease Act has been amended to offer additional protections for first responder or front-line workers who have contracted COVID-19 as a result of their employment.
What Changes Have Been Made to the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act?
The Act generally places the burden on the injured worker to prove that their injury or condition arose out of a hazard of their employment. The new Amendment shifts the burden of proof in these specific claims. Under the new Amendment, those covered injured workers will have the protection of a rebuttable presumption that their COVID-19 arose from a hazard of their employment, entitling them to benefits under the Workers Compensation Act and Workers’ Occupational Disease Act. This is important because it removes the burden on the injured worker to show exactly where and how the worker was exposed and contracted COVID-19.
However, this presumption may be rebutted if the employer is able to prove any of the following:
- The injured worker was working from home or was on leave from his or her employment for a period of 14 or more consecutive days immediately prior to the employee’s injury or period of incapacity resulted from exposure to COVID-19; or
- The employer was engaging in and applying to the fullest extent possible industry-specific workplace sanitation, social distancing, and health and safety practices based on updated guidance issued by the Centers for Disease Control; or
- The employer was using a combination of administrative controls, engineering controls, or personal protective equipment to the reduce the transmission of COVID-19 to all employees for at lease 14 consecutive days prior to the employee’s injury or period of incapacity resulted from exposure to COVID-19; or
- The employee was exposed by an alternative source.
Under the new Amendment as currently written, those essential workers include:
- Fire Personnel
- Emergency Medical Technicians
- All individuals employed and considered as first responders
- Health care providers in nursing homes and rehabilitation facilities
- Home Health Care Workers
- Correction Officers
Crucial personnel identified in the March 20, 2020 Governor’s Executive Order:
“Stores that sell groceries and medicine”; “Food, beverage, and cannabis production and agriculture”; “Organizations that provide charitable and social services”; “Gas stations and businesses needed for transportation”; “Financial institutions”; “Hardware and supplies stores”; “Critical trades”; “Mail, post, shipping, logistics, delivery, and pick-up services”; “Educational institutions”; “Laundry services”; “Restaurants for consumption off-premises”; “Supplies to work from home”; “Supplies for Essential Businesses and Operations”; “Transportation”; “Home-based care and services”; “Residential facilities and shelters”; “Professional services”; “Day care centers for employees exempted by the Executive Order”; “Manufacture, distribution, and supply chain for critical products and industries”; “Critical labor union functions”; “Hotels and motels”; and “Funeral services” as long as individuals employed by essential businesses and operations are required by their employment to encounter members of the general public or to work in employment locations of more than 15 employees.
The date of injury is either the date that the employee was unable to work due to contraction of COVID-19 or was unable to work due to symptoms that were later diagnosed as COVID-19, whichever comes first.
What Benefits Are Essential Workers Entitled to if They Have Contracted COVID-19?
Workers who have contracted COVID-19 are entitled to the same benefits under the Act as other workers injured in the course of their employment. These include temporary total disability benefits of 2/3 their gross average wage while off work, the payment of related medical expenses, awards or settlement for permanency, and death benefits, if applicable.
If you or a family member has contracted COVID-19 while performing an essential service, please contact us to discuss what benefits may be available to you. Dial (312) 313-8881 or fill out our online form.