What Businesses Need to Know about Workers' Comp and COVID-19

Is COVID-19 compensable under workers' compensation laws? The answer to that question isn't a simple yes or no. It depends on your state's workers' compensation laws. There is guidance available from other organizations and states that have addressed this issue:
  • The National Council on Compensation Insurance says that "while workers compensation laws provide compensation for 'occupational diseases' that arise out of and in the course of employment, many state statutes exclude 'ordinary diseases of life' (e.g., the common cold or flu)."
  • California Governor Gavin Newsom signed Executive Order N-62-20 establishing that if an employee of an essential business contracts COVID-19, it is presumed they got it from the workplace and thus is able to receive workers compensation benefits. It ultimately puts the burden of proof on the employer instead of the employee unlike other workers compensation claims.
  • In Illinois, the Workers' Compensation Commission issued an emergency amendment stating the assumption that if an employee is diagnosed with COVID-19, then the employee automatically is assumed to qualify for workers' compensation benefits. The Illinois Manufacturers' Association and Illinois Retail Merchants Association went to court and the Sangamon County Circuit Court blocked the new rule. Since then, the Illinois Workers' Compensation Commission has withdrawn the emergency rule.
If you are not sure what your specific state’s rules are, reach out to your Insurance Department or Workers Compensation Office. This information is current as of publication date - it is not intended to take the place of applicable law. Please be advised that case law, statutes, and regulations can and do change, sometimes swiftly. Be sure to consult with your local attorney for information on the current status of the law in your jurisdiction.

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