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COVID-19 has dramatically affected the way of life for most people in this country, including the workplace landscape for most of us. In many cases, stay at home orders and official government mandates have shut down non-essential businesses. However, there are many jobs that are considered essential, and millions of workers across California remain employed. Unfortunately, these workers also face an increased risk of contracting coronavirus.
At DiMarco Araujo Montevideo, our workers’ compensation attorneys want to look at some of the most frequently asked questions currently being asked by our readers. Please understand that this is a fluid situation, and the workers’ compensation laws may be adjusted in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Check back regularly for updates.
This is a difficult question to answer at this time. Generally, those who work in the healthcare or first responder fields are likely to receive coverage for illnesses contracted during the normal course of their work duties. Typically, a worker only needs to prove that their injury illness occurred at work or during the course of their work-related duties. Right now, it is unclear as to whether or not COVID-19 will be classified as a workplace injury or occupational disease. It could be argued that coronavirus will fit this description if:
When we look at these definitions, it is clear healthcare workers should qualify for workers’ compensation. But what about other employees listed as “essential” during this crisis? Surely those who work in the grocery store, bank, and pharmacy should be covered. How about delivery drivers, armored vehicle carriers, and law enforcement personnel?
This pandemic has created an unprecedented situation for workers’ compensation laws, and our team will be monitoring this situation closely.
While most business travel has ceased due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, there are many workers who may have been exposed before travel restrictions were imposed. Under workers’ compensation laws, employees are generally covered for injuries that occur while they are performing their work duties, including those on business trips. However, please refer to the question above concerning whether or not COVID-19 will be covered in these instances.
In general, California law requires that workers report their injury to their employer within 30 days. Our guidance has always remained the same concerning this situation – report the injury to your employer as soon as you know you have been harmed. With so much confusion surrounding the coronavirus pandemic, it is never too early to begin your workers’ compensation claim. If your claim is denied, or if the employer or insurance carrier question whether or not your illness was contracted during the course of your work duties, you may need to speak to a qualified workers’ compensation attorney as soon as possible.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has released guidance on what steps employers can take to protect their employees. This guidance has divided work operations into various risk zones based on the likelihood of an employee being exposed to the virus.
Employers should thoroughly examine these OSHA guidelines in order to determine which practices and precautions to implement for their workers. In general, employers are responsible for taking steps to keep their employees safe from known harm. COVID-19 is a known harm, and employers should be taking steps to keep employees safe based on their risk of exposure. A failure to do so could result in the employer being held liable for unnecessarily risking the health of their workers.
At some point, stay at home orders will be lifted, and people will begin to return to work, including non-essential workers and those who have been out of work due to the coronavirus pandemic. However, this does not mean that COVID-19 will simply go away. Most health experts are predicting that a second, though less severe, outbreak will occur during the fall and winter.
This means that workers will still face risks of contracting COVID-19 for the foreseeable future. Workers’ compensation laws should adapt to help workers who contract this illness during the course of their work duties.
Right now, the CDC has issued guidelines that recommend employers send workers home who become sick with coronavirus symptoms (including fever, shortness of breath, cough). Please understand that the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is currently interpreting employment laws relating to disabilities during this pandemic a bit differently. Consult the Pandemic Preparedness in the Workplace and the Americans With Disabilities Act for further information on this topic.
If you or somebody you love has contracted COVID-19 while in the course of their work duties, please seek legal assistance immediately. At DiMarco Araujo Montevideo, our qualified and experienced team is ready to get to work investigating a case. Our goal is to secure any compensation you are entitled to, which can include:
This is an ever-changing situation for California workers and employers. As workers’ compensation laws and interpretations continue to adjust during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, we will strive to keep our readers updated. When you need a COVID-19 workers’ compensation attorney in California, you can contact us for a free consultation by clicking here or by calling (714) 783-2205.