Since the pandemic began in early spring, politicians have paid a lot of lip service to America’s “essential workers,” including those in health care, grocery store employees and others who keep the country running when everything else has been shut down. These workers put their safety on the line by going to work each day so that everyone else can access the goods and services they can’t live without.
But what happens to the essential workers who get sick while on the job? For that matter, what happens to any worker who gets sick now that many businesses are reopening? Will workers’ compensation cover the medical costs and lost wages related to this debilitating disease? Frustratingly, the answer is: No one seems to know.
Each state is essentially writing its own workers’ compensation policies related to the coronavirus. Many states have not taken any action, while others are simply taking their time making decisions. Connecticut appears to be doing better on this front than many other states, in that Governor Lamont has addressed the issue in an executive order. The order includes (but is not limited to) the following provisions:
- It creates a presumption that any essential worker who contracted Covid-19 before May 20, 2020, contracted it due to exposure at work
- It gives Covid-19 the designation of an occupational illness, which could make it easier for all workers who contract the disease to qualify for benefits.
Even with these provisions in place, the system is still painfully slow. A recent news article tells the story of a Connecticut prison guard who contracted Covid-19 in April and filed a claim after missing three weeks of work. Now, in early September, her workers’ compensation claim is still pending.
Workers in Connecticut may ultimately have a better chance of getting benefits related to Covid-19 than workers in other states, but that doesn’t mean it will be easy to do so. Any workers filing a claim related to coronavirus could likely benefit from the help and aggressive advocacy of an experienced workers’ compensation attorney.