What Employees Should Know About Workers’ Comp in a Pandemic
Workers’ compensation is a system in Massachusetts that pays injured employees no-fault benefits to cover damages from work-related accidents. A worker can receive workers’ comp benefits to pay for medical bills and lost wages without proving anyone’s negligence or fault. Workers’ comp is also available for employees who contract illnesses due to occupational hazards – including COVID-19, in some situations. If you wish to file a workers’ compensation claim related to the COVID-19/coronavirus pandemic, learn what to expect.
Who Is Eligible for COVID-19 Workers’ Compensation Benefits?
One of the first questions that arose among workers in Boston is whether they can collect workers’ compensation insurance benefits for contracting COVID-19 while on the job. Back in May, Boston’s city councilors held a hearing to discuss holding employers accountable for workers who fall ill with the coronavirus at work. The result of the hearing was the Attorney General’s Office agreeing that employees should be eligible for workers’ comp if they contract the virus while on the job. The worker must meet certain parameters to qualify, however.
- Working for an employer that offers workers’ compensation coverage.
- Working where the hazard of contracting COVID-19 is inherent in employment.
- Missing more than five days of work due to the virus (for lost wage benefits).
The second requirement is what prohibits many employees from receiving workers’ comp coverage for the coronavirus. The Attorney General in Massachusetts holds that only employees in fields of employment that inherently put them at an elevated risk of COVID-19 exposure, such as physicians or nurses in COVID-19 wards, will be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits after contracting the virus. The employee must have also come into contact with the coronavirus while at work or performing job-related tasks.
How to Prove a COVID-19 Workers’ Compensation Claim
If you tested positive for the coronavirus and believe you came into contact with it at work, you will have to prove the validity of your claim to the Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Advisory Council (WCAC). First, isolate yourself from others to prevent the spread of the virus. Most COVID-19 cases only cause mild illnesses that do not require hospitalization. Call your doctor if you have concerns about your health. Go to a hospital for medical care only if your symptoms turn into emergency warning signs, such as difficulty breathing.
Keep track of your case and your medical care. Record information such as when you started noticing symptoms, how long you have been on sick leave from work, when you tested positive for COVID-19 and what your doctor has said about your case. Notify your employer of your illness right away. Keep a record proving that you reported having COVID-19 to your boss. Obtain copies of your medical records, test results and other relevant documents. Your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance company may request these documents and information as proof during your claim.
If you believe you qualify for coverage, tell your employer you wish to file a workers’ compensation claim for the coronavirus. Your employer will have seven days to notify its insurance provider and the Department of Industrial Accidents about your claim. It is against the law for your employer to refuse to submit your claim. You may have to prove you contracted COVID-19 while at work if the insurance company tries to deny benefits. A Boston workers’ compensation attorney could help you prove your case and obtain fair benefits, if necessary.
The WCAC assesses each workers’ compensation claim individually. With assistance from an attorney, you may be able to establish that you work in a high-risk field for COVID-19 and that you were exposed to the virus while at work. A lawyer could help you seek benefits for medical expenses and lost wages related to your illness. The most common type of workers’ compensation for the coronavirus is partial disability benefits. Speak to an attorney today if you contracted COVID-19 at work and wish to file a workers’ compensation claim in Boston.