Workers on the frontlines of American industries right now are at risk of being exposed to COVID-19. Contracting the virus means, at minimum, two weeks away from the job and in self-isolation. That’s the best-case scenario.

Those with a serious case of the disease may be hospitalized for many days, and unable to work for a longer period of time as their lungs and bodies recover. So what happens if you contract COVID-19 while on the job? Are you eligible for workers’ compensation?

COVID-19 and workers’ compensation

Under normal circumstances, someone that becomes ill because of their job can qualify for workers’ compensation. That means they may receive financial help while unable to work due to the ailment. However, the sick worker has to demonstrate they became ill through the course of their employment.

With the coronavirus, how do you prove you picked up the virus through work? Right now, that normal level of scrutiny is not required.

Under an executive order signed by the state’s governor, if an employee gets COVID-19, the state will assume it was contracted in the course of employment. There is simply a “rebuttable presumption” the employee got COVID-19 while working.

Specific requirements

This loosened rule regarding COVID-19 should make it easier for ill workers to get workers’ compensation if they contract the virus. However, there are some limits. Under the order:

  • An employee has to test positive for or be diagnosed with COVID-19 within 14 days of doing work for an employer
  • That work must have been done at the employer’s workplace (so not remotely)
  • The work must have been done at the direction of the employer
  • The date of the injury must be between March 19 and July 5, 2020, as the order does not extend beyond that

Employers can contest a workers’ compensation claim, meaning an employee might be rejected if there is clear evidence they may have gotten the virus elsewhere. The legal hurdle for workers, however, is far lower than it would be normally.

If an employee’s claim is accepted, they may be eligible for all the regular workers’ compensation benefits.