Can I Receive Workers’ Compensation Benefits if I Test Positive for COVID-19?

The Covid-19 crisis continues to shut down sports matches and affects many people on a deeply personal level. Yet, brave people are working everywhere to provide the services – such as delivery and pickup services – that many of us prefer to reduce direct contact with others.

As we all know, Covid-19 has created challenges in all life and work sectors for the past couple of years, but many brave workers serving on the front line provide essential services. Fortunately, workers’ compensation usually protects those who often risk exposure to the Covid-19 virus: delivery staff, salespeople, etc.


Judge Dan Hinde

Workers’ Comp Benefits for Covid-19

Generally, workers’ comp benefits are not awarded for community-spread diseases like a cold or the flu. However, the more hazardous conditions generated by Covid-19 have forced officials to rethink this policy. Workers’ comp serves as an ideal way to provide wage replacement and cover the cost of medical bills. Workers’ families could also qualify for death benefits. Special workers’ comp courts and judges decide whether a particular case meets the burden of proof required in each state.

Questionable Covid-19 Coverage and Some Big States’ Efforts to Solve Things

As we said, workers’ comp doesn’t usually cover the spread of infectious diseases. However, some states make exceptions for particularly virulent diseases and chronic illnesses. For example, 19 states approve workers’ comp for firefighters who develop lung diseases. The same conditions apply to the Covid-19 crisis, but it’s unclear whether Covid-19 victims qualify for workers’ comp in those 19 states.

According to governmental sources, big states like New York and California have little choice but to offer workers’ comp benefits. In New York, the New York State Workers’ Compensation Board has approved workers’ comp coverage for many outbreaks and chronic illnesses. The Board has consistently risen to the occasion to protect workers. Likewise, California has used executive approval to ensure infected Covid-19 workers receive coverage.



Changes in Workers’ Comp Coverage

Many states’ actions have forced changes to liability insurance policies and strategic updates to FAQ answers about workers’ comp coverage topics. These initiatives prove that political rightness is beginning to triumph, and workers’ comp will soon be available to any worker who can prove the infection was work-related. Some of the FAQ answers being revised or updated include:

  • Is Covid-19 compensable under state law?
  • What legislative activity is related to my Covid-19 case?
  • When a business downsizes operations because of Covid-19, does it count as workers’ comp if it pays employees?
  • What classifications should apply to employees who are transferred to new jobs for the duration of the pandemic?
  • Can administrators use Basic Manual Rule 1-F to Reclassify Employees Impacted by Covid-19?
  • If an employer can’t finish an audit because of possible Covid-19 exposure, should the employer be classified as non-compliant?



Hire a Lawyer to Answer These Questions


To understand how the law works in your state, see how a workers’ compensation lawyer could help you win your particular case. More and more states are finding ways to approve workers’ comp for Covid-19, and your attorney can probably find a way to fight for your rights. Remember that you need to keep careful records about your suspicions of work-related exposure to the Covid-19 virus. Evidence might include exposure to a group of employees who developed the illness or various kinds of work-mandated exposure to customers without masks, etc.


A Word about Political Pressure


Many states are experiencing strong political pressure to extend workers’ comp to healthcare workers and first responders. Efforts to protect other workers are underway. Many workers’ comp programs are placing the burden on insurance companies and employers to prove that Covid-19 infections are genuinely work-related.


Altogether, 17 states and Puerto Rico have approved workers’ comp for Covid-19 cases. Nine states have approved a presumption of coverage for various workers like healthcare providers and first responders. So, practically, more and more workers are qualifying for benefits. Some might say it is too little too late, but change is coming and hope is on the horizon.





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