Right now it’s theoretically possible to claim workers compensation if you contract Covid-19 on the job. The problem is proof…you would still have to prove you got Covid there, and not from your other activities. This isn’t impossible, but is really difficult.
A proposed bill, S2380, would change all that, at least for any worker deemed essential.
The bill would be retroactive to March 9 and would include a presumption that if an essential worker gets sick with Covid-19, it happened on the job.
What if my employer made me sign a waiver?
Employer waivers are gaining some popularity right now, but they’re not worth the paper they’re written on. Employers also can’t really make you sign such documents. Some employees feel forced to because they are aware some employers will find other ways to fire them if they don’t, but even those shouldn’t be too worried.
Employers can’t make employees waive their workers compensation rights. They’re protected, and those waivers will not hold water.
Workers fired for refusing to sign would have a case under the Conscientious Employee Protection Act, allowing them to sue their former employers.
What does the presumption mean?
It means instead of you having to prove that you contracted Covid at work, your employer would have to prove that you didn’t.
They would have to do this by a “preponderance of the evidence,” which would be a difficult standard for most employers to meet. At best they could point to safety measures they took to keep employees from getting Covid-19, measures which are not 100% effective.
What should employees do?
Right now the bill hasn’t passed yet, so it’s important to limit your exposure as much as possible. If you can, try to limit or eliminate any exposure points that are not work-related so that if you do get Covid-19 you can make a better case for workers compensation.
If the bill does pass this step shouldn’t be necessary.
If you’re not in a position to do that document all of your own safety measures so that you can make as convincing a case as possible. If you do intend to bring a Covid-related workers compensation claim, be ready to hire an experienced attorney who can protect your rights.