Workers’ Comp Board Moves to Cover Essential Workers with COVID-19

On June 2, 2020 the New York State Workers’ Compensation Board posted a “COVID-19 Workers’ Compensation Q & A” to its web site.  It is clear that this document was meant to address the concerns and questions we have written about in our op eds, which you can find here and here.

https://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/ny-oped-coronavirus-victims-compensation-fund-20200417-aeg3qq6uozdvxccwarwruhjvr4-story.html
and here…
https://www.newsday.com/opinion/coronavirus/workers-compensation-doobay-new-york-essential-workers-covid-19-coronavirus-1.45057687.

 

The Board’s new document goes over the basic workers’ compensation process:  if you believe you have a work-related injury or illness, you should notify your employer, file a C-3 form, and see a doctor to have a medical report filed confirming that your injury or illness is probably related to the job.  The Board will create a case file and the employer or insurance company will respond by either accepting responsibility or contesting the case.  If the case is contested, the Board will hold a hearing.

The Board’s document also lists some of the benefits the system provides – wage replacement benefits, medical coverage, and death benefits.

What is important, though, is that the document provide some information about the standard the Board will apply to workers’ compensation claims for COVID-related illness.  The Board agrees that “individuals who work in an environment where exposure risks are significantly higher are more likely to have compensable COVID-19 claims.  Some employees are working closely with the public in locations where COVID-19 exposure is documented.  This includes health care workers, first responders, transportation workers, corrections officers, and food service workers.  Some workers may also have work-related claims if they directly interact with the public while working, such as retail workers.”

The Board also agrees that “most workers will never be able to point to the moment or method of exposure to COVID-19,” but says that those who “can demonstrate the significantly elevated risk in their workplace” can still be successful in their claims.  It also says that while “a positive test result is best,” a case can still be established based on a medical opinion even without a positive test result.

You can read the Board’s entire document here:

http://www.wcb.ny.gov/content/main/TheBoard/covid-19-workers-compensation-q-a-june-2020.pdf

Needless to say, we do not believe this goes far enough to protect and compensate the “essential workers” who contracted COVID-related illness during the pandemic.  Legislation guaranteeing coverage is still needed.  However, the Board’s document is an important step in the right direction, and should offer encouragement to many who were wondering whether they should file a claim for workers’ compensation benefits as the result of COVID-19.

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