So much is still unknown about how coronavirus disease (COVID-19) will affect the workforce in Ohio, but one thing is certain—it will take a toll. The threat of infection and efforts to curb the spread are already having a major impact on workplaces throughout the state.
However, as the virus spreads, and more people get sick, what role will workers' compensation play?
Industrial Commission Hearings Canceled
From a procedural viewpoint, the effects of COVID-19 have been swift. To avoid potential exposure to the virus, the Ohio Industrial Commission (OIC) suspended all hearings scheduled for March 16–17, 2020 and announced that beginning March 18, 2020, hearings would be conducted over the phone for permanent total disability, temporary total disability or the termination of temporary total disability, wage loss, allowance, and additional allowance. In mid-2021, the OIC returned to in-person hearings, also offering the option of phone/webex hearings. So, we now how have a hybrid system where you may attend in person or remotely.
Filing a Claim If You Get Infected at Work
On to the important question: if you believe you contracted coronavirus disease through workplace contact, can you file a claim for workers' compensation? Possibly—if you can answer yes to these questions:
- Is COVID-19 an occupational disease for you? Occupational diseases are covered by workers' comp, but what kinds of illnesses fall into this category? That depends on your occupation. For example, mesothelioma is an occupational disease for someone who worked with asbestos. Infectious diseases are generally only covered for employees required to come in contact with sick people. So, if you're a healthcare worker or emergency responder and you contract COVID-19, your illness may be covered.
- Will you miss over seven days of work? From what we know so far, the symptoms of coronavirus vary from person to person. For younger people, symptoms can be fairly mild. If you test positive for coronavirus, you cannot go to work, regardless of how sick you feel. At this time, doctors are ordering patients with the disease to be isolated for 14 days, so it's likely that you'll miss at least two weeks of work. Here, you could qualify for temporary total disability benefits.
Generally, if your work does not put you at greater risk of contracting coronavirus disease than the general public, you won't qualify for workers' compensation under current Ohio law. In fact, healthcare providers are most likely to have their claims approved. Even for them, they need a positive COVID test and a doctor willing to affirm the condition as work-related. For additional information, you can read the frequently asked questions about coronavirus disease on the Ohio BWC website.
Contact the Monast Law Office With Questions
If you're a client concerned about an upcoming hearing, or you're a healthcare worker who tested positive for COVID-19, please contact my office by telephone or through the contact form on this page, and I'll do my best to answer your question.