We are in a health crisis of historic proportions. My team at Monast Law Office sends our sincerest wishes for your continued health and safety at this challenging time. Like most of you, we are obeying the governor’s orders to social-distance and are doing our best to provide full service to our clients.
However, we understand that many of you are considered essential workers and cannot stay home and stay safe. You are out there on the front lines, risking your health and your family’s safety every day. We are grateful for the work you are doing, and want to provide the information you need about your options for workers’ compensation if you do—or already have—become infected with COVID-19.
When Workers’ Comp Covers Infectious Disease
The Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) reported on March 26 it had begun to receive claims for COVID-19. BWC Administrator Stephanie McCloud said that some applications were quickly dismissed, but that they are continuing to investigate other claims. She encouraged people who “work in a job that poses a special hazard or risk and can track that to COVID-19” to file a claim. This follows the BWC’s policy of only covering people for an infectious disease when their job required them to come in contact with an infected person. Democrats in the Ohio House of Representatives introduced legislation in March that would classify COVID-19 as an occupational disease to make the workers’ comp approval process easier for at-risk workers. Still, so far, that bill has not been taken up.
Who Would Likely Be Covered in Ohio
At Monast Law Office, we are very concerned about people exposed to this virus daily in their jobs. If your job puts you in contact with people infected with the coronavirus, you should be eligible to file a workers’ comp claim if you become infected. We expect to see valid applications from these kinds of workers:
- Healthcare workers. Doctors, nurses, pharmacists, nurse assistants, and all other healthcare workers treating patients with COVID-19 are at risk of becoming infected and should have a strong claim for workers’ comp if they become ill. Healthcare workers not working directly with known coronavirus patients are also at risk higher than the general population and should be covered if they become sick.
- First responders. EMTs, firefighters, and law enforcement officers are required by their jobs to come in contact with people who may be infected, putting them at risk. If a first responder contracts the coronavirus, he or she should be covered by workers’ comp.
- Nursing home employees. Workers who support our most vulnerable population, whether they are healthcare workers, housekeeping staff, or food service employees, are also on the front lines of this virus.
- Hospital workers. The coronavirus can live on surfaces for several days. That means that the people who clean up after patients in hospitals are facing hazardous conditions and are at high risk of becoming infected with the virus.
An unanswered question is whether workers not required to treat patients with COVID-19 but who are considered essential workers by Ohio would qualify for workers’ comp if they can prove that they were infected at work. For example, grocery store clerks are essential workers. They have to go to work and must interact with customers, not knowing whether that customer is infected or not. In normal times, catching an infectious disease while working in a grocery store would not be covered, but these are not normal times. It is unclear at this point which, outside of traditional front-line workers, would be covered by workers’ comp. We will be monitoring the BWC’s decisions and will provide updates as they are available.
Contact Monast Law Office With Your Questions
These are stressful and confusing times for all of us. At Monast Law Office, we are working diligently to support our current clients and to help new clients with their concerns. Fill out our contact form on this page or call our office if you have questions about a possible workers’ comp claim. We are here for you!