If your workplace exposed you to the Coronavirus (COVID-19), here are the 5 things you need to know:
1. The employer cannot blame you for the exposure to the Coronavirus
California has a “no-fault” workers compensation system, which means that all you have to prove is that the exposure happened at the workplace. If a co-worker or a member of the public is infected, and then you become infected, you may have a workers’ compensation claim against your employer.
2. Exposure to infected people triggers your rights
Your workers’ compensation claim does necessarily depend on finding the person that infected you. If your work exposed you to an infected co-worker or the nature of your job exposes you to the public more than the average person, then you have probably met the criteria for a claim.
3. This Coronavirus is more than the flu!
Early data suggests that if you are exposed, your symptoms could be mild, or you may not have any symptoms are all. Doctors and scientists are racing to determine whether there may be long term effects of COVID-19 – and early finding indicates there may be, unfortunately. A professor at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, Khalilah Gates, states that “some people’s bodies are producing way too much of an inflammatory response that’s harming critical organs like the lungs, kidneys, and heart.” A physician at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York, Len Horovitz, expects that some infected people who had a severe reaction to COVID-19 may later experience heart arrhythmias, congestive heart failure, and inflammation of the heart muscle.
4. Document your potential claim right away
Potential exposure to COVID-19 increases with time as we live our lives outside of the workplace and this reality will be used by the employers’ insurance company to avoid responsibility for your claim. Therefore, workplace exposure should be reported to your employer immediately, preferably by filing a claim form for workers’ compensation benefits.
5. Protect your health and your potential claim
Fortunately, COVID-19 infection does not appear to be life-threatening for most people. However, since it is too early to tell if even mild cases can have long term health effects, it is better to be “safe than sorry.” Employers have workers compensation insurance for a reason – to protect their employees. If you have been exposed to COVID-19 at the workplace, the potential effects on your health can be serious. Protect your potential claim by acting as early as possible.
Insurance company lawyers are already coming up with strategies for employers so they can avoid their responsibility for COVID 19 exposure at the workplace. Disinformation abounds.
Here is what you need to know about your potential rights:
Were you exposed to COVID 19 at work?
You might be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits if your job placed you at higher risk than the general public for exposure to the virus. Those on the front line of the battle against COVID 19, doctors, nurses, lab workers, and ambulance drivers are good examples.
But what if you are not a first responder? Are you still potentially entitled to workers’ compensation protections? Potentially, yes.
Workers who are not staying home due to the Governor’s order are all potentially at higher risk for exposure to COVID 19 because of the nature of their work – grocery, transportation, and warehouse workers are all examples of workers that may be eligible for workers compensation protections.
Workers Compensation Benefits for COVID 19
For decades, I’ve been successfully litigating cases against businesses that insisted my client was an “independent contractor” instead of an employee. Why? Because the companies saved money by avoiding the cost of protections like workers’ compensation.
Over the last decade, California has seen an explosion of app-based businesses like Uber, Lyft, and DoorDash that regarded their workers as independent “gig” workers rather than employees.
In 2019, California stood firmly on the side of workers by enacting Assembly Bill 5, which seeks to protect “gig” workers with employee protections like workers’ compensation benefits if they suffer an injury.
Not surprisingly, the multi-billion dollar app-based companies went into full attack mode, claiming AB-5 would “jeopardize the freedom” of gig workers and are spending hundreds of millions of dollars to defeat the law.
Then COVID-19 came to California.
Now “gig” workers aren’t so sure about the “advantages” of being an independent contractor. Here is an excerpt of an email I recently received from a “gig” worker group:
“We’re demanding the state officials protect gig workers during the coronavirus pandemic by fully enforcing AB5 and ensuring workers have access to benefits like paid sick leave, disability, family leave and unemployment insurance.”
Of course, as an employee, workers’ compensation benefits would be available as well, thanks to AB5.
What difference a month makes.
We may not have the time to recognize every one of the workers keeping our society functioning right now, but they are out certainly out there.
COVID–19 has made us all acutely aware of the critical role our scientists, doctors, nurses, and healthcare professionals play in keeping us safer. They all provide a measure of comfort to us during a time when there are more questions than answers. We are grateful for their dedication as this Coronavirus pandemic unfolds.
But there are less obvious, but no less essential, workers out there giving it their all.
As I walked down a supermarket aisle this week, I felt the anxiousness of the customers while they searched for the items they believed would best prepare them for what may lie ahead.
It was then I saw a hero.
Her contribution to keeping our community functioning and her dedication to her work won’t be featured on CNN, and some may argue she isn’t on the front lines of the battle against this Coronavirus. But that doesn’t make her role any less important. She is part of a network of workers that is keeping society functioning while we get through this.
It was evident by the quick pace of her work and her intense focus that she understood that she was participating in something bigger than just doing her job.
She is a supermarket stock clerk, and her contribution to society during this tough time makes her a hero in my book.
As we discussed in part 4 of this series, insurance companies want injured workers to select a treating doctor from a “Medical Provider Network” (MPN) – all handpicked by the insurance company. (more…)
Did you ever wonder why “gig” companies are opposed to AB5, California’s new law that forces billion-dollar companies to treat its workers as employees rather than “independent contractors”? (more…)
When you are suffering from an injury, you want and deserve immediate medical attention from a physician that is concerned about all of your treatment needs. After all, your health is your most precious asset. (more…)
Most workers understand that if they have a specific accident at work, their employer’s workers’ compensation insurance coverage will pay the benefits owed. But what about injuries sustained by employees over a period of time? (more…)
Workplace accidents and injuries have significantly decreased over the past few decades thanks to guidelines developed by OSHA. In 2017, private industry employers reported 2.8 million nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses, compared to 3.4 million workers treated in Emergency Departments in 2004. (more…)