In the early months of the pandemic sweeping the nation, many Iowa City meatpacking plant employees were infected with the corona virus with a dozen hospitalized and two deaths. Recent findings point to a more serious level of infection than previously reported, with over a thousand workers falling ill. With the pandemic still raging on and the potential for serious illness looming, many employees wonder if workers’ compensation will be there if they get sick with Covid-19.
Generally speaking, employers must consider injuries work related if an event or exposure in the work environment either cause or contributed to the resulting condition or aggravated a preexisting injury or illness. Determining whether Covid-19 illness is work related can prove difficult, but there are three factors employers must consider when determining if Covid-19 is work-related and recordable under OSHA, which in turn could help answer if workers’ compensation is payable:
First OSHA asks that employers reasonably investigate the work relatedness of an employee’s illness. Employers should ask an employee whether they believe their exposure was at work or outside of work, and assess the employee’s work environment for possible exposures. Second OSHA asks that the employer looks at all information reasonably available to the employer at the time when making a work relatedness determination. Third, the employer should provide evidence of the likelihood Covid-19 was contracted in the workplace, such as an outbreak among workers with no other explanation or the close working proximity of an infected employee with another employee or customer with a confirmed case as opposed to cases where the employee is the only one to contract the illness in their work area or if a family member at home has a confirmed case.
Determining whether Covid-19 exposure is work related requires employers to undergo an analysis to determine if it is “more likely than not’ that exposure occurred in the workplace. With that being said, in cases where Covid-19 is determined to have likely been acquired at work, is workers’ compensation benefits payable?
Generally speaking, for an injury or illness to be work related, the condition must arise out of and in the course of employment. If a worker contracts an illness while performing their job, the illness is more likely to fall within the occupational illness provisions of the state workers’ compensation act. So it follows, that if an employee demonstrates that he or she contracted Covid-19 at work in the performance of their duties at the time of exposure, the illness will likely be considered work related under the illness, injury, or occupational disease provisions of workers’ compensation.
If you or a family member believes that they have contracted Covid-19 thorough a work exposure it is important to report the illness to protect their rights under the workers’ compensation act. Speaking with an experienced Quad Cities workers’ compensation attorney if you are, exposed, infected or become sick at work is advisable – contact the Davenport Iowa workers’ compensation attorneys of McDonald Woodward & Carlson, P.C., for help at 563-355-6478.