Healthcare workers, first responders, and employees working for essential businesses are keeping all of us healthy and supplying us with the food and household essentials necessary to keep us going during this time. These employees are keeping this country alive, figuratively, and literally. Thank you to all healthcare workers, first responders, and essential workers providing supplies. You are our heroes.
What happens if an essential employee is diagnosed with COVID-19? What are their options? The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act and Illinois Occupational Diseases Act handle claims of employees for work-related injuries and disease. It was always the employee’s burden to prove to the Commission that an injury was related to on-the-job duties. However, in April 2020, the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission amended the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act stating that it is now the employer’s responsibility to prove that an employee(s) did not contract COVID-19 while on the job. In essence, this would have made it easier for essential works to claim that they became sick with COVID-19 while on the job. BUT NOW, the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission has repealed this amendment as a result of litigation that occurred after the emergency rule was passed. This means it is still the employees’ burden to prove that a positive test result for COVID-19 was due to work-related duties. There is no extra protection for front line workers endangering their health and safety as well as the health and safety of their families.
The Illinois Occupational Diseases Act; however, does not require an infected employee to provide direct proof that he or she contracted a disease, such as COVID-19, while at work. Let’s face it, first responders, hospital workers, and employees of essential businesses are more likely to contract COVID-19 from working with the public, whether with already sick and diagnosed individuals or from working with or around the public.
If you are a front line worker and have tested positive for the coronavirus, contact your employer to file a workers’ compensation claim if you feel you contracted COVID-19 at work. Follow the steps and instructions for filing a claim with your employer and provide all necessary paperwork to ensure your claim will be covered with your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance. If your claim is denied, contact a workers’ compensation attorney regarding your legal rights to file a workers’ compensation claim with the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission.
Written by Laura Kennard
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