Coronavirus is threatening residents of the United States, and across the world. As of this writing, there have been 12,500 cases of coronavirus in Massachusetts, with 231 deaths. Boston recently issued a 9 p.m. curfew after Massachusetts saw their largest single-day growth of new cases. Boston’s mayor recently urged residents to wear masks when they leave the house. How will the fast spread of the coronavirus affect workers’ compensation benefits Massachusetts?
First Responders and Health Care Providers Will Get Coronavirus
Many first responders and healthcare workers are concerned about becoming unemployed if they contract coronavirus in the line of duty. Unfortunately, Massachusetts firefighters and health care workers do not have the personal protective equipment (PPE) they need to protect themselves. Firefighters have needed to reuse N95 masks.
Will First Responders Who Contract Coronavirus Qualify for Workers’ Compensation?
When first responders do contract coronavirus while on the job, there is no guarantee that they will receive temporary or permanent disability benefits, even though contracting coronavirus would be “work-related.” If a firefighter or medical professional contracts coronavirus, there is no guarantee that they will qualify for a temporary or permanent disability.
As of this writing, over 70 Massachusetts firefighters have tested positive for coronavirus. Additionally, nearly 600 firefighters are quarantined. Additionally, at least 1,400 have been exposed to coronavirus. Firefighters are currently asking for the state government to pass legislation to allow firefighters to receive workers’ compensation and healthcare benefits should they become sick with the coronavirus while on the job.
Proving that Coronavirus is a Workplace Injury is Difficult
One reason it could be difficult to receive workers’ compensation benefits for contracting coronavirus. It can be difficult to prove that someone got the coronavirus at work. First responders who have been exposed to coronavirus must be removed from work from three to 14 days. However, many first responders who do not know they have been exposed are becoming diagnosed with coronavirus.
Massachusetts Will be Reducing Workers’ Compensation Rates
Massachusetts recently approved a 6.8% reduction of workers’ compensation insurance rates. The reduction will become effective on or after July 1, 2020. This reduction in the rate of workers’ compensation will negatively affect those who are already suffering financially. Potentially, many more people will become reliant on workers’ compensation benefits due to the coronavirus pandemic. Some first responders have been forced to respond to emergencies with only surgical masks, not the N95 masks that they need.
Applying for Workers Compensation After You Have Been Diagnosed With Coronavirus
Massachusetts Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA) is responsible for processing workers’ compensation claims. DUA recently announced that it is experiencing a large surge of workers’ compensation claims. They are advising people to file their claims online. Thankfully, the DUA says it remains fully operational. The center will be extending its hours to include weekends and adding staff to their call centers.
Eligibility Requirements for Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation
Simply being out of work due to coronavirus does not mean you qualify for workers’ compensation benefits. You will need to make sure that you are eligible for benefits. You will need to prove that you became ill with the coronavirus due to circumstances in your work environment.
If you became infected through the scope of your work, you will likely be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. However, there are several exceptions that will disqualify you from receiving workers’ compensation benefits. The main instances in which the DUA denies workers’ compensation claims include the following:
- Being under the influence of alcohol or drugs when you became ill with coronavirus
- Being in violation of your company’s employee code of conduct when you became ill. This might include not wearing the required personal protective equipment while at work.
- Not reporting your coronavirus illness to your employer during the required period of time.
- Your illness is self-inflicted. This exception will likely not arise when it comes to coronavirus.
Proving You Received Coronavirus at Work
One of the most challenging issues involving filing for workers’ compensation for coronavirus involves proving that you got coronavirus at work. You will only qualify for workers’ compensation benefits when you can prove that you contracted coronavirus while you were at work. You may have been infected by a coworker, a consumer, or by interacting with the public as a first-responder or health care worker.
There is currently no way to know exactly how you contracted the coronavirus. Scientists are working around the clock to learn more about how this virus is transmitted between people. We do not know how long the virus stays on packages, steel, mail, plastic, and other materials. There is no sure way to prove that you contracted the virus at work. However, just because you cannot prove definitively that you got the virus at work, does not mean you will not be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits in Massachusetts.
For example, if your co-worker or supervisor became ill with coronavirus and received a diagnosis before you became ill, you might qualify for workers’ compensation. This is especially true if you can show that you were around the person who was diagnosed at work.
What if You are a Non-Essential Employee Who Contracts Coronavirus?
Nonessential employees who are isolating at home and contract coronavirus may be entitled to compensation, as well. Doctors have stated that coronavirus can show no symptoms for two to 14 days. Nonessential workers may have been exposed in their work before they went into isolation. You will need to speak with an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer as soon as possible to discuss your case.
Speak with an Experienced Wakefield, Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Lawyer
Have you been diagnosed with the coronavirus in Massachusetts? Are you unable to work due to your diagnosis? If so, you may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. Contact the Law Office of John J. Sheehan as soon as possible to schedule your initial consultation.