Workers compensation presumption bills are not new. Over the years, states have passed legislation that extended workers compensation coverage to firefighters who developed certain cancers (lung) and fire and police personnel who suffer heart attacks. In response to the pandemic, several states have passed legislation or used executive authority to extend workers compensation coverage to include COVID-19 as a work-related illness. The scope and application of the legislation or executive orders are dependent on the language contained in the bills in the following areas.
Scope of employees covered – Some legislation or executive orders limit the scope of employees entitled to the COVID-19 presumption to healthcare workers and first responders, while others have broad application and include all “essential workers,” like grocery store employees, corrections officers, and postal service workers.
How the presumption works – A presumption can be conclusive or rebuttable, which would still allow an employer to challenge whether the COVID-19 infection was work-related.
What triggers coverage – Narrow proposals require that an employee have a positive test or a medical diagnosis of COVID-19, whereas broader legislation provides workers compensation coverage for employees that were only exposed to coronavirus.
Timeline for presumption – Most bills limit the application of the presumption to the timeline of a gubernatorial emergency order for COVID-19; however, a broad presumption could permanently change the state workers compensation law.
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