New COVID Workers’ Compensation Law: What does it mean to be in a covered occupation?

by | Apr 28, 2021 | Workers' Compensation

At this point, most Minnesota workers know about the new workers’ compensation laws that cover certain occupations. But what occupations are covered by this new Minnesota law? And what does this coverage mean?

Before proceeding, it is important to note that you need to take care of yourself. If you think you have contracted COVID-19, regardless of your occupation, you should call a workers’ compensation lawyer immediately and get whatever coverage is available.

What are the covered occupations?

According to the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry’s FAQ on the topic, there are a few occupations covered by the new law:

  • Licensed peace officers
  • People employed at a corrections, detention or secure treatment facility
  • People working in a health care, home care or long-term care setting, with direct COVID-19 patient care or ancillary work in COVID-19 patient units
  • People providing childcare to the children of first responders and health care workers

Of course, each of these categories has nuances and exceptions. For example, what is “ancillary work” in COVID-19 patient units? These and other questions arise need to be addressed in every relevant case.

What does it mean to be covered?

This is the real question. OK, I’m in an occupation covered by the new law. What does that mean?

The primary benefit of coverage under the new law has to do with presumption.

In every type of workers’ comp claim, to obtain benefits, you have to prove that the injury or illness occurred as part of your employment. So, if you have a back injury from lifting something heavy, you have to establish that this lifting took place on the job as part of your employment, not from moving your refrigerator at home or working out after work.

It’s the same standard with all types of illnesses and injuries, including COVID: You need to show that the harm you suffered took place at your job in the normal course of your employment.

Enter the new workers’ comp laws in Minnesota: If you contracted coronavirus working in one of the covered occupations, you no longer have to show that you got COVID at work. It is presumed that you got it at work.

Caution

Although the presumption here is powerful, it is not omnipotent. It simply means that you no longer have to show the connection between the virus and your work.

However, the presumption could be beaten (“rebutted”) if the other party shows conclusively that you did NOT contract the virus at work. If you got the virus during a 2 week vacation, for example, of if you have been working from home for months when you got the virus, the presumption could be defeated and you could still be denied benefits.

The above scenario is rare and unlikely, but it is possible.

At any rate, as with all work-related injuries and illnesses, there are numerous complications and challenges involved with the process. Make sure you work with an experienced attorney who can walk you through the workers’ compensation process.