Workers’ compensation is an important benefit for those who contract illnesses or injuries at work. In Minnesota, great efforts have been made to make workers’ compensation benefits more accessible for those who contract COVID while on the job.
A question arises, however, when it comes to showing that you contracted COVID at work. To obtain benefits, a worker needs to show that the injury or illness occurred at work, rather than somewhere else. If a worker breaks an arm at home, workers’ compensation would not cover it, for example.
Proving you got COVID at work
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), “The principal mode by which people are infected with SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) is through exposure to respiratory fluids carrying infectious virus.”
It is extremely difficult to determine exactly where and when a person contracted this illness, which makes it more difficult to prove someone got it at work.
Recent changes in the law in Minnesota has made it much easier for certain types of workers to obtain workers’ compensation benefits for COVID. While any other illness or disease requires proof that it occurred at work, there is now a presumption that certain first responders and healthcare workers contracted the illness at work.
When did you contract COVID?
This is a great benefit for those who fall into the categories of workers covered under this law. However, one of the problems is determining when the illness struck. Specifically, what happens if you were out of work for some time, but you didn’t know you had COVID at the time? Can you still get workers’ compensation benefits for the time you were out?
Minnesota’s Department of Labor and Industry released an FAQ that provides some guidance here. In addition to laying out the types of workers covered under the new presumption law, the FAQ also provides information about the date of the injury, stating “[a]n employee’s date of injury is either the date the employee was unable to work due to contraction of COVID-19 or was unable to work due to symptoms that were later diagnosed as COVID-19, whichever occurred first.”
What does this mean?
According to this FAQ, it seems that as soon as you were unable to work on account of COVID, you should be able to obtain benefits. This means that, if you were out of work due to COVID symptoms which were not diagnosed at the time, but were later diagnosed, you should still be able to obtain workers’ compensation benefits for that period.
However, there are always nuances and complications. An experienced workers’ compensation lawyer can help you explore your specific case, determine whether you would be eligible for benefits for your lost time at work, and help you obtain those benefits.