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Is Covid-19 Caused by Your Job?

Covid-19 is presumed to be work-related. On June 5, 2020, Illinois Governor Pritzker signed into law a bill created as a Covid-19 protection for frontline and essential workers as defined by the Executive Order dated March 20, 2020 Executive order (This Executive order exempted essential and front line workers from mandatory “Stay at home”). The bill that was created protected the rights and created benefits for essential and frontline workers by creating a rebuttable presumption that in the event an employee is to contract Covid-19, the employee is presumed to have contracted it during the course of and due to the hazards or exposures of employee’s job.

In Illinois, an employee bears the burden of proof to show that injury claimed is caused by the employment. A rebuttable presumption shifts this burden onto employer, the employee is no longer required to prove but instead the employer has to prove that the injury is not related to the job. Before the presumption can apply, it is required for an employee to have

  1. A confirmed Covid-19 diagnosis by either a licensed medical practitioner or via a positive lab or antibodies test. For diagnosis occurring on or before June 15, 2020

  2. A positive Covid-19 lab or Covid-19 antibodies test. For diagnosis occurring after June 15, 2020.

Once the presumption is applied, the employer may rebut the presumption by showing evidence that 14 days prior to employee’s injury, the employer was practicing safety measures and implementing workplace sanitation to the best of its ability and remained in compliance with guidance issued by CDC or IDPH. The employer can also rebut the presumption by showing evidence that the employee was exposed to Covid-19 by an alternate source or any other evidence to suggest that the employee was not exposed at work.

The date of the injury used for Covid-19 cases is the date the employee becomes unable to work due to symptoms. The presumption does not apply if an employee is working from home for 14 or more consecutive days immediately prior to the injury. An employee who fails to establish the presumption or to whom the presumption does not apply is still allowed to pursue and file for benefits under Illinois Occupational Disease Act or under Workers Compensation Act.

Essential and frontline workers as defined by the March 20, 2020 Executive order includes a vast majority of professions including but not limited to people employed in hospitals, fire departments, nursing homes, rehabilitation facilities, grocery stores, gas stations, transportation sector, medical sector, daycares, schools, hotels, motels, restaurants, funeral homes, professional services, shipping, and delivery services. This means that any employee who after being afforded designation of a frontline and/or essential worker performed their job after March 20, 2020 and was diagnosed with Covid-19 is presumed to have contracted Covid-19 due to their job. This also means that these employees are afforded protection under Illinois Occupational Disease Act and are entitled to receive their temporary total disability benefits for amount of work missed due to their condition, are entitled to have their medical bills paid for any treatment or visit to a medical provider due to Covid-19 related symptoms. With Covid-19 “long haulers” on the rise, this could also mean that employees are entitled to recover for any and all on going rehabilitation that is diagnosed to be a lingering effect of Covid-19 by a licensed medical provider and would be entitled to get compensated for any permanent damage caused by Covid-19. Keeping these considerations in mind, one would expect an influx in filings of Covid-19 cases at the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission in the near future.

Currently the Covid-19 presumption extents to diagnosis of Corvid-19 on or after March 9, 2020 to on or before June 30, 2021.

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