The coronavirus pandemic is still posing a constant threat to anyone who needs to go into public for their jobs. Frontline, essential workers are undoubtedly put at the highest risk of exposure to the deadly virus. Clocking into work can be intimidating for these brave men and women, especially when it is not clear if they will be able to get workers’ compensation after being diagnosed with COVID-19.
To try to alleviate some of these fears and protect frontline workers, the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission recently released a Notice of Emergency Amendments. However, the amendments have already been repealed and effectively undone due to a lawsuit filed by various employers and insurance companies. The purpose of the amendments was to make it simpler for workers’ compensation benefits to be given to frontline workers who have been exposed to the coronavirus.
Under the brief changes, a “rebuttable presumption” was established, which said an essential worker’s coronavirus exposure was assumed to be connected to their employment and job expectations. If an employer or insurer wanted to rebut or challenge a coronavirus claim, then they would have to prove that the exposure happened outside of the workplace.
The lawsuit that led to the amendments’ repeal claimed the presumption created an unreasonable evidential standard to overcome, effectively making it impossible for an insurer to deny a workers’ compensation claim filed in relation to a coronavirus diagnosis. The argument was also made that the presumption would lead to an overabundance of filings, ultimately increasing the cost of workers’ compensation coverage in Illinois. Employers who are already struggling to stay fiscally afloat expressed concern that the amendment would only accelerate their looming bankruptcies.
Who are “Frontline” Workers?
Are you a frontline or essential worker in Illinois? If you are going to work during the pandemic, then odds are high that you are.
According to the emergency amendments, frontline workers are:
- Law enforcement officers
- Fire department personnel
- Emergency medical technicians (EMT) or paramedics
- Anyone considered as a first responder
- Healthcare providers who help with patient care
- Corrections officers
- “Crucial personnel”
The last note on this list is perhaps the most important, as “crucial personnel” is a deliberately vague term. Grocery store employees may wear a badge or work in a hospital, but they are still helping people stay safe and healthy by stocking shelves and working cash registers. Does this make a grocer a frontline or essential worker? Most likely, but it is not guaranteed, and insurance companies will probably use that vagueness to try to challenge any claims coming from anyone who is not a first responder or healthcare provider.
To properly handle a coronavirus workers’ compensation claim in Illinois, a good practice is connecting with an attorney as soon as possible. They can help determine if you are eligible for workers’ compensation under the new amendments and stand up to insurance companies if your claim is wrongfully denied.
Leonard Law Group in Chicago is currently hearing from workers in various sectors and all walks of life. If you or a loved one were diagnosed with COVID-19 and you suspect it was contracted while at work, then we want to hear from you. Our workers’ compensation attorneys offer free consultations to inquiring clients and we can handle the majority of our casework remotely through teleconferencing, emails, etc. Call (312) 487-2513 for more information.