COVID-19 Workers’ Compensation Bill: Issues Resolved, Covered Employees Clarified

COVID-19 Workers’ Compensation Bill

Governor Pritzker is Expected to Sign a Compromise Bill about Workers’ Compensation Benefits for First Responders and Front-Line Workers

On May 22, 2020, a compromise COVID-19 Workers’ Compensation bill passed the Illinois House of Representatives, forwarded to Governor Pritzker to be signed into Illinois law. The new law is an amendment to the Illinois Occupational Disease Act. The new law codifies a rebuttable presumption that applicants for workers’ compensation benefits, who were essential front-line workers or first responders, who contracted the COVID-19 Coronavirus, did not have to otherwise prove that they got the virus through the scope of their work.

This new legislation puts controversy to rest, after significant confusion and some backlash following the Illinois Workers Compensation Commission (IWCC) amending their rules of practice to accommodate COVID-19 benefit applicants. A roller coaster experience as described by some, issues and questions arose out of the impact of amending the rules of procedure.

View up to date information on how Illinois is handling the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) from the State of Illinois Coronavirus Response Site

Chicago Workers Compensation Attorney Michael V. Favia Can Help You with Your Claim for Workers Compensation Benefits if You Contracted COVID-19 as a First-Responder or Essential Front-Line Worker. Questions About the COVID-19 Workers’ Compensation Bill? Call the Favia Law Firm in Chicago and Rolling Meadows at (312) 609-6666.

Rebuttable Presumption Legislation: How it Works and What it Means  

The issue is whether first responders and essential workers diagnosed with COVID-19, contracted the virus in the scope of, and during the regular course of their employment. For example, a grocery store checker who get sick with COVID-19 can apply to the Illinois Workers Compensation Commission benefits.

When an employee is injured or becomes sick on the job, and they seek worker’s compensation benefits, they must normally prove to the IWCC that their injury or illness was caused and connected to their work, and they were working in the normal scope of their duties as an employee when they became sick or injured. This rebuttable presumption allows first-responders and front-line employees to apply for benefits without needing to prove they got sick with COVID-19 during or because of their employment as first-responders and/or essential front-line workers.

Please review our recent article regarding the IWCC amendment to its rules of procedure when they created this new rebuttable presumption, because of COVID-19, which is now awaiting the governor’s signature making it law. COVID-19 Coronavirus Amendments to Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission Rules of Practice.

To Whom Does the Rebuttable Presumption Apply: The Qualified Front-Line Workers and First Responders are Defined in Under the Amendment to the Illinois Occupational Disease Act, the COVID-19 Workers’ Compensation Bill

The original amendment to the IWCC rules of procedure identified many individuals who were covered by the Commission’s rules. Some issues following those rule amendments are resolved in this new legislative amendment expected to be signed by Governor Pritzker.

The following are examples of information clarified in the COVID-19 Workers’ Compensation Bill:

  • People who work from home are not working in a place of employment as defined under the new law, except for home healthcare workers whose employment takes place in the homes of the patients for whom they render services and care;
  • Essential front-line workers qualify for the rebuttable presumption only if they are required by their job to interact with the public or work in a workspace with more than 15 employees;
  • To qualify for the rebuttable presumption, the employee must show a positive test result or diagnosis by a qualified physician, not a self-diagnosis; and
  • As outlined in the next paragraph, the employee might not qualify for the rebuttable presumption if they were working from home or on leave for all 14 days before getting COVID-19, or a showing that the employer was engaging in protective sanitation practices appropriate to their industry, or that the employee was exposed to the virus outside their place of employment.

Employers Can Rebut the Presumption that COVID-19 Was Caused by Work

Chicago Workers’ Compensation Attorney Michael V. Favia not only works with sick and injured employees seeking benefits, but he also gives legal counsel and advice to employees with questions about meeting their legal responsibilities to their employees as required of them by the state and the IWCC. This new Workers’ Compensation Bill includes provisions through which employers might be able to rebut the presumption that the sick or injured employee contracted COVID-19 through their employment. For example, there could be issues regarding whether the employee was working from home for 14 days before contracting COVID-19. Another example of a rebuttal of the presumption includes specific knowledge that the employee was exposed to the virus somewhere other than work.

Retroactive Application of Legislation to COVID-19 Workers’ Compensation Claimants

Noteworthy is the retroactive application of the new law. The amendment to the Illinois Occupational Disease Act to include a rebuttable presumption that first responders and front-line workers with COVID-19, dates back to all diagnoses made after March 9, 2020, and forward through December 31, 2020, subject to additional amendments extended that period in the future as it may be necessary and signed into law.

Confused About Workers’ Compensation Claims and COVID-19? Call Chicago Workers’ Compensation Attorney Michael V. Favia for a Free Consultation to Learn if You Qualify for Workers’ Compensation Benefits Due to COVID-19 Coronavirus Exposure at Work. Call the Favia Law Firm at (312) 609-6666.

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