Connecticut workers who previously contracted COVID-19 may now be eligible to apply for workers’ compensation benefits!
According to a recent executive order issued on July 24 by Governor Lamont, essential employees who contracted coronavirus before statewide shutdowns ‘presumably’ became infected on the job. Similar to other serious work-related illnesses, the new order Executive Order NO. 7JJJ now qualifies COVID-19 as a condition workers may file a claim for in accordance with Connecticut’s Workers’ Compensation Act.
Workers’ compensation benefits are vital to keeping Connecticut employees financially afloat when out of work due to an illness or injury, especially with an illness as unpredictable as novel coronavirus. For some patients, COVID-19 treatments range anywhere from hundreds to thousands of dollars in medical expenses. Additionally, recovery requires a mandatory two weeks of self-quarantine and the possibility of more time to recover from life-threatening symptoms.
Executive Order NO. 7JJJ could be monumental in providing workers who have been financially crippled during the pandemic some much-needed relief. If you believe your COVID-19 case may qualify for financial assistance through workers’ compensation insurance, these are the details you need to know.
How to Qualify for COVID-19 Benefits
Employees who qualify for COVID-19-related workers’ compensation benefits under Executive Order NO. 7JJJ must have received an official diagnosis of COVID-19 between the dates of March 10, 2020 and May 20, 2020 that resulted in at least one missed day of work. It’s not necessary that the missed workdays be the result of hospitalization or intensive medical treatments to qualify; however, the period of work absence must be directly related to the adverse symptoms a worker experienced due to contracting the virus.
Other requirements workers must meet to qualify for benefits include:
- the worker, at the direction of the employer, must have worked outside the home during at least one of the fourteen days immediately preceding the date of illness, and not received an offer or directive from their employer to work remotely instead of from his or her place of employment;
- if the date of illness was more than fourteen days after March 23, 2020, the applying employee must be deemed essential by the Department of Economic and Community Development pursuant to Executive Order 7H;
- workers must provide a positive laboratory diagnostic test within three weeks of the date of injury or diagnosed and documented within three weeks of the date of illness by a licensed physician, licensed physician’s assistant, or licensed advanced practice registered nurse, based on the employee’s symptoms; and
- workers must have provided a copy of the positive laboratory diagnostic test results or the written diagnosis required to the employer or insurer.
Who Are Essential Employees
Essential employees currently included in the executive order are primarily in industries that work directly with individuals with known positive cases of COVID-19 or who work for establishments required to remain open during statewide shutdowns. Essential businesses and workers, as defined by Executive Order 7H issued on March 20, include:
- Workers in the 16 Critical Infrastructure Sectors as defined by the federal Department of Homeland Security
- Healthcare workers
- Infrastructure workers
- All manufacturing and corresponding supply chains, including aerospace, agriculture, and related support businesses
- Certain retail workers (grocery store clerks, gas stations, hardware stores)
- Food and agriculture
- Service workers (maintenance, cleaning, shelter work, childcare)
- Providers of basic necessities to economically disadvantaged populations
- Service workers necessary to maintain the safety, sanitation and essential operations of all residences and other buildings (including services necessary to secure and maintain non-essential workplaces)
- Vendors that provide essential services or products, including logistics and technology support, childcare, and services needed to ensure the continuing operation of government agencies and provide for the health, safety and welfare of the public
- Defense and national security members
For a comprehensive list of who qualifies as an essential worker, find more examples here.
There is no doubt that the coronavirus pandemic has thrown a number of businesses for a loop. Yet, that being said, there is no need for employees to suffer the burden of a company.
Employees must be aware that it is illegal for employers to discharge, discriminate, discipline, or deliberately provide misinformation to avoid paying a workers’ compensation claim. These types of behaviors against workers could constitute the need for further civil action to secure benefits such as the reinstatement of a job, payment of back wages, or the re-establishment of employee benefits that should have been active at the time an employee was wrongful discharged.
Resources for Non-Essential Employees
The Workers’ Compensation Act states that the Connecticut General Statutes is to provide benefits for employees who have become ill, injured, or have died as a result of work-related factors. While Executive Order NO. 7JJJ currently only addresses essential workers affected by COVID-19, non-essential employees whose illnesses were a direct result of their work environment may still qualify under the right conditions.
Workers who believe their illnesses do qualify for a COVID-19-related workers’ compensation claim should take the following steps to prepare:
- Make sure you have valid documentation to provide proof of a positive COVID-19 diagnosis that would have resulted in missed workdays between the dates of March 10, 2020 and May 20, 2020.
- Keep all medical documents detailing your symptoms, treatments, and visits required to address your illness, including bills, doctors’ notes, and prescriptions.
- Provide a detailed statement of how many hours of work were missed and the wages that were forfeited from your recovery time.
- Consult with an attorney experienced in workers’ compensation claims and wage/hour law that can determine the best option for seeking financial support to cover necessary expenses.
Connecticut Workers’ Compensation Attorneys
Our attorneys at Jacobs & Wallace have over 40 years of experience fighting for the rights of Connecticut workers. If you or someone you love has contracted COVID-19 on the job and require assistance in filing for workers’ compensation benefits, our knowledgeable team of workers’ compensation attorneys is here for support. Contact our expert team today for a free consultation to explore your legal rights.