Workers’ Compensation Emergency Regulations Protect First Responders and Front-Line Workers Exposed to COVID-19April 14, 2020
The State of Illinois has issued emergency regulations governing the rules of evidences for Workers’ Compensation claims related to COVID-19 First Responders and Front-Line Workers. For those parties identified in the emergency regulations, any injury or incapacity that happens because of COVID-19 exposure during the state of emergency will be rebuttably presumed to arise out of their employment and to be causally connected to the hazards and exposures of their employment. Otherwise, Workers’ Compensation petitioners generally bear the burden of proving that contagion to an infectious disease arose out of their employment and directly in the line of their duties while working.
For government employers, it is worth noting that this regulation will apply to police, fire personnel, emergency medical technicians, and paramedics, as well as all individuals employed and considered as “first responders,” health care providers engaged in patient care, and correction officers.
Firefighters, EMTs, and paramedics already had a statutory presumption of work-related contagion of respiratory conditions, among other diseases/conditions, such as blood borne pathogens, heart disease, and cancer, in claims through the Workers’ Compensation Act and the Workers Occupational Diseases Act.
The Workers’ Compensation emergency rule also will apply to the crucial personnel of the following essential businesses that were identified under the following headings in the Governor’s Stay-at-Home Executive Order No. 10, Section 1, Part 12 (which list includes all of the businesses identified in that order apart from “Media. Newspapers, television, radio, and other media services”):
- Stores that sell groceries and medicine
- Food, beverage, and cannabis production and agriculture
- Organizations that provide charitable and social services
- Gas stations and businesses needed for transportation
- Financial institutions
- Hardware and supplies stores
- Critical trades
- Mail, post, shipping, logistics, delivery, and pick-up services
- Educational institutions
- Laundry services
- Restaurants for consumption off-premises
- Supplies to work from home
- Supplies for Essential Businesses and Operations
- Home-based care and services
- Residential facilities and shelters
- Professional services
- Day care centers for employees exempted by Executive Order 2020-10
- Manufacture, distribution, and supply chain for critical products and industries
- Critical labor union functions
- Hotels and motels
A crucial definition under Workers’ Compensation law will be how expansive the definition of “first responder” is applied. The Workers’ Compensation Act does not define the phrase. The recent Families First Coronavirus Response Act utilizes the phrase “emergency responder” which the Department of Labor defined to include public works employees, in addition to police and fire personnel.