On April 13th, the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission issued an emergency rule to deal with the COVID-19 crisis.
The new rule stated that if a first responder or front-line worker became infected with the coronavirus (Covid-19), the worker would be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits on the basis of a rebuttable presumption that the worker acquired the virus on the job. The employer would be able to refute the presumption with evidence that the worker was infected elsewhere.
The rule provided which workers would be included, such as police, fire personnel, emergency medical technicians, paramedics, health care providers, corrections officers, and crucial personnel, as defined by Governor Pritzker’s Executive Order of March 20th.
Business and trade groups (Chicagoland Associated General Contractors (AGC) and Illinois Manufacturers Association (IMA)) immediately filed a lawsuit, arguing that the rule would unfairly burden employers and insurers. They claimed that the rule overreached on an issue that the legislature should address.
A judge in Sangamon County Illinois (where the state capital, Springfield, is located) issued a temporary restraining order (TRO), putting the kibosh on the rule for a limited amount of time.
Then, on April 27th, the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission (IWCC), held an emergency board meeting and withdrew the emergency rule just two weeks after enacting it.
As a result, proving a workers’ compensation claim for Covid-19 is very difficult, even for essential workers and first responders.
There aren’t any other good options for workers, although there is a possibility that workers could sue in tort for civil damages. Usually, the only remedy for injuries or illnesses at work is workers’ compensation.
However, if an employee becomes infected and believes that the employer did not do enough to protect workers from the virus (such as no PPE or poor sanitation), the worker may be able to claim an intentional violation and circumvent the exclusive remedy of workers’ comp.
I expect that you will see an ongoing battlefield of these types of claims, especially with news of severe and possibly permanent disabilities among those who survive Covid-19, such as stroke and organ damage and breathing problems.
If you’re injured at work and have questions, contact Chicago workers’ compensation attorney Stephen L. Hoffman for a free consultation at (773) 944-9737. Stephen has nearly 30 years of legal experience and has collected millions of dollars for his clients. He is listed as a SuperLawyer, has a 10.0 rating on Avvo, and is BBB A+ accredited. He is also an Executive Level Member of the Lincoln Square Ravenswood Chamber of Commerce.
Don’t wait another day, contact Stephen now.