On May 29th, I presented to a nationwide audience of several hundred people in a webinar entitled Crisis Management for Businesses—The Impact of COVID-19. The American Bar Association Hispanic Legal Rights and Responsibilities and Section of Civil Rights and Social Justice sponsored the free program, which is still available online. My section of the program was Workers’ Compensation—Risks and Safety During COVID-19.
Key observations from my segment include:
Recently, the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission (IWCC) created an emergency rule stating that front line workers infected with Covid-19 would be rebuttably presumed to have acquired it while working, and thus be covered under workers’ compensation. Industry and trade groups on the employer side quickly challenged the rule by filing a lawsuit. A downstate judge granted an injunction against implementation, which led the IWCC to withdraw the rule.
However, then the Illinois legislature developed a bill to create the presumption legislatively. This measure likely will pass and be signed by Governor Pritzker. I anticipate a significant court challenge if it does.
In other words, for now, if you go think you got Covid-19 while working, you should talk with a lawyer who handles workers’ compensation. These cases are complicated and difficult to prove. You need an experienced professional to represent you.
I also wrote about the IWCC rule in a previous blog post.
Some business interruption policies provide for coverage for “direct physical loss,” like trees falling on the business or floods or fires. Most policies, however, contain exclusions (meaning no coverage) for things like global pandemics and closures caused by governmental body edicts (such as those of the Illinois Governor or Chicago Mayor Lightfoot).
So, if you own a restaurant or other business that is closed due to the pandemic, and you had business interruption insurance, you may be covered — or you may not be covered. As is typical of most insurance policies, business interruption policies are written in such an arcane and byzantine way that they are next to impossible for a layperson to understand or interpret. That works to the advantage of the insurer. It also is a reason why you should have a lawyer represent you.
The answer, of course, is that if you seek to recover under your business interruption insurance, see a lawyer who handles these claims before you make a mistake and talk to the insurance company. You could inadvertently provide information that gives the company a basis to deny your claim.
In my opinion, basic common sense and humanity is the rule of thumb for employers and employees. If you are an employer, follow the lead of medical experts and governmental authorities. Do what is recommended or required at the bare minimum. Provide Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to customers and employees, monitor employees and customers, and enforce social distancing.
For employees, follow the rules. If you encounter rules being violated, make a note of it. Take photos if you can. Document everything. Send emails and texts to your employer stating “you are not providing PPE” or “social distancing is not being enforced for customers, which puts everyone at risk.” Those messages can be very helpful in the long run.
If you are in a situation where you are threatened, fired, or treated unfairly, contact a lawyer. If you don’t know an employment lawyer, I do and would be happy to help you get in touch with an attorney who may be able to assist you.
If you think you got Covid-19 on the job or are otherwise 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.