The spread of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) is a global public health emergency. While state officials have temporarily closed the physical locations of non-essential businesses (Stay Home, Stay Healthy order), hardworking essential employees like doctors, nurses, grocery stores employees and delivery drivers may be at risk of infection.
For those who have or will become infected while on the job, Washington’s workers’ comp system offers a potential remedy. As Seattle workers’ compensation lawyers, we can answer some of the most common questions that employees have about their rights and options.
I believe I was exposed to the coronavirus while at work – what should I do?
If you believe that you were exposed to the coronavirus while on the job, report the incident to your immediate supervisor as soon as possible so that 1) safety measures can be put in place to limit further exposures and 2) a report can be created as an official record. This report will allow you to pursue a workers’ comp claim if you test positive for COVID-19.
In addition, please take these medical steps recommended by the Washington State Dept. of Health.
How do I file a COVID-19 claim?
L&I has created a fast, easy online reporting system. It’s important that you provide accurate information in order to successfully pursue your claim.
File online: CLICK HERE
File by phone (M-F, 8am – 5pm) 1-877-561-FILE (3453)
When is COVID-19 covered by workers’ compensation in Washington?
Quarantined health workers and first responders will be eligible for workers’ comp benefits, as outlined by state officials. If you are a healthcare worker or an emergency first responder and you were made sick or forced to self isolate after being exposed to COVID-19 while you were on the job, you should file for workers’ comp benefits.
Employees in other occupations may be eligible if they were exposed while at work and if their occupation put them at a greater than normal likelihood of contracting the illness, according to Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (L&I),
When is COVID-19 not covered by workers’ compensation in Washington?
So-called “incidental” COVID-19 exposure is not covered by workers’ comp. As an example, a chef who is exposed to the illness while preparing take-out orders would likely have their workers’ comp claim denied. However, a cook working in an assisted living facility that had a large coronavirus outbreak might be covered—as their case may not be deemed ‘incidental’.
What should I tell my doctor if I want to file a claim?
It’s important that you tell your doctor that you were exposed to the virus while you were at work. Your doctor must then fill out a “Medical Providers Report of Accident” for your L&I claim. Information given to your doctor needs to be consistent with the information you gave your employer. Otherwise, the claim could be denied by L&I.
What happens if my “light duty” position is gone? Do I have to apply for unemployment?
As Washington has temporarily closed many “non-essential” businesses, many workers – at least for the time being – need access to unemployment benefits. This is a very important development that has caused considerable confusion for many people who were previously assigned “light duty” work.
Indeed, there have been reports that claims administrators are looking to push people on temporary light duty onto unemployment instead of back to their time-loss benefits. As a consequence, these workers would receive a lower benefit than they would otherwise be entitled to get. If this happened to you, your rights may have been violated.
When work comes to an end before an injured worker has been able to return, they have the right to re-start time-loss benefits, under Washington law (RCW 51.32.090(4)(b).
What workers’ comp benefits are available to COVID-19 patients?
Similar to other types of workers’ comp claims, employees made ill as a result of COVID-19 can seek benefits of allowance of medical care, coverage medical costs, and lost wages.
Count on us to be here to help.
During these times of change and uncertainty, we can provide sound advice and strong representation. We are constantly monitoring how COVID-19 continues to impact workers’ compensation in our state and are able to interpret and adjust quickly. We are set up to work remotely to protect your safety and the safety of our staff and are well-positioned to handle your case. If you need legal advice or have any questions, please contact us today.