ILLINOIS LEGISLATURE PASSES BILL ADDRESSING COMPENSABILITY OF COVID-19 WORKERS’ COMPENSATION CLAIMS
May 27, 2020
After a repeal of the emergency rule adopted by the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission ruling that exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace will be “rebuttably presumed” to have arisen out of and in the course of employee’s employment, the Illinois General Assembly passed a bill on May 22, 2020, which implements a variation of the repealed rule into law. The bill mirrors the repealed Commission rule, that front line or essential workers (as defined by the Executive Order from March 2020) alleging COVID-19 exposure and contraction shall be rebuttably presumed to have been exposed at work and that such exposure is causally connected to said exposure. Governor Pritzker is expected to sign the bill into law shortly.
The bill lists various professions that constitute a “COVID-19 first-responder or front-line worker” (e.g. health care providers, first-responders, fire personnel, etc.), and notably outlines that employees working at essential business are covered if they encounter members of the general public or work in employment locations of more than 15 employees. Additionally, the bill applies to all cases where the diagnosis was made on or after March 9, 2020 through December 31, 2020. In order to receive the presumption, the employee must have a diagnosis of COVID-19. For claims on or before June 15, 2020, the diagnosis must be made by a licensed medical practitioner or via positive lab test. For claims on or after June 16, 2020, the employee must have a positive lab test. The bill also allows employers to receive a TTD offset for employees that were on paid leave or extended FMLA.
Importantly, the bill also outlines ways an employer can potentially rebut that presumption, including but not limited to:
An employee works from home for a period of 14 or more consecutive days immediately prior to the employee’s injury/occupational disease;
The employer was following CDC or Illinois Department of Public Health (ILDPH) procedures when the alleged exposure took place (and had been for 14 days prior to employee’s injury);
The employer can show employee was exposed to COVID-19 by an alternate source
Based upon the text of the bill, employers should follow CDC and ILDPH procedures to the fullest extent possible, should communicate these procedures to their employees, and employers should also document implementation of these practices in order to introduce them into evidence at trial if necessary.
On Thursday, May 28, 2020, Wiedner & McAuliffe’s COVID-19 Task Force is hosting a webinar focused on challenges employers may face when returning employees to the workforce in this post-COVID climate and how to potentially mitigate your risk in that regard. Registration is limited and can be found here.
If you have any questions on the possible impact of COVID-19 on your business, whether your business may be impacted by this bill, and possible precautions you can take from a legal standpoint, please contact us at Wiedner and McAuliffe by email or phone at 312-855-1105.