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By Jodie Anne Phillips Polich, P.C.

In Workers' Compensation

Filing a workplace injury workers’ compensation claim can be confusing under the best of circumstances. The COVID-19 pandemic is adding a new dimension of complexity to an already complicated and overwhelmed system.

States are responding to COVID-19 in different ways, which has resulted in a patchwork of different rules, regulations, and stipulations governing who can apply for workers’ compensation benefits and who may find themselves left out in the cold.

At the law office of Jodie Anne Phillips Polich, P.C., our legal team is committed to helping Oregon workers exposed to the virus seek the benefits and financial compensation they deserve. Although the response to the disease has varied, our response to our clients has remained consistent. We strive to help sick workers get the benefits they need. We will fight aggressively on their behalf for a positive outcome.

If the COVID-19 virus has impacted you and you were exposed while on the job, talk to us at Jodie Anne Phillips Polich, P.C. We can discuss your case’s specifics and how we can help you seek compensation. Reach out and contact us today for a free discussion.

Does Workers’ Compensation Cover COVID-19?

The answer to that question largely depends on which state you live and work in. Whether workers’ compensation covers COVID-19 may also depend on what type of work you do or which industry you are in.

Although we are a year into the pandemic, workers’ compensation rules and regulations vary broadly by state. These rules attempt to address workers’ genuine concerns about keeping food on the table if they get sick while doing their job. Yet, there is still significant confusion over whether workers’ compensation protects a worker with COVID-19.

The National Conference of State Legislatures outlines which states have passed laws concerning COVID-19 and workers’ compensation claims. It also outlines which types of workers are impacted by the regulations.

Take, for example, California. The governor issued Executive Order N-62-20, which specifies that any employee who has tested positive for COVID-19 may be eligible to apply for workers’ compensation benefits if it is presumed that the employee was exposed to the disease at work.

However, Kentucky Executive Order EO 2020-277  allows only certain classifications of workers – such as first responders, health care workers, child care workers, and grocery store workers – to apply for workers’ compensation benefits.

State Responses to COVID-19

States’ varying approaches to handling COVID-19 cases have unquestionably made things confusing for employees seeking workers’ compensation. Each state has been left to decide how it will respond to the pandemic and which sections of the population to protect. While workers in one area of the country may be able to apply for benefits no matter their position, only first responders in other states can receive benefits.

In some states, like Oregon, a lack of legislature defining the rights of workers who COVID-19 has sidelined has left many people struggling to secure the benefits they desperately need.

In addition to workers’ compensation benefits, states also vary on vaccine distribution, mask requirements, travel restrictions, and which businesses are considered essential. Without one over-riding message, it has been up to individual workers to research their state’s laws and regulations to discover if they are eligible to apply for benefits.

COVID and Workers’ Compensation Claims in Oregon and Across the Country

In Oregon, workers who have been made to quarantine due to workplace exposure to COVID-19 may be entitled to compensation for lost wages and medical expenses. That means an employee must prove that they were exposed in the workplace. Employees will not be compensated if the quarantine is a “preventative” measure.

As of yet, there are no specific orders in place in Oregon that specifically allow workers diagnosed with COVID-19 to seek workers’ compensation benefits. It may be possible for employees who contract COVID-19 at work to apply for benefits using statute ORS 656.802, which aims to protect employees from occupational diseases. However, the chances of a claim being successful may be limited.

Local and national media outlets have voiced their concerns over the lack of specific COVID-19 based workers’ compensation benefits in Oregon. Many workers point to other states, such as New Jersey, that have instituted COVID-19 specific legislation as models for how workers should be treated and compensated as the pandemic continues to take a severe toll on the physical and financial well-being of Oregon residents.

What COVID-19 Means for Workers’ Compensation Claims in Portland

Understandably, workers exposed to COVID-19 in the workplace may feel confused or frustrated about the state’s workers’ compensation response. At present, Oregon states that only workers who can prove that they have been exposed to the virus while at work and must quarantine can apply for workers’ compensation benefits.

A memo issued by the Oregon Workers’ Compensation Division reiterates that they do not have the authority or ability to change workers’ compensation requirements and must adhere to Oregon’s legal regulations.

In reality, those applying under Oregon’s guidelines find that the claims process is lengthy. Many claims are flat out denied. Why? It is primarily because Oregon wants workers to prove that they were exposed at work and not elsewhere, which can be difficult. However, it’s not impossible to build a successful claim if you have a seasoned workers’ compensation attorney working on your behalf.

Contact a Portland Workers Compensation Lawyer for Help Today

The prospect of filing a workers’ compensation claim for COVID-19 exposure can be daunting. If you have been exposed to the virus while at work, you need an experienced and aggressive legal team on your side, fighting to protect your rights and helping you seek the compensation you deserve.

Don’t try to jump through the hoops on your own. Don’t be intimidated by the complicated legal process. The workers’ compensation team at Jodie Anne Phillips Polich, P.C. can help.

Jodie Anne Phillips Polich is a former member of the Oregon Workers’ Compensation Board. She knows what it takes to advocate for sick workers who deserve benefits. For more information about how we may be able to help you file a COVID-19 workers’ compensation claim or fight a denied claim, contact our office today for a free claim review.

Jodie Anne Phillips Polich has been serving the needs of injured workers since 1993 and has developed a statewide reputation for the quality of her work.