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Workers’ compensation and the coronavirus

| Mar 6, 2020 | Workers' Compensation |

Millions of New Yorkers leave the comfort of their homes every single day to head off to work. Many of them have jobs where they are exposed to large groups of people, such as those who work in education or retail, while others have careers in health care where they are frequently exposed to people who are ill. Right now, a big concern for all of these individuals is the coronavirus. Several cases have been reported in the state so far, and more are expected. Will those who catch the virus while on the job be able to collect workers’ compensation benefits?

The coronavirus is making headlines daily. So many people are worried about it. It is a scary thing, so their fears are understandable. Unfortunately, there is so much still unknown about it. Right now, the biggest concern is figuring out how to protect the general population, particularly those who have jobs that put them at higher risk of contracting the illness.

According to a recent report, several groups may call on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to release an emergency infectious disease plan to help protect Americans who may be exposed to the virus while on the job. So far, several federal agencies have issued some guidance on how to prepare for and deal with COVID-19. Still, the information provided is lacking, leaving employers and employees with a lot of questions. For those companies which require employees to be present, they are being told to encourage those who are ill to stay home, but not all employees have paid time off or sick leave to be able to afford to do that.

In the state of New York, occupational diseases are covered under workers’ compensation. Does COVID-19 count as an occupational disease? Technically, no, as it is something people can just as easily be exposed to outside of work as at work. However, a case for compensation may be made if employers or the government do not do enough to protect employees. Those who suffer losses from this virus can certainly turn to legal counsel for a case review and, if appropriate, assistance seeking relief.

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