COVID-19 Resource Center

March 09, 2020

CORONAVIRUS - Is it Work Related and are Employers Potentially Liable for Workers' Compensation Benefits?

The short answer, maybe.  Each state has specific rules and regulations defining what is covered as an accidental injury and/or occupational disease under their workers’ compensation statutes.  However, there are some general questions all employers can use to evaluate their potential liability for providing workers’ compensation benefits to those employees who are diagnosed with the Coronavirus:

1.     Was the employee specifically exposed to the Coronavirus at work?

  • How were they exposed?
  • When were they exposed?
  • What about their employment caused exposure?

2.     Did the employee’s employment increase the risk of exposure to the Coronavirus?

  • Was the employee required to travel to a country or state identified by the CDC guidelines as a location with high exposure to the Coronavirus?
  • Is the employee a healthcare professional or does the employment significantly increase the risk of exposure?

3.     Does the employee engage in activities outside of the employment that increases the risk of exposure to such illnesses as the Coronavirus?  This is a potential defense to a claim for workers’ compensation benefits.

4.     Did the employment aggravate a pre-existing illness or increase an employee’s susceptibility to the Coronavirus?  Also a potential defense in those jurisdictions that recognize idiopathic defenses, i.e., the employee’s illness or injury was expressly caused by something peculiar to the employee and not by the employment.

Depending on the factual circumstance and the class of employee, there may potentially be coverage under certain Workers’ Compensation statutes.  Each claim will need to be evaluated by the specific facts of the situation and individual state-specific requirements for entitlement to workers’ compensation benefits, including all potential defenses to such claims. 

Cipriani & Werner, P.C. is prepared to assist you through this period.  Our Employment Practice Group is ready to answer questions, navigate employment concerns, identify your category of risk and develop a specific strategy for address.  We emphasize a calm and considered approach. This is a time and opportunity for employers to take the lead in the development of a safe and productive workplace.  Additional articles pertaining to considerations for leave, basic precautions, flexible schedules and work from home opportunities are being developed and will be disbursed in the next few days.