Workers’ Comp and COVID-19: What You Need to Know

Many employees are concerned about being exposed to COVID-19 or contracting the virus while performing their job. 

Although employers should be following the Centers for Disease Control Guidelines and OSHA Guidelines as best practices to keep employees safe, there is still a risk of infection if employees are working together and/or are coming into contact with customers. 

What If I Am Exposed To or Infected By COVID-19 at Work?

Employees must report injuries to their employers, so if you think your illness is work-related, make sure to provide notice to your boss.

Alabama Workers Compensation Law: Alabama Code § 25-5-1

What It Says:

This Alabama law is all about medical and wage benefits for people who are injured or become ill at work.

What Benefits Can You Get From Workers Comp?

Workers’ compensation laws provide three main benefits to persons injured at work: 

  • Money for time off work due to injury
  • Payment for medical treatment necessary to treat a workplace injury
  • Compensation for permanent injury or death

Who Can Get Workers Compensation in Alabama?

To receive benefits, workers must prove that injuries or illnesses “arose out of and in the course of” his or her employment

Any claim concerning exposure to coronavirus would present a new type of injury, but in general, Alabama’s workers’ compensation laws do not cover illness from a “disease.” 

Workers’ compensation laws do provide compensation for occupational diseases or diseases that are due to hazards above those ordinarily present and are peculiar to the worker’s occupation.   The specific facts and circumstances of each case would have to be considered to determine if a COVID-19 infection meets this standard, but it may be challenging to prove in many cases.

If a worker is exposed to COVID-19, it is unlikely he or she will receive workers’ compensation benefits in Alabama because the mere possibility of an injury or occupational disease does not require the payment of benefits.

What is Required of Alabama Employers if You Contract COVID-19?

Even if you do not qualify for workers’ compensation claim benefits, your employer is likely obligated to pay two weeks of extended paid leave at your regular rate of pay under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act if you are exposed and must be quarantined or if you contract COVID-19. You do not have to prove that the exposure occurred on the job to receive pay under this Act.   

To receive benefits, workers must prove that injuries or illnesses “arose out of and in the course of” his or her employment.

What Safety Measures Should be in Place At My Workplace?

Currently, the CDC has recommended cloth masks be used in public settings. But employers outside healthcare have not been required by the CDC to mandate the use of masks in the workplace. Voluntary use of masks in the workplace is allowed and should be encouraged.

In addition to protective equipment, employers should implement safety procedures to reduce the risk of exposure. These may include:

  • Reducing or eliminating close contact of employees
  • Limiting contact between employees and customers
  • Proper and frequent sanitation of work areas

Have more questions about Workmans’ Compensation or Coronavirus? Please don’t hesitate to reach out through our website contact form, by calling our office, or through direct message on our Facebook page.