What COVID-Related Changes Are Coming To Illinois Workers' Compensation Laws?


Workers' compensation is designed to defray expenses and supplement lost income of someone who has been injured at work. But until recently, essential employees continuing to work during the COVID-19 pandemic could find it difficult to apply for and receive workers' compensation benefits for becoming ill at work. The Illinois legislature seeks to change this, recently approving a measure designed to significantly increase access to these benefits. Learn more about the changes slated to come to workers' compensation laws in Illinois.

What Does This New Legislation Cover?

Illinois's second attempt at this workers' compensation law is intended to expand access to benefits for workers who become infected with COVID-19 through their employment. Only employees who are considered "essential" under the governor's stay-at-home order and who contracted COVID-19 through their work will be eligible for workers' compensation on this basis. More specifically, eligible employees include those whose jobs require regular public contact or who work in a location with more than 15 other people physically present. Moreover, with the expansion of COVID-19 testing, anyone who is claiming illness after June 15 must show a positive COVID-19 test to qualify.

Employers may defend against workers' compensation liability by arguing that the employee contracted the virus outside work or that the employer was following all applicable state and federal public health mandates. If an employer opts to contest the workers' compensation claim, they'll be required to present evidence indicating the employee violated public health mandates (such as, for example, attending a gathering of more than 10 people), evidence that the employee worked from home for at least 14 days before contracting COVID-19, or evidence confirming their compliance with recommended disinfection schedules, social distancing, and expanded sick leave guidelines. 

The enacted legislation is the second attempt at coverage for COVID-19 victims. The first version of this bill, which had significantly more expanded benefits, fizzled after vigorous opposition from several industry groups. The current bill, which drew only two "nay" votes in the House, represents a bipartisan compromise reached after lengthy discussions among stakeholders.

What Does This Mean for Workers' Compensation Claimants?

Police, firefighters, and first responders who fall ill with COVID-19 now enjoy a rebuttable presumption that their illness was contracted on the job. Other essential employees may also be eligible for benefits so long as they're prepared with evidence to rebut any allegations that they contracted COVID-19 through another source. Although some employers may allow these COVID-19-related claims to go through, others are likely to contest these claims, and being prepared to augment the rebuttable presumption with additional evidence can improve your odds of a successful claim.

For information about how COVID-19 has changed or hasn't changed in your home state, contact a workers' compensation attorney in your area. 


26 May 2020

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