As the country scrambles to stop the spread of COVID-19, the federal government, states, and most Americans are simultaneously looking for ways to lessen the economic blow faced by businesses and countless newly unemployed workers. To help its citizens, Pennsylvania offers a regularly updated website to help workers navigate through their options, and while the Commonwealth does reiterate the need to use paid sick leave whenever available, it also attempts to keep residents and workers informed of other options.
According to Pennsylvania Secretary of Labor and Industry Jerry Oleksiak, “If leave is not available and your job has been impacted by this new virus, you may be eligible for benefits either through unemployment or workers’ compensation.”
Specifically, workers may be eligible for Pennsylvania workers’ compensation if they have been exposed to COVID-19 in the workplace. Generally, they can proceed by:
- Notifying their employer to file a typical “disease-as-injury” workers’ comp claim. This requires that workers provide medical evidence that they were exposed to COVID-19 in the workplace; or,
- Notifying an employer to file a workers’ comp claim for an “occupational disease.” This requires that workers show that COVID-19 is occurring more in their occupation/industry than in the general population.
Keep in mind that workers’ compensation claims are thoroughly scrutinized, and award decisions are made based on the facts and merits of each claim and the law. Further, deadlines to make a claim for workers’ compensation benefits may be pressing. For these reasons, injured workers may wish to consult a workplace injury lawyer for assistance.
The Commonwealth, while relaxing some requirements to obtain unemployment benefits, has yet to extend some level of relaxation to workers’ compensation claims. Some argue that easing workers comp requirements would allow sick workers to stay home until they are better or outside of the 14-day recommended quarantine while receiving full benefits. A proposed bill working its way to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives would list the 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19) as a presumed occupational disease for workers in life sustaining businesses and occupations; thereby making it a little easier for our first responders to obtain workers’ compensation benefits.
Please contact us by phone, through our website, or via live chat services if we can assist you at this difficult time.