As the unemployment rate skyrockets with businesses laying off and temporarily furloughing their employees, those who are forced to stay at home are looking forward to returning to the workforce. Conversely, essential employees that include medical professionals, cleaning staff, store employees, and truck drivers haven’t missed a day of work in the midst of a pandemic.
Employers understand that their employees plying their respective trades usually lack the benefit of social distancing. Many employees work in crowded environments where every foot, let alone six feet or more, is at a premium.
An Uphill Battle for Workers
Filing for workers’ compensation for contracting COVID-19 presents challenges, specifically due to the unprecedented nature of the pandemic-fueled virus and the environment it has created. An employee proving the illness to be job-related could be an obstacle too large to overcome.
Securing workers’ compensation for any type of injury or illness is already challenging. When it comes to the coronavirus, employers and their workers’ comp insurance providers do not want to set what could be an expensive precedent. In fact, the more COVID claims filed, the more likely it may be that insurers will hold their ground and deny them.
Rejections would leave workers hospitalized and then forced to quarantine in their homes, leaving them unable to work for significant amounts of time. Not only is that financially catastrophic for workers, but employers will lose yet another employee during a time of limited staffing, which could be equally impactful to their operations.
Workers’ compensation claims in Pennsylvania tend to favor workers over employers. One example includes coal workers successfully filing for compensation due to dust particle exposure. Claims involving those types of illnesses are often approved.
Gov. Tom Wolf has hinted that he would waive the waiting period and job search mandates that put limits on workers throughout the state. Where that shifts the balance between employer and employee in compensation claims remains to be seen.