S.9, which would extend presumptions for workers’ compensation coverage for cases of COVID-19 under certain circumstances, passed the Senate Economic Development, Housing, and General Affairs Committee earlier this week and was rushed to final passage by the full Senate today (click here for the bill as approved by the Committee). The bill will move to the House and be referred to the House Committee on Commerce and Economic Development next week.
Last year, S.342 created a rebuttable presumption, under certain conditions, that COVID-19 is a compensable workplace illness across all sectors. Although potentially applicable to all workplaces, the law defines “front-line” workers, who have the stronger presumption, while employers of non “front-line” workers have more options to avoid or overcome the presumption, particularly if they are following the workplace safety guidelines provided by ACCD and VOSHA. Click here for a related post on presumptions and defenses.
The presumption provisions are set to expire January 15. However, S.9 would extend them through 30 days after the end of the official COVID-19 state of emergency (and apply them retroactively to January 15 from whenever the bill might go into effect later this year if it is enacted).
Potential COVID-19 workers’ compensation claims and initial reports have increased notably in the last couple of months, but it remains unclear what the true impact has been on overall costs or what impact there might be going forward. There are nevertheless serious concerns with this law, but one of the key takeaways is that employers should be sure to not only follow the ACCD guidelines for safe and health operations, but to document their compliance, to help protect against unreasonable liability presumptions.
Although S.9 is being rushed through the Senate, it is hoped that the House will take more testimony and more fully consider important questions, not the least of which is what role the availability of vaccination should play in worker’s compensation coverage or presumptions, and what the true cost and potential future exposure might be. AIV will continue to engage on this issue, and employers interested in more information and options for getting involved are encouraged to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.