New York employers must carry workers’ compensation insurance, covering medical costs and lost wages for employees who are injured on the job or who suffer a work-related illness. Generally, workers’ compensation does not cover community-spread diseases such as the cold or the flu because there is typically insufficient evidence that the illness is work-related. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has led state authorities to create exceptions for essential workers.

When filing a  workers’ compensation claim  after testing positive for COVID-19, you must document a significantly elevated risk of infection in your workplace. This entails providing information about where you work, how often you work, your job duties, and any contact you have with the public. You also need to submit a medical report issued by an authorized workers’ compensation medical provider that states your job was the source of your infection.

According to the  New York State Workers’ Compensation Board, people who work in contact with the public, particularly in locations with documented COVID-19 exposures, are the most likely to qualify for benefits. Some essential workers are in the healthcare or emergency services field, but the term also covers jobs that were not previously considered high-risk, such as corrections officers, food servers, grocery store clerks, and transit workers.

The New York Legislature has taken action to ease the burden of proof for workers claiming benefits based on COVID-19. These two bills have been passed by both houses and as of February 2021 are awaiting the governor’s signature:

  • Senate Bill S8117A  would create a presumption that certain police, parole, probation officers, and other emergency responders who contract COVID-19 did so while performing their job duties.
  • Assembly Bill A10401  would categorize COVID-19 as an occupational disease for any worker who is placed at risk of exposure to the virus in their job.

The effect of these laws, if enacted, is that workers’ compensation claimants would no longer have the burden of proving that their job duties caused their coronavirus infections. Instead, the employer and/or the insurance provider would have to prove that the exposure was not work-related.

If you believe you have contracted COVID-19 on the job, a seasoned New York workers’ compensation attorney can help you get the benefits you deserve. Rubenstein & Rynecki in Brooklyn has over 30 years of experience fighting for injured workers. To schedule a consultation at our New York offices, please call (718) 522-1020 or  contact us online.