Governor Ned Lamont recently issued Executive Order JJJ stating that employees who contracted COVID-19 in the early days of the pandemic can be presumed to have contracted it at work and are therefore eligible for workers’ compensation benefits.
According to the executive order (paraphrased here): Notwithstanding Section 31-275(15) of the Connecticut General Statutes, there shall be a rebuttable presumption that an employee who initiates a claim for payment of benefits under the provisions of Chapter 568 of the Connecticut General Statutes, and who missed a day or more of work between March 10, 2020, and May 20, 2020, inclusive, due to a diagnosis of COVID-19, or due to symptoms that were diagnosed as COVID-19, contracted COVID-19 as an occupational disease arising out of and in the course of employment, provided: Said employee must have worked at the direction of the employer outside the home during at least one of the fourteen days immediately preceding the date of illness, and had not received an offer or directive from the employer to work from home instead of from his or her place of employment;
- If the date of injury was more than fourteen days after March 23, 2020, and the employee was employed by an employer deemed essential by the Department of Economic and Community Development pursuant to Executive Order 7H.
- The contraction of COVID-19 was confirmed by a positive laboratory diagnostic test within three weeks of the date of injury, or diagnosed and documented within three weeks of the date of injury by a licensed physician, licensed physician’s assistant, or licensed advanced practice registered nurse, based on the employee’s symptoms; and
- A copy of the positive laboratory diagnostic test results or the written diagnosis required by this Executive Order was provided to the employer or insurer.
An employer may only challenge such a claim if it can prove to the Workers’ Compensation Commissioner that the employment of the individual was not the cause of his or her contracting COVID-19.
Important caveat… Any employee who contracted COVID-19 during the time period above can still make a claim under the Workers’ Compensation Act even if it is uncertain the virus was contracted at work.
The Governor’s Executive Order also stipulates that any wage replacement benefits paid under the Workers’ Compensation Act in these cases will be reduced in a manner equal to the amount of any sick leave available to the employee in question.
Important for employers…
Employers need to be careful not to interfere with the filing of these COVID claims. The Governor’s Order allows employees to take civil action in superior court if an employer deliberately misinforms or otherwise intentionally discourages an employer from filing a claim for workers’ compensation benefits.
This Executive Order will be in force for six months, or until January 24, 2021, unless terminated earlier.
If you’re an employer and have questions about labor and employment law, consider calling on the attorneys at Kainen, Escalera & McHale in Connecticut. We do one thing and one thing only – we are exclusively an employer defense law firm – in fact, we are one of the largest employer defense law firms in the region. What’s more, each of our attorneys has over 25 years of experience in employment and labor law matters and can provide your business with comprehensive legal counsel ranging from assistance with necessary preventive measures to trial advocacy. Please call us if we can help you.
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