Workers’s Comp Law Now Favors Health Care Workers and First Responders Who Contract COVID-19

The Minnesota Workers’ Compensation Statute has been amended to include a presumption of liability for certain workers with positive COVID-19 laboratory tests or clinical diagnosis of COVID-19 when a test is unavailable.

On April 7, 2020, Governor Walz signed into law an amendment to the section of the Minnesota Workers Compensation Act that defines “occupational diseases.” Although the actual definition of an occupational disease has not changed, the amendment adds a provision that creates a rebuttable presumption that certain workers who contract COVID-19 have an occupational disease that is covered by the Act unless the employer and insurer can show that the worker’s employment was not a direct cause of the disease.

Covered Occupations

The list of occupations covered by the COVID-19 presumption includes:

• firefighter;

• paramedic;

• nurse or healthcare worker;

• correctional officer, or security counselor employed by the state or a political subdivision at a corrections, detention, or secure treatment facility;

• emergency medical technician;

• a healthcare provider, nurse, or assistive employee employed in a health care, home care, or long-term care setting, with direct COVID-19 patient care or ancillary work in COVID-19 patient care or ancillary work in COVID-19 patient units; and

• workers required to provide child care to first responders and health care workers under Executive Order 20-02 and Executive Order 20-19.

Those on this list can show they contracted COVID-19 by a positive laboratory test, or if a test is not available, by a diagnosis and documentation from a licensed physician, physician’s assistant, or advanced practice registered nurse. The date of injury for the presumptive COVID-19 injury is either the date the employee was unable to work due to the diagnosis, or due to symptoms that were later diagnosed as COVID-19, whichever occurred first.

While this presumption only applies to the categories of workers listed above, any employee who has contracted COVID-19 still has the right to file a claim under the existing occupational disease and personal injury provisions of the Minnesota Workers’ Compensation Act.

This new legislation is effective for employees who contract COVID-19 on or after April 8, 2020 with a sunset provision for the new law of May 1, 2021.

Bottom Line

This seems like an appropriate way to help ease the stress a bit for those who are on the front lines of the battle against COVID-19