On June 5, 2020 the state of Illinois became one of sixteen States* to implement legislation to include workers’ compensation coverage for COVID-19. HB2455 creates a rebuttable presumption of workers’ compensation benefits for essential workers who were exposed to and contracted COVID-19 from March 9, 2020 to December 31, 2020.
Most of the states that have enacted legislation similar to HB2455 have limited this unique presumption to healthcare workers and/or law enforcement. Illinois has taken this presumption one step further and extended it to include any individual employed by essential businesses and operations as defined in Executive Order 2020-10, as long as such individual is required to encounter members of the public or work in a location with 15 or more employees.
Executive Order 2020-10 broadly defines essential businesses as healthcare and public operations, human services operations, essential governmental functions, essential infrastructure, and:
- Stores that sell groceries and medicine,
- Food, beverage, and cannabis production and agriculture,
- Charitable and social service organizations,
- Gas Stations,
- Financial Institutions,
- Hardware and supply stores,
- Critical trades (i.e. building and construction tradesmen and tradeswomen),
- Shipping services,
- Educational institutions,
- Laundry services,
- Restaurants for consumption off-premises,
- Stores that provide supplies necessary to work from home or support other essential businesses,
- Transportation services,
- Home-based care and services,
- Residential facilities and shelters,
- Professional services (i.e. legal, accounting, insurance, real estate),
- Daycare for employees of essential businesses,
- Manufacture, distribution, and supply chain for critical products and industries,
- Critical labor union functions,
- Hotels and motels, and
- Funeral services.
Certain evidence must be provided in order for the presumption that individuals contracted COVID-19 as a hazard of their working environment to apply. If the individual was infected on or before June 15, 2020, they must provide a confirmed medical diagnosis by a licensed medical practitioner or a positive laboratory test for COVID-19 antibodies. If the individual was infected after June 15, 2020, they must provide only a positive laboratory test for COVID-19 or its antibodies – no certification from a medical practitioner is necessary.
The presumption of workers’ compensation coverage can be rebutted if the employer produces any of the following evidence: the employee was working from home or on leave for a period of 14 days prior to displaying COVID-19 symptoms; the employer was following current public health guidelines for two weeks prior to when the employee claimed to have contracted COVID-19; or the employee was exposed to COVID-19 by an alternate source.
While this expanded presumption of coverage may impact many employers throughout Illinois, the legislature included a provision that prohibits a COVID-19 case from modifying or affecting an employer’s workers’ compensation insurance experience rating.
The St. Louis employment attorneys at McMahon Berger have been representing employers across the country in labor and employment matters for over sixty years and are available to discuss these issues and others. As always, the foregoing is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice regarding any particular situation as every situation must be evaluated on its own facts. The choice of a lawyer is an important decision and should not be based solely on advertisements.
*The other states that enacted similar legislation are; Alaska, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Utah, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.