Ohio State Workers’ Compensation law currently covers 22 occupational diseases. The scheduled occupational diseases range from anthrax and lead poisoning to conditions related to industrial processes involving the use of radioactive substances in luminous paint. Now, two bills have been introduced that would make COVID-19 an occupational disease under state workers’ comp law, under certain circumstances. In addition, Graham & Graham has learned that the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) is already compensating some COVID-19 workers’ comp claims.
Did you contract COVID-19 on the job? Do you have questions about filing or appealing a BWC claim for coronavirus? Graham & Graham can help.
Ohio BWC Administrator: Coronavirus Workplace Claims are Compensable
Last month, Governor Mike DeWine ordered nonessential businesses to close to help slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19. However, the list of businesses allowed to operate is extensive. Despite health guidelines, such as designated six-foot distances between people, many workers are concerned about contracting the disease. Some workers have already filed claims with the BWC, saying their employers didn’t do enough to protect them from COVID-19.
BWC Administrator Stephanie McCloud told Fox 8 in March that, “If you work in a job that poses a special hazard or risk, and you can track that to COVID-19, we encourage you to go ahead and file that claim.”
Most Claims Filed by First Responders, Healthcare Workers
As of March 26, McCloud said the BWC had received 18 claims related to COVID-19. On April 20, Graham & Graham learned through email correspondence with the Ohio Association of Justice (OAJ) that there are currently 149 COVID-19 BWC claims filed. Five have been allowed, 21 were dismissed, 118 are pending, 4 were otherwise resolved, and 1 was denied. Of the 149 claims, 114 are healthcare workers, including police, firefighters, and EMTs, 24 are non-healthcare workers, and 11 are unknown.
BWC to Allow E-Signatures
According to the BWC, workers are at greater risk than the general public of contracting coronavirus during the current circumstances. The BWC is not requiring a positive COVID-19 test; a diagnosis from a physician is sufficient to confirm infection. And a negative test would not necessarily bar someone’s claim. Finally, the BWC is developing a policy that will allow people who are injured or become ill at work to utilize e-signatures for all forms and documents.
Bills Would Make COVID-19 an Occupational Disease in Ohio
Ohio House Democrats have introduced two bills that would officially make COVID-19 an occupational disease that qualifies for Ohio workers’ compensation. Both bills await referral to a committee.
- House Bill 571 would revise Ohio workers’ compensation law to make COVID-19 contracted by a peace officer, firefighter, or emergency medical worker an occupational disease during the emergency declared by Governor DeWine on March 9, including the fourteen-day period after that emergency ends.
- House Bill 573 proposes the same changes as House Bill 571, except that it applies to any employee “who was required to work by the employee’s employer outside of the employee’s home.”
Importantly, both bills make COVID-19 contracted by workers “a presumption, which may be refuted by affirmative evidence.” This means that the coronavirus is presumed to be work-related. The burden of evidence is on the employer to show that an employee’s coronavirus was not contracted “in the course of and arising out of” their employment.
Claims Journal reports that admission to an intensive care unit, or ICU, for COVID-19 disease complications can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars for immediate care. Workers could be awarded permanent disability benefits if they develop ongoing complications from coronavirus, such as acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS).
Graham & Graham is Here to Help Ohio Workers
Graham & Graham’s workers’ compensation lawyers will continue to update you on COVID-19 related changes to Ohio laws. As an essential business, we remain open and ready to serve our clients in workers’ comp and other claims. If you contracted the coronavirus and believe it occurred on the job, we can explain your legal rights and assist you in filing your claim. Claim already denied? We can also file your appeal before the Industrial Commission of Ohio and attend the appeal hearing for you.
Call 1-800-621-8585 or Contact Us for a free case consultation