COVID-19 and Illinois Workers’ Compensation: Do I have a Claim?

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COVID 19 Rebuttable Presumption

IL Workers’ Comp Claims and the Coronavirus

With the flurry of information surrounding the COVID-19 virus, it is difficult for many essential workers to determine what their rights are, and more specifically, whether they have a workers’ compensation claim.  This article seeks to explain how the rules in Illinois have changed over the preceding three months and examine the current state of the law.

COVID 19 Rebuttable Presumption Infographic

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Workers’ Compensation Rules Amendment: The Rebuttable Presumption

  The Illinois Worker’s Compensation Commission is the government agency tasked with administering workers’ compensation claims and arbitrations. It also has the authority to establish and change certain workers’ compensation rules.  On April 16, 2020, an emergency amendment to the Illinois Workers’ Compensation rules was issued. This emergency amendment created a rebuttable presumption that essential workers who contracted the virus were exposed to it at work, and therefore had a workers’ compensation claim for treatment and time off work related to the illness.  

A rebuttable presumption is one that can be “overturned only if the evidence contradicting it is true and if a reasonable person … could logically conclude from the evidence that the presumption is no longer valid.”  For example, if an essential worker became ill with the virus, there would immediately be a presumption that she was infected at work. And was infected in the course and scope of her employment – establishing the foundation for a workers’ compensation claim.  In this example, the employer could then rebut this presumption by demonstrating that a spouse of the employee was also an essential worker and was positive for the virus while none of their other employees tested positive.  However, this rebuttable presumption was short lived and ultimately overturned by Illinois courts. 

Worker’s Comp Emergency Amendment Struck Down

Unsurprisingly, there was substantial push back from employers regarding the emergency amendment that created the rebuttable presumption.  Just weeks after it was initially passed, it was struck down.

The Illinois Manufacturers’ Association and the Illinois Retail Merchants Association filed suit in Sangamon County to block the emergency amendment.  The Sangamon County Court found that in passing the emergency rule, which created the rebuttable presumption that essential workers who became sick with COVID-19 contracted it in the course of their employment, the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission exceeded its rulemaking authority under the Illinois Administrative Procedure Act and the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act.  Id.  The Court held that the Commission could not create substantive rights, only procedural rules – only the Illinois legislature could establish such a substantive right.  Id.  

With the loss of the rebuttable presumption, essential workers were essentially required to prove that they tested positive for the virus and that they more likely than not contracted the virus at work.  Usually, this means that the employee would need a positive viral test and have a coworker who they interacted with who also tested positive.  Employees would likely also need to show that they were not exposed to the virus at home – meaning that other family members had tested negative or had not exhibited symptoms prior to the petitioner’s positive test.

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Presumption Restored to Protect First Responders and Front-Line Workers

Following the Sangamon County ruling, the Illinois legislature stepped in to fill the gap that the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission could not.  On June 5, 2020, Governor Pritzker signed into law HB 2455 which creates a rebuttable presumption of workers’ compensation coverage for first responders and front-line workers.  The law, HB 2455, applies to all employees who are first responders or front-line workers and includes healthcare workers, law enforcement officials, as well as those employed by essential businesses and operations as defined in Executive Order 2020-10.  Id.  Executive order 2020-10 extends to, among others, those employed by grocery stores, pharmacies, convenience stores, restaurants, and manufacturers.  Id.

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Am I Eligible for Workers’ Comp If I Test Positive for COVID?

If you think you may have contracted the Coronavirus at work, remember:

  • In Illinois, the rebuttable assumption assumes essential workers who contracted the virus were exposed to it at work
  • This means essential workers have a workers’ compensation claim for treatment and time off work related to the illness
  • This legislation applies to a vast majority of essential workers 

While the rebuttable presumption established by the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission could not past legal muster, the Illinois State Legislature was able to pass HB 2455 which reestablished the rebuttable presumption that essential workers’ who contract the COVID-19 virus are eligible for workers’ compensation benefits.  The new legislation extends to the vast majority of essential workers who have been working throughout the pandemic.

If you or your loved one is an essential worker who contracted the virus, make sure to call The Kryder Law Group, LLC. for your free legal consultation. We’ll help determine if the Illinois rebuttable assumption for essential workers who contract the Coronavirus applies to you and if you have a case.

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