Workers’ Comp Protection for First Responders

Workers’ Comp Protection for First Responders

Rule Change Presumes COVID-19 Exposure on the Job

In a move to protect First Responders and Front-Line Workers, who are most susceptible to exposure to COVID-19, the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission (IWCC) adopted Emergency Rules on April 16, 2020. These Emergency Rules create a rebuttable presumption that a First Responder or Front-Line Worker, who contracts COVID-19, was exposed during employment. This presumption would entitle sickened workers to immediate medical, wage loss (TTD) and other benefits. Without this rule change, an employee who contracted COVID-19 would have to prove a connection between exposure to COVID-19 and employment, which could result in Workers’ Comp. benefits being delayed or denied.

Not only do these Emergency Rules protect traditional First Responders and Front-Line Workers, such as police, fire, ambulance, medical and hospital workers, but also protect many other types of workers deemed “essential” under Illinois Gov. Pritzker’s  Executive Order 2020-10.

“Essential workers” include those working in cannabis dispensaries, transportation, food production and sale, construction, airports, utilities, garbage collection, animal shelters, media, gas stations, banks, post offices, schools, laundromats and dry cleaners, restaurants, business supplies, shelters, lawyers, accountants, insurance, real estate, day cares, manufacturers, distribution, labor unions, hotels and motels, funeral services and more.

Many businesses are already suffering financial hardship.  Alarmed at the vast exposure of employers to Workers’ Compensation claims related to COVID-19, and the high cost of benefits for employees, the Illinois Manufacturers Assn. and Illinois Retail Merchants Assn. filed a lawsuit against the IWCC, challenging it’s legal authority to issue the Emergency Rule change.  The business groups claim that these workers should have to prove exposure to COVID-19 on the job and that only the state legislature can make these rule changes. This would, of course, require much debate and delay during the current crises.

Because we are undeniably in the midst of a world-wide emergency, a pandemic, I expect that the IWCC’s adoption of these Emergency Rules, effective for only 150 days, will stand, at least as to traditional First Responders and Front-Line Workers.  No one can deny our admiration and need to protect the lives, health and livelihood of those who risk their lives and health to protect us.  We, at Martucci Law, who represent employees in workers’ comp claims before the IWCC, support the Emergency Rules and offer our sincere gratitude, prayers and THANK YOU to our first responders and health care workers.

During the current Stay-at-Home or Shelter-in-Place Order, we are available to answer legal questions via telephone.  Should you have a question about a workers’ compensation issue or another matter within our scope of services, please contact us to schedule a phone consultation at 630-980-8333.