New Illinois Law Protects Essential Workers Diagnosed With COVID-19
Illinois has always been one of the States on the forefront of workers’ rights, and a recent policy change from the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission, announced by Governor J.B. Pritzker on April 13, 2020, maintains Illinois’ standing. Typically, for a worker to succeed in a Workers’ Compensation claim, the worker must prove that the injury or illness was incurred while on the job. Illinois workers are not entitled to compensation under the Workers’ Compensation Act for injuries that do not occur while on duty.
COVID-19 Workers' Compensation Claims More Straightforward
However, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, essential workers in Illinois that are diagnosed with COVID-19 while continuing to show up for work will be presumed to have sustained this illness from their job, as opposed to through a family member, friend, or the general public. The benefit of this ruling to workers means that claims stemming from infections of COVID-19 in the workplace will no longer require the worker to prove that their infection more probably than not was incurred while actually on the clock, making such a claim much more straightforward.
This new policy, which in the initial ruling will last 150 days, ensures that those on the frontlines of the fight with this novel virus will be covered for lost wages and medical bills sustained as a result of COVID-19 through the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission. The ruling applies to police officers, fire fighters, corrections officers, grocery store workers, postal workers, health care workers and food producers, as well as some other essential workers to start.
Benefits For Those Infected with COVID-19
The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission will continue to monitor the ongoing and fluid situation, and may amend the ruling to include a wider array of essential workers or the length of time the temporary ruling will remain in effect. In the event that an essential worker covered under this ruling within the next 150 days is diagnosed with COVID-19, they may be entitled to certain benefits such as two-thirds of their salary, their medical expenses, and disability benefits among other potential rights to compensation.
The ruling is significant for those unable to work from home during Governor Pritzker’s Shelter In Place Order. Those providing important and essential services to all Illinoisans deserve peace of mind in knowing there is an avenue for aid if they do contract the disease. Not all agree with the ruling, however, as lobbyist groups on behalf of the employer’s for those essential workers are concerned. Several such lobbyists released statements in response to the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission's ruling, warning of the significant economic damage employers could sustain in light of this unprecedented ruling.
What To Do If Infected by COVID-19
What does this mean for Illinois’ essential workers? Of course, continuing to abide by all Federal, State, and Center for Disease Control guidelines in protecting oneself from contracting this virus is advisable. If you begin feeling any symptoms of COVID-19 including a fever, cough, shortness of breath or trouble breathing, persistent pain or pressure in your chest, confusion or not able to be woken, and bluish lips or face, contact your primary care physician immediately and seek medical attention. Inform any medical professionals you see that you have been working, so they can better assist in your diagnosis and treatment.