If you have been working at an Amazon warehouse, a meat-packing plant or another communal warehouse, you are at risk for COVID-19. This is because social distancing is virtually impossible. This could mean your COVID-19 infection is work-related. If it is, it may be covered by workers’ compensation.
Even if your boss gave you a mask and gloves, you could still be at risk for COVID-19. If anyone at the plant gets sick, you could be exposed. Worse, some people can transmit the disease when they have no symptoms.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued recommendations for critical businesses like food warehouses. If you have been exposed to the disease but show no symptoms, you can still work. However, the CDC recommends:
- Every employee should be pre-screened for active illness before they enter the facility
- Employees who think they have been exposed should self-monitor for symptoms
- Employees should wear masks for 14 days after the last exposure
- Work spaces, bathrooms and common areas should be cleaned and disinfected
- Employees should practice social distancing — standing at least 6 feet apart — as their duties permit
Unfortunately, those recommendations may not be enough. People are still getting sick.
When is COVID-19 covered by workers’ compensation?
It depends in large part on whether there is evidence that the COVID-19 exposure happened at work.
In general, workers’ comp does not cover routine illnesses from communicable diseases, even when they are passed from person to person at work. On the other hand, some diseases are caused by exposure to toxins at work. When they are, they are generally covered by workers’ comp. Will COVID-19 be covered?
There is a good chance it will be. The state of Florida has specifically said that workers’ comp will cover COVID-19 among first responders, corrections officers, state-employed healthcare workers and others. Moreover, the state issued a policy memorandum explaining that occupational diseases are already covered by Florida law.
What that means for you is that you should apply for workers’ comp if you got COVID-19 at work. However, you may face some barriers to your claim. You may have to specifically show that, more likely than not, you got COVID-19 from your workplace.
This could be shown, for example, with evidence that there was already an outbreak at your workplace when you got COVID-19. Or, you should show that another type of exposure is less likely than a workplace exposure.
An experienced workers’ compensation attorney may be able to help you prove you got COVID-19 at work. If you did and you can demonstrate that, you should receive workers’ comp.