As some businesses begin to reopen, or to again have workers in public-facing positions, many employees are facing challenging decisions. Other workers in front-line professions, like medical staff, grocery store employees, postal employees, delivery truck drivers and emergency responders, have faced these challenges from the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. How do you balance your risk of exposure (and the possibility that you’ll pass on the virus to others) with your need to be present at work? And if you do head back to work, will you at least be covered by workers’ comp if you become ill?
Occupational diseases and COVID-19
Currently, there’s no general agreement as to whether COVID-19 cases are compensable for most types of workers. Unfortunately, this is especially true in a state like Georgia, where laws make it quite challenging to pursue a workers’ compensation claim for an illness like COVID-19.
While Georgia law allows coverage for occupational diseases, Georgia Code § 34-9-280 notes that the disease must not be an “ordinary disease of life to which the general public is exposed.” This means that despite the unique nature and potential severity of COVID-19, Georgia law still treats it like any other widespread, public illness.
It’s also challenging to prove that your case was contracted at work. Even if you’re face-to-face with customers in a salon, a grocery store or a restaurant, the 14-day window for symptoms to appear makes it hard for someone to determine when (and where) infection occurred.
Healthcare workers have a better chance of a successful workers’ compensation case, given the obvious at-work risk. Even these cases can still be difficult, however, made more so by the large numbers of infections among medical professionals.
The Families First Coronavirus Response Act
While many employees will be unable to obtain workers’ compensation related to their COVID-19 illness, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act does provide some protections for certain employees. In an effort to encourage people who are ill to stay home, eligible employers will provide paid sick time if the employee:
- Is under an isolation order
- Has been advised to self-quarantine after experiencing symptoms
- Is caring for someone who has been asked to self-quarantine
Your Atlanta Workers’ Compensation Lawyer
A workers’ compensation lawyer can help you better understand the system, guide your conversations with the insurance company and ensure you have all the documentation you need to make a strong case. The Law Offices of Laura Lanzisera can explain Georgia’s workers’ compensation system and the benefits available for your injury or disability. Contact our office today for a free consultation.