News

COVID-19 and Workers’ Compensation FAQs

December 22, 2020

Illustration of various county workers wearing masks against a dark pink background with virus cells swirling aroundMembers have a number of questions about how workers’ compensation responds to various COVID-19 related circumstances with employees, along with questions about other leave benefits employees may have related to COVID-19. Below are answers to the most frequently asked questions related to COVID-19 and workers’ compensation, as well as links to decision trees for COVID-related employee circumstances.

Frequently Asked Questions About COVID-19 and Workers’ Compensation

Background: Minnesota law provides workers’ compensation coverage for personal injuries and occupational diseases that arise out of and in the course and scope of employment. Occupational disease generally excludes ordinary diseases of life to which the general public is equally exposed. COVID-19 is a disease to which the general public is equally exposed.

Click on the question below to show the answer.

When is COVID-19 work related?

COVID-19 arises out of employment only if there is a direct causal connection between the work or the conditions under which the work is performed and the disease.

The Minnesota Legislature amended workers’ compensation law to allow for “the direct causal connection to employment” to be presumed in certain circumstances.1

If there is an employee covered by the presumption, it is important that the first report of injury be filed as soon as possible with MCIT to avoid double payments to an employee. If an employee is paid under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act and it turns out to be a workers’ compensation claim, the employee will also be paid for workers’ compensation benefits.

1Employees that are covered by the presumption: a licensed peace officer under section 626.84, subdivision 1; firefighter; paramedic; nurse or health care worker, correctional officer, or security counselor employed by the state or a political subdivision at a corrections, detention, or secure treatment facility; emergency medical technician; a health care provider, nurse, or assistive employee employed in a health care, home care, or long-term care setting, with direct COVID-19 patient care or ancillary work in COVID-19 patient units; and workers required to provide child care to first responders and health care workers under Executive Order 20-02 and Executive Order 20-19.

If I have an employee who does not qualify for the COVID-19 presumption but tests positive, do I have to file a First Report of injury?

The presumption is a legal concept that provides for an evidentiary connection, but it does not replace the requirement that the occupational disease arise out of the course and scope of employment.

Employees who are not covered by the presumption may still be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits if they can prove a direct causal link to their job. This means generally that there is no other source of the infection/exposure. COVID-19 is extremely widespread at this time, so it would be difficult to prove the exposure occurred at work without the presumption.

Regardless of causation, when an employee requests a First Report of Injury to be filed, the employer must file it on behalf of the employee. MCIT will conduct an investigation.

I have an employee who was exposed to someone with COVID-19 but is not exhibiting symptoms and is not seeking treatment or testing. Do I have to file a first report of injury?

No. The employer is required to submit a first report of injury for a known occupational injury or disease. Speculating that the employee’s risk of contracting the disease is higher, does not rise to the level of personal injury as defined in Minnesota’s Worker’s Compensation Law under Chapter 176.

What do the federal emergency paid sick leave legislation and expanded benefits under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provide?

  • The federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act requires certain employers to provide employees with paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave for specified reasons related to COVID-19. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division administers and enforces the new law’s paid leave requirements.
  • For more information about this law, visit www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/pandemic/ffcraemployee-paid-leave or call the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division at 612.370.3341.

When the employee is off of work due to COVID-19 but has not experienced any wage loss because of being eligible for the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, do I need to file a first report of injury?

Yes, if the exposure or the disease arose out of and in the course and scope of employment. The workers compensation law and its application should be considered separate from the benefits granted by the federal law. The trigger for workers’ compensation coverage is that the occupational disease arose out of and in the course and scope of the employment. The FFCRA is designed to assist certain employees with the economic hardship of losing their wages because they need to be absent from their job due to some aspect of COVID-19.

These are separate laws.

If the claim arises out of employment and is directly connected, a first report of injury should be filed to commence the workers’ compensation process.

Sometimes an employer will compensate employees with the FFCRA dollars before it is determined that the COVID exposure is work related. In this case, the employee may be double paid, and the employer will have to determine how to recoup the wage benefits. MCIT cannot reimburse the employer when the employee is paid by both the employer and workers’ compensation.

If an employee is exposed to COVID-19 at home while in quarantine because his or her employer required the quarantine due to possible work exposure, should the employer file a first report of injury?

No. An employee who contracts COVID outside of employment, even when a presumption might otherwise apply, is not entitled to workers’ compensation. As a result, the employer should not file a first report of injury. In this circumstance, the employee may be eligible for benefits pursuant to the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act.

In any circumstance, when an employee requests a first report of injury be filed, the employer should report the incident to MCIT.

If an employer requires all employees to quarantine due to a possible COVID outbreak in a department, does worker’s compensation pay for the time in quarantine?

To receive workers’ compensation benefits, the employee must have a positive test or diagnosis from a physician, be covered by the presumption, or be able to prove a direct causal relationship between the virus and his or her work.

If the employee’s COVID-related claim is denied, do I still have to report the injury to OSHA?

Under OSHA’s recordkeeping requirements, COVID-19 is a recordable illness when:

  1. The case is a confirmed case of COVID-19, as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC);
  2. The case is work-related as defined by 29 CFR § 1904.5; and
  3. The case involves one or more of the general recording criteria set forth in 29 CFR § 1904.7:
    • death
    • days away from work
    • restricted work or transfer to another job
    • medical treatment beyond first aid
    • loss of consciousness

An employer must also consider a case to meet the general recording criteria if it involves a significant injury or illness diagnosed by a physician or other licensed health care professional, even if it does not result in death, days away from work, restricted work or job transfer, medical treatment beyond first aid, or loss of consciousness.

Should an employer or employee contact the Workplace Injury Hotline to report a COVID-19 claim?

The purpose of the Workplace Injury Hotline is to provide medical advice. The hotline should not be used when an employee has tested positive or has been diagnosed with COVID-19. When appropriate, the employer should submit a claim through the MCIT member portal.

When an employee has called the hotline seeking medical advice regarding a possible exposure to the virus and the hotline nurse recommends that the employee be tested, a report of the call is sent to MCIT where a first report of injury is automatically generated on behalf of the employer.

MCIT does not require that all exposures to COVID-19 or positive test results be submitted to MCIT.  COVID-related claims should be submitted to MCIT when the employee may be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits because of the presumption in Minnesota Statutes, Section 176.011, Subdivision 15(f).

If an employee with a positive COVID test believes there is a direct causal connection to his or her employment, a first report of injury should be filed. When an employee requests a first report of injury be filed, the employer must file it on behalf of the employee.

Decision Trees for COVID-19 Related Situations with Employees

The following graphics can help members determine if workers’ compensation or the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act leave applies, or if Occupational Safety and Health Administration reporting is required for COVID-19 related circumstances with employees.

Thumbnail image of workers' compensation and COVID-19 decision tree

Download Workers’ Compensation Triggered by COVID-19 Exposure at Work

Thumbnail image of FFCRA and COVID-19 decision tree

Download Families First Coronavirus Response Act Triggered by COVID-19 Related Reason to Be off Work

OSHA Reporting for COVID 19 decision tree thumbnail

Download Reporting COVID-19 Cases to OSHA

Members can contact MCIT toll-free at 1.866.547.6515 if they still need assistance with issues related to COVID-19 and workers’ compensation.