News

Workers’ Compensation for Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19)

March 17, 2020

Updated: March 26, 2020

When the Minnesota Workers’ Compensation Statute was enacted, some illnesses or exposures were specifically excluded, including “ordinary diseases of life.” For most employers and employees, illnesses such as COVID-19 (coronavirus), the flu, the common cold and heart disease are not compensable under the Workers’ Compensation Statute.

Presumption for Certain Employees

Under Minnesota Statutes, section 176.011, subdivision 15(b), there is a presumption that “any individual who by nature of their position provides emergency medical care, or an employee who was employed as a licensed police officer under section 626.84, subdivision 1; firefighter; paramedic; state correctional officer; emergency medical technician; or licensed nurse providing emergency medical care and who contracts an infectious or communicable disease to which the employee was exposed in the course of employment outside of a hospital” may have a compensable work-related occupational illness.

Because MCIT members employ staff in many of the job categories outlined above, MCIT recommends that potential COVID-19 exposures be handled in the same manner as any other contagious or blood borne pathogen. If an employee claims exposure to COVID-19, an accident report and a First Report of Injury form should be submitted to MCIT through the online member portal. The specifics of the potential exposure should be outlined, including the source of exposure and whether a test for the disease was performed.

MCIT investigates the compensability of each claim it receives, including any exposures outside of the employee’s work activities or work environment. This practice applies to claims allegedly arising from a diagnosis of COVID-19.

There is no known treatment for the virus. Generally speaking, health professionals are instructing exposed persons to remain home sometimes up to 14 days, although medical care, including hospitalization, may be required in severe cases. When a physician verifies that the cause of an employee’s inability to work arises out of a work injury/illness, the employee is entitled to wage replacement benefits under Minnesota Statutes, section 176.101, subdivision 1. Workers’ compensation will pay for tests and any subsequent medical expenses where COVID-19 is diagnosed as a work-related injury/illness.

Workers’ Compensation for Certain Volunteers

Certain individuals, though truly volunteers in the sense of receiving no remuneration, may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits under the Minnesota Workers’ Compensation Act (WCA) because they qualify as an “employee” under the Act.

Law enforcement volunteers and first responders: A voluntary uncompensated worker while volunteering services as a first responder or as a member of a law enforcement assistance organization while acting under the supervision and authority of a political subdivision is considered an employee under the WCA. Law enforcement volunteers must also be registered with the political subdivision.

Emergency management volunteers: A voluntary uncompensated worker engaged in emergency management as defined in section 12.03, subdivision 4, is included in the definition of employee under the WCA as long as these conditions are met:

  • registered with the state or any political subdivision of it, according to the procedures set forth in the state or political subdivision emergency operations plan; and
  • acting under the direction and control of and within the scope of duties approved by the state or political subdivision.

Public health volunteers: In addition to the coverage for some volunteers defined in the WCA, public health volunteers may be covered pursuant to the provisions of the emergency management statute that allow for individuals to assist a local political subdivision during an emergency or disaster. Minnesota Responds Medical Reserve Corps volunteers, as provided in sections 145A.04 and 145A.06, responding at the request of or engaged in training conducted by the commissioner of health are included in the definition of employee under the WCA.
Prevention

Currently there is no vaccine to prevent COVID-19. Ideally, the best prevention is to avoid the virus, but when this is not possible, follow the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Members with specific questions should direct them to MCIT at info@mcit.org.