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Coronavirus and Workers’ Wages – Some Frequently Asked Questions

Coronavirus and Workers’ Wages

The extent of uncertainty and sense of gloom generated by the COVID-19 pandemic is huge, with everyone at a total loss as to how to handle an emergency of such magnitude. With so many offices shutting down and laying off workers, the important concern is economical support during this period. Also, the considerable delay that is bound to occur in various business functions, is also a major issue. To handle the challenges effectively and to provide the much-needed assistance to their clients, workers’ compensation attorneys, paralegals, and the medical review companies that support them are continuing to work, taking all due safety precautions. Workers getting sick are worried not only about their illness but also about how they will get paid if they have to be quarantined or hospitalized.

So, we have put together some frequently asked questions and concerns of workers and their answers.

  • Is COVID-19 allowed as a work-related condition? Claims from healthcare providers and first responders involving COVID-19 may be allowed under certain circumstances. Other claims that meet certain criteria for exposure will be considered on a case-by-case basis. Mostly, exposure and/or contraction of COVID-19 may not be considered as an allowable, work-related condition.
  • When is a claim usually denied? When the employee’s contraction of COVID-19 is incidental to the workplace or common to any kind of employment (the infection is got from a fellow employee), a claim for exposure to and contraction of the disease may be denied.
  • If an employee traveled to a country affected by the virus, can the employer ask her if she was exposed to the virus or require her to stay home during the incubation period? Yes. The CDC (Centers for Disease Control) has recommended that travelers to certain countries stay home for 14 days. More details are available at the CDC website.
  • If an employee is quarantined but doesn’t have symptoms of COVID-19 or his/her office is closed because of the virus, will he/she get paid?
    • A person who is quarantined may not automatically become entitled to receive benefits.
    • An employee’s paid leave may depend on the benefits the employer offers as well as the benefits mandated by the state or local jurisdiction. The benefits could also be based on whether the employee is quarantined because she actually has COVID-19 infection or as a precautionary measure because she was exposed to someone who is sick with the infection.
    • Employers may decide to offer other paid benefits such as emergency leave, vacation or a paid-time-off benefit.
    • An employee who does not have symptoms or tested positive for the coronavirus may not be eligible for short-term disability coverage that typically starts for employees out of work because of a non-work-related illness/injury after a one- or two-week waiting period. Exceptions exist such as in California, where those who have the COVID-19 infection or have been exposed to it are covered under the state’s disability insurance program.
    • An employee who is quarantined but can work remotely can get paid.
    • If the office is closed because of the pandemic, or the employee cannot reach the workplace because there is no transportation, some employers may continue to pay. Around half of the employers surveyed in a Mercer survey on the company’s website said they would pay at least some of their employees who were unable to work due to reasons beyond their control.
  • What about an employee who is exposed to the virus on the job? An illness acquired while on the job is typically covered under workers’ compensation. It may, however be difficult to prove that they got infected on the job – they may have contracted it elsewhere. Exceptions could be nursing home/hospital workers, doctors and others on the frontlines providing treatment to infected people. There are some states, though, that have rules prohibiting anyone from receiving workers’ compensation for a viral infection.
  • Will an employer pay an employee who is forced to stay at home to help her aged parents or to be with kids whose schools are closed?
    • Some states – Arizona, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington – that are among the states that have paid sick day laws, require some employers to compensate workers for at least some time during such public health emergencies.
    • If an employee’s parents or children are sick, the federal Family and Medical Leave Act requires firms with 50 or more employees to provide eligible workers up to 12 weeks off to take care of themselves/family members with serious health conditions. However, this type of leave is unpaid.
    • Eight states and the District of Columbia have family and medical leave insurance laws similar to the federal law. But these laws require employers to pay workers to some extent if they take time off for the above-mentioned reasons.
  • What about workers who serve employers that don’t offer sick leave or paid leave? If there are no state or municipal requirements that require paid leave or new legislation at the federal level, the employer is not required to pay the employee if she doesn’t do the job she is hired for. However, some companies have introduced changes to their paid leave policies in the current scenario. Some employers that don’t have paid time off policy, have short-term disability policies that could provide some extent of income protection to sick employees. Such policies may have a waiting period of one to two weeks before the benefits start.

As a company providing medical review service for workers’ compensation attorneys and employment lawyers, we know that there are many more questions employees may have. Watch this space for more frequently asked questions and answers.

Disclaimer: The content of this blog has been sourced from reliable internet resources and is meant for informational purposes. For a professional legal opinion, consult an experienced attorney.     

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