Is it Legal?: Is COVID-19 covered by workers' comp for frontline workers?

Is it legal for first responders to get workers’ comp benefits if they catch Covid-19? Yes.

First responders—including nurses, firefighters, correctional officers, police officers, and workers at long-term facilities—are entitled to workers’ comp benefits if they contract Covid-19 from working.

In fact, a recent Minnesota law makes it easier for these workers to get the benefits by creating a presumption that the illness was caused by their jobs.

“Communicable diseases have always been covered under work comp. But new legislation that was signed by Governor Walz creates a presumption that a first responder who develops coronavirus as a result of their work activities is presumed to have developed it due to work activities,” said Lindsey Rowland, a workers’ comp attorney at Meuser, Yackley & Rowland, P.A.

Rowland added, “normally it's the employee's burden of proof to establish that causal connection between work activities and their injury or illness. But this legislation basically shifts the burden of proof to the employer, making it easier for employees to get work comp benefits.”

The law does not apply to other essential workers, like grocery clerks or warehouse workers, but these workers can still receive workers’ comp benefits if they contract Covid-19 while working. Unlike first responders, these workers still have the burden of showing the illness was contracted at work.

Is it legal to get workers’ comp benefits if you’re injured at home? It’s possible.

If you’re injured while working for your employer at home, then you can receive workers’ comp benefits if the injury is closely tied to your work.

“All injuries that occur in the course and scope of your employment are covered by workers’ compensation, so even injuries resulting from using a fancy dining room table that may not be the most ergonomically friendly as part of your home office, those injuries are covered,” Rowland said.

Rowland cautioned that not all injuries are covered.

“Unfortunately, just because you're working from home or you have a home office doesn't mean every injury that happens at home is covered. Taking time out of the day to do your laundry, or go walk the dog, that's not going to be covered.”