The current Coronavirus pandemic is ever-changing. In just the past few months, the United States has gone on complete lockdown in an attempt to flatten the curve so that the healthcare system doesn't reach capacity.
Although this method is showing promising results, there is continuously new information coming in on the effect of the virus as states begin to reopen gradually. While businesses start to resume operations, it's important to note that essential businesses have remained open throughout the pandemic.
One of the most challenging tasks to keep these vital businesses open is making sure that the employees' risk of contracting and spreading COVID-19 is minimized, which may include implementing several safety precautions.
Without reducing these risks, the problem could get worse before it gets better, which is why workers' compensation should be available to all essential employees. Unfortunately, it's not available to everyone—but that doesn't mean it's impossible to receive it if you're an essential worker.
What Is Considered “Essential” in Louisiana?
Everybody's heard the word “essential” at least a million times by now. Still, this term is critical in deciding what stays open, closes down, and becomes part of the reopening processes statewide. This means that individual businesses deemed “essential” in Louisiana stayed open to provide necessary services to its citizens, which are:
- Healthcare and social services
- Pharmacy and grocery stores
- Restaurant carry-out, fast food establishments, and delivery services
- Electricity and utility industry employees
- Critical manufacturers (medical supply chains, energy, transportation, food, chemicals)
- Public transportation
- Communications and Information Technology services
As some counties begin reopening step-by-step, the City of New Orleans has urged these essential businesses to review human resource policies. And most recently, Governor Edwards lifted the stay-at-home order, requiring all citizens to stay home unless they have to go out for essential services.
As Louisianians enter Phase One of reopening the state, citizens are still asked to remain at home as much as possible. They are discouraged from congregating in groups, or within six feet of another person. With this new compliance, some restaurants and other establishments have reopened their doors and allowed up to 25% occupancy.
But even with safe social distancing, the process of reopening the state allows for a chance of a rise in COVID-19 cases. As business begins resuming, the million-dollar question becomes: Are essential workers at risk of getting exposed to the virus?
Essential Employees' Exposure to COVID-19
While everything else closed down, essential businesses stayed open—which means that their workers did, too.
The disease is not yet considered airborne but can transmit through the inhalation of droplets from an infected person. This puts our essential workers—like grocery employees and healthcare professionals—more at risk, especially without the right protection and equipment.
To help continue flattening the curve while also resuming business, Louisiana citizens and employees are asked to wear face masks or any fabric covering to help minimize the chance of transmitting bodily droplets. Some are participating in what's called “hazard pay,” which is additional pay reserved for those working in hazardous environments. Unfortunately, Louisiana hasn't yet adopted a mandatory state-wide hazard pay for any of its essential businesses.
Can You Get Workers' Comp for COVID-19 in Louisiana?
This question gets asked a lot—and as an essential employee, you might want to know the answer: Can you get workers' comp for COVID-19?
The answer is complicated and not very clear. As of right now, it's entirely possible to receive workers' comp, but there is no guarantee.
Generally speaking, workers' comp would not cover this type of illness because it can't be easily tied to the workplace. The good news is that Louisiana does have pending legislation that would cover all essential workers if they contracted COVID-19, which reads:
“Every essential worker who is disabled because of the contraction of the disease, COVID-19, or the dependent of an essential worker whose death is caused by COVID-19, shall be entitled to the compensation provided in this Chapter the same as if said essential worker received personal injury by accident arising out of and in the course of his employment.”
The bill hasn't yet been enacted, but even if it does, many employees may still find trouble in filing for a workers' compensation claim. Most businesses don't want to spend this type of money and will do anything to avoid workers comp. This is why you'd have to meet specific eligibility conditions even to be considered.
Eligibility for Workers' Comp During COVID-19
To receive workers' compensation from COVID-19 in the U.S., you have to somehow prove that you got the disease from work, which means you must meet these qualifications:
- The disease is considered by statute an occupational disease
- The employee contracted the disease while performing job duties or through exposure at the job site
- The employee was at higher risk than others because of their job duties
Proving that you got sick from a particular place is no easy task. Think about the last time you had a seasonal cold. You likely got it while out in public, but it's nearly impossible to pinpoint the exact place and time you picked up the germs that made you sick. The good news is that with the right lawyer, you could make a strong case if you caught COVID-19.
Coronavirus pandemic is a hard time for everyone. Still, if you are an essential worker and believe you've contracted the disease, then you may be eligible for workers' comp in Louisiana. One of our passionate lawyers will help illustrate how you contracted the illness so that you could have peace of mind for your finances while you recover.
If you believe that you or someone you know is at-risk or has contracted the infamous Coronavirus, then the best thing you can do is contact Schwartz Law immediately. With more than 25 years of experience in the Metairie and Baton Rouge areas, Schwartz Law specializes in workers' compensation and can help you get the benefits you deserve.