COVID-19 and Workers Compensation in Vermont
A new law provides automatic claims for some employees diagnosed with COVID-19. Front-line workers, and non-Front-line workers who can show a documented exposure to Covid-19, are now presumed to have contracted the illness at work. The law was just passed but is retroactive back to March 1, 2020
The new law provides that a “Front-line worker” who is diagnosed with COVID-19 is presumed to have contracted it at work. A “Front-line worker” is defined as an individual who:
- is employed as a firefighter, law enforcement officer, emergency medical personnel, worker in health care facility, correctional officer, worker in residential or long-term care facility, childcare provider providing services to children of front-line workers, home health care worker or personal care attendant, worker in morgue, funeral establishment or crematory facility; and
- who performs a job had “elevated risk of exposure to COVID-19,” defined as a job that:
- requires regular physical contact with known sources of COVID-19; or
- requires close contact (within six feet) with patients, correctional facility inmates, residential care or long-term care facility patients, or members of the public
So to fall under this provision, a worker must show they both work in an occupation covered by the bill, and performed work that requires close contact with patients, inmates, or members of the public. Note that grocery and convenience store employees are not included in the list of covered occupations. However, these employees may be covered by the law if they can show they were performing services that placed them at “similarly elevated risk of exposure to COVID-19,” which is defined to include regular close contact with members of the public.
The employer has a defense if it can show that the COVID-19 diagnosis was caused by a non-work exposure.
Other workers diagnosed with COVID-19 who have a documented exposure to COVID-19 while working also are presumed to have contracted it at work; but employers have a defense if they can show they followed VT Department of Health guidelines.
For an employee who is not a Front-line worker, if they are diagnosed after April 1, 2020 and within 14 days after the diagnosis:
- had documented occupational exposure in the course of employment to an individual with COVID-19; or
- performed services at a residence or facility with a resident or employee who
- was present at the time services were provided; and
- had COVID-19 at the time services were provided or tested positive for COVID-19 within 14 days after the services were provided.
Like with Front-line workers, employers have a defense if they can show the infection was caused by non-work factors. But employers have an additional defense in non-Front-line worker cases if they can show that the workplace was in compliance with CDC or Vermont Department of Health guidelines.
The law was passed on July 13, 2020, but is retroactive to March 1, 2020. The Department of Labor says about 120 claims were filed before the law was passed, and any of those claims that were denied must now be reviewed to determine if they fall under the new law. Insurance adjusters are required to notify claimants of the new law.