Can Employees Collect Workers’ Compensation Benefits for COVID-19?

The New York State Workers’ Compensation Board (“WCB”) recently issued updated guidance regarding benefit eligibility for COVID-19 illness. Under the new guidance, COVID-19 is considered a compensable illness if the related exposure occurred at the workplace. Some of the benefits available to workplace exposure of COVID-19 include:

  • Payment of the employee’s medical treatment for COVID-19;

  • Lost wages if the illness prevents the employee from working;

  • Benefits to an employee’s surviving dependents in the event of death; and

  • Reimbursement of funeral expenses up to $12,500 in New York City, Nassau, Suffolk, Rockland, and Westchester counties and up to $10,500 in the other counties of New York State.

The new WCB guidance also provides some new direction to determine whether an employee’s COVID-19 case is work-related. Employees who work in environments where exposure risks are higher and where employees directly interact with the public are more likely to have compensable Workers’ Compensation claims. Healthcare workers, first responders, transportation workers, corrections officers, and food service workers are just some examples of employees who are more likely to have compensable claims.

While it is nearly impossible to pinpoint exactly where exposure occurred, claims may be compensable where the employee shows that there was a significantly elevated risk in the workplace of exposure to COVID-19. Factors relevant to this determination include where the employee works, how often they work, the types of job duties performed, and extent of interaction with the public. A WCB authorized medical provider must provide a report stating that the employee’s COVID-19 case was caused by exposure at work for a claim to be compensable.

Our Firm has extensive experience counseling employers and businesses on employee benefits, particularly those available during the COVID-19 pandemic. If you have any questions related to this legal briefing or questions related to COVID-19 Workers’ Compensation claims, please contact any member of our Firm at 585-730-4773.


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