The United States Department of Labor (DOL) has recently announced that certain federal employees who are exposed to the coronavirus may be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. Employees in all types of fields and industries have struggled to get clear information about whether or not they can get workers’ comp for workplace COVID-19 exposure. The DOL’s announcement is one of the first to provide much-needed clarity.
Typically, workers’ compensation benefits are only granted to workers who catch an illness while in the workplace or due to their work demands, making it difficult to actually qualify. However, the DOL has acknowledged how difficult it can be to track the source of the coronavirus, which is believed to be contagious for days in a patient who is showing no outward symptoms. With the prevalence of asymptomatic coronavirus carriers in mind, the DOL will allow Federal Employees’ Compensation Act (FECA) benefits to be granted to any federal employee in a “high-risk” position, with some leniency of evidential proof that shows when they contracted the virus.
“High-risk” employment is considered to be any job position that requires the worker to be around the public often. The same is true for jobs in medical settings.
Examples of high-risk jobs according to the DOL are:
- Law enforcement officers
- Emergency first responders
- Medical personnel
- Public health personnel
Filing a COVID-19 FECA Claim
The Department of Labor requires federal employees with coronavirus symptoms to file a Form CA-1, Notice of Traumatic Injury with their employer. Applications will be handled depending on whether or not the federal employee is in high-risk employment or not. Any applicant in a high-risk employment position will be assumed to have come into contact with the virus through their day-to-day job duties. As long as the claim is filed according to other regulations, there should be minimal difficulty to get workers’ compensation benefits.
On the other hand, non-high-risk employees will need to take extra steps to prove their work exposed them to the coronavirus. For example, communications from a supervisor instructing the applicant to report for work in a medical clinic could be helpful. Even official statements from supervisors or management can be useful in validating a COVID-19 FECA claim.
Coronavirus Exposure While Traveling
The U.S. DOL has stated that exposure to the coronavirus while traveling to and from a federal workplace will typically not validate a COVID-19 FECA claim. There must be an express reason for the applicant to travel outside of usual routes as part of their employment.
Although, coronavirus exposure in the performance of work duties while outside of the United States does not invalidate a claim. Assuming that the applicant was traveling internationally and entering situations where exposure was likely due to work, the subsequent COVID-19 FECA claim should be valid.
More Information About Federal COVID-19 Workers’ Comp
If you have more questions about how you can get workers’ compensation benefits as a federal employee exposed to the coronavirus, you can click here to view an official press release from the U.S. Department of Labor. For federal employees who live in Santa Clarita, you can call (818) 946-0608 and connect with the Law Offices of Wax & Wax.
Our attorneys focus on complex and high-stakes workers’ compensation claims for injured or ill workers. We are staying open for business during the coronavirus pandemic by conducting our work remotely through telephone calls, emails, texts, video conferences, and more. Do not hesitate to contact us when you need our help.