First and foremost, should an employee report to you that they suspect that they are ill from Coronavirus and want to file a workers' compensation claim your first concern should be the health of that employee, your other employees, your customers and yourself. So your first actions should be to respond to that following the recommendations of the Center for Disease Control as well as your local public health agency. The current recommendation includes the following steps but you should contact the CDC or your local public health agency for the most up to date instruction:
- The employee should be sent home and instructed to contact their medical provider for instructions on treatment and next steps.
- You should obtain a list from the effected or suspected effected employee of all employees, vendors, and customers they came in contact with.
- You should send home all employees who worked closely with that employee to ensure the infection does not spread. When sending the employees home, do not identify by name the infected employee or you could risk a violation of confidentiality laws.
- You may also want to consider asking a cleaning company to undertake a deep cleaning of your affected workspace and/or inform building management so they can take whatever precautions they deem necessary.
Currently, we are also recommending that if the employee asks, you file a workers' compensation claim for them. Failure to report an employee "injury" comes with the potential for fines, penalties, and lost evidence and information. As such, though such a claim would likely be denied, allow the insurance carrier to make that denial. It is more likely than not that the insurance carrier will deny the claim. However, this inquiry is fact specific in that there are scenarios involving the Coronavirus where a workers' compensation claim may be appropriate, particularly for healthcare organizations.
Your carrier will likely deny coverage because Coronavirus is not peculiar to any specific industry and therefore can not arise out of the workplace as is required by most state laws (some states use the wording peculiar to). However, you as the employer can create legal facts which would give employees a stronger case that the "injury" of contracting the virus arose out of their employment with you so be particularly careful to stay abreast of and follow all guidelines when it comes to this virus.
Should you have any specific factual incident you would like to discuss, contact your broker. If you don't feel you have a broker you can trust to guide you through this time, consider Insurance Design & Placement.