With businesses in various phases of re-opening across New York State, workers returning to job sites may wonder if those who contract COVID-19 at work are eligible for Workers’ Compensation benefits.  New York’s Workers’ Compensation Board issued new guidance for workers that explains what individuals should do if they believe they contracted COVID-19 on the job, and what to expect when filing for benefits. 

What to Do if You Become Sick with COVID-19 on the Job

You should notify your employer as soon as possible if you believe you contracted COVID-19 at work, file an Employee Claim (Form C-3) with the Board, and see a doctor to obtain a diagnosis. New York State Workers’ Compensation benefits due to exposure to COVID-19 can include payment for relevant medical treatment, wage replacement for individuals unable to work, and benefits for surviving dependents in the event of the worker’s death from COVID-19. Employees may be eligible for Workers’ Compensation regardless of immigration status.

Likelihood of a Successful Workers’ Compensation Claim

For a successful New York Workers’ Compensation claim related to COVID-19 exposure, you must demonstrate that you faced a significantly elevated risk of contracting the virus on the job by providing details about your work, the frequency of your work, and your job duties.  You must also provide a medical report from an authorized workers’ compensation medical provider stating that your illness was caused by your work, and if possible, should also provide a positive COVID-19 test result. Workers in certain industries with higher exposure to COVID-19, such as healthcare workers and transportation, as well as industries such as retail that require more contact with the public, are more likely to qualify for Worker’s Compensation based on exposure to the virus at work.

After Your Claim is Filed

After filing a claim for Workers’ Compensation, your claim will be reviewed by your employer’s Workers’ Compensation insurance carrier. Next, the insurance carrier will either accept your claim, and you will receive compensation, or the carrier will dispute the claim, and you will receive a notice scheduling a hearing where a judge from the Board will decide whether you will receive compensation. Currently, all New York Workers’ Compensation hearings may be attended virtually, with instructions for taking part in a virtual hearing provided in your hearing notice. After a hearing in which you can give testimony to the judge in support of  your claim, the judge will make a decision based on your testimony and the testimony of your medical provider concerning your place of work, whether you were exposed to COVID-19, the extent of your exposure, and whether exposure to COVID-19 was prevalent in your work environment.