Relying on their inherent authority under the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act and Workers’ Occupation Disease Act (the “Acts”), on April 13, 2020, the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission (IWCC) amended Section 9030.70 of their Rules of Evidence. Titled EMERGENCY under 9030.70 a, the new Rule creates a rebuttable presumption under the Acts of a causal connection between a “first responder’s or front-line worker’s” employment and a diagnosis of COVID-19.
In other words, any first responder or front-line worker diagnosed with COVID-19 is presumed under the Acts to have contracted the disease as a result of or in the course of their employment. The Rule includes numerous occupations in this category: police and fire personnel, other emergency responders and health care workers. The Rule also applies to grocers, pharmacists, gas station and restaurant employees, or virtually any workers exempted under the Governor’s COVID-19 stay-at-home Orders who are now employed.
This means these workers can file a claim under the Acts for benefits if they contract COVID-19. Such benefits include lost time benefits while off work (TTD), 100% coverage of all medical bills related to COVID-19 treatment and possibly a lump sum award (PPD) for any permanent injury the disease may cause.
To defend such a claim, an employer must prove that the employee contracted COVID-19 by some means other than their employment. We note the difficulty in proving these other means. This Rule is similar to the presumption under the Acts that cardiac episodes or stokes suffered by police and fire personnel on duty are likewise presumed to be causally connected to their occupations.
This new Rule remains in effect for a maximum of 150 days. New cases filed with the IWCC during this period based on COVID-19 will carry this presumption. It remains important for employers of first responders or front-line workers to take steps to insure their employees follow COVID-19 infection protocols, not only for the health of their workers but also to avoid these claims.
Finally, we recommend you notify your workers’ compensation carrier immediately if you receive any COVID-19 claim.