THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC, YOUR EMPLOYMENT AND THE EMERGENCY AMENDMENT TO THE ILLINOIS WORKERS’ COMPENSATION ACT

THIS DECISION HAS BEEN RESCINDED

 

In the event you are injured or sickened at work the remedy available to you is contained in the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act. Among the elements that must be proven in order to prevail in a Workers’ Compensation claim are: (1) an injury, illness, or incapacity; (2) the injury, illness or incapacity arose out of and in the course of your employment; and (3) your injury, illness or incapacity was causally connected to employment.

In the case of an illness, disease or incapacity, it can be challenging, and often is expensive, to obtain specific medical evidence showing that the condition arose out of and in the course of your employment. As the person bringing the claim, you have the burden under the rules of evidence to prove all the elements of your claim. Often illness and disease claims can be successfully defended with testimony that you could have easily contracted that illness or disease outside of the workplace environment. Because the person bringing the claim normally has the burden of proof, these cases sometimes can be problematic.

However, in apparent recognition of the many first responders and front-line workers who risk illness and injury daily in order to provide essential services to the sheltered-in-place populace, on April 14, 2020 and continuing for a period of at least 150 days thereafter, Executive Order 2020-10 has significantly modified several of the key evidentiary rules in Workers’ Compensation cases.

For first responder and front-line-workers, if you fall ill or are incapacitated by COVID-19 during the COVID-19 state of emergency, it will be rebuttably presumed your exposure to this virus arose out of and in the course of your employment. It will also be rebuttably presumed your COVID-19 illness or incapacity is casually connected to the hazards of the first responders or front-line worker’s employment.

This evidentiary modification is a sea change which shifts the burden of proof to the employer to prove the employee did not contact the illness or incapacity while at work. The enormous significance of this evidentiary modification can hardly be overstated.

Under emergency executive order 2020-10 COVID-19 First Responders and Front-Line Workers include, but are not limited to, individuals employed as:

Police;

Fire personnel;

Emergency medical technicians;

Paramedics;

Health care providers engaged in patient care;

Correction officers;

This presumption also is applicable to employees of a broad range of “essential service” providers, including the following:

Stores which sell groceries and medicine;

Food, beverage and cannabis production and agriculture;

Organizations that provide charitable and social services;

Gas stations and businesses needed for transportation;

Financial Institutions;

Hardware and supplies stores;

Critical trades;

Mail, post, shipping, logistics, delivery, and pick-up services;

Educational institutions;

Laundry services;

Restaurants for consumption off-premises;

Supplies to work from home;

Supplies for essential business and operations;

Transportation;

Home-based care and services;

Residential facilities and shelters;

Professional services;

Certain day care center employees

Manufacture, distribution, and supply chain for critical products and industries;

Critical labor union functions;

Hotels and motels

Funeral services.