Worker's Compensation COVID-19 Public Information

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The Worker's Compensation Division has provided the following information related to their programs and the effects of COVID-19:

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The short answer is maybe. Certain workers are eligible to receive worker's compensation benefits as a result of contracting COVID-19, if contracting the virus was work-related and they work for a covered employer. Learn more about who is covered under the worker's compensation law.

Maybe. The employee should ask the insurance carrier or self-insured employer whether they require a diagnosis by a competent practitioner and, if so, whether the practitioner must by a medical doctor or other type of practitioner. The law allows insurance carriers and self-insured employers to require that an employee be diagnosed by a competent practitioner, who usually is a physician who treated or examined the employee after considering positive test results. Some insurance carriers and self-insured employers accept diagnosis by other competent practitioners, such as a physician assistant or an advanced practice nurse prescriber.

A practitioner must provide a medical opinion that an employee contracted COVID-19 and it is a work-related condition to a reasonable degree of medical probability.

Yes, at the time of the injury, the employee must be performing a service growing out of and incidental to his or her employment.

The employee must present evidence to prove that contracting COVID-19 arose out of the employee's employment while performing services growing out of and incidental to that employment. This is the standard test to determine compensability for any disease or illness for worker's compensation purposes.

Evidence must establish COVID-19 is traceable to a definite employment-related cause. Supporting evidence may include information about the employee's specific work dates, times, and locations and a comparison to potential sources of exposure at the workplace. Evidence that COVID-19 was not caused by any other likely source also may be important, particularly in instances where a claim is contested, but is not always necessary. Employees should be encouraged to provide a complete and detailed history related to contracting COVID-19 when appearing for an examination or when discussing the disease with health care providers.

No. Exposure without contracting the disease is not a work-related injury that is compensable under worker's compensation law. Additionally, employees who are isolated or quarantined because of contact with someone with COVID-19, and who have not contracted the disease or have sustained some other injury, also are not eligible for worker's compensation benefits.

The worker's compensation benefits that are payable to an employee who contracts any illness or disease from employment would be payable to an employee who establishes he or she contracted COVID-19 from employment. State law does not limit the compensation or medical expense payable on behalf of an employee who contracts COVID-19 from employment. Here is more information about worker's compensation benefits.

In the event you become ill, it is your responsibility to:

  • Immediately tell your supervisor that you are ill immediately
  • Obtain any necessary medical attention. This may include first aid, seeing a doctor or going to the emergency room; and
  • Maintain all relevant medical and payment records for possible future use.

Complete Instructions on How to File a Worker's Compensation Claim

A: OSHA has the primary responsibility for investigating private-sector worker – workplace complaints in the State of Wisconsin. For more information refer to:

Based upon this evolving public health emergency, as of the week of March 23, 2020, the Office of Worker’s Compensation Hearings will stop conducting in-person hearings, prehearings, and mediations until further notice. Hearings will be converted to settlement conferences. Conference calls will be conducted between the attorneys and the presiding administrative law judge.

Refer to the Notice of the Office of Worker’s Compensation Hearings for complete details.

Your worker's compensation insurance policy should be kept in place, but you will not be charged premium for the furloughed employees you keep on payroll. The Wisconsin Compensation Rating Bureau has issued guidance letting all employers know that if they choose to keep furloughed employees on payroll, while doing no work, as a gesture of goodwill during the COVID-19 epidemic they will not be charged worker's compensation premium for those workers.

Yes. In order to take advantage of the special rate approved by the Office of Commissioner of Insurance, employers will need to keep detailed records of all payroll, particularly the payroll paid for which no work was performed.

If your business is closed permanently, and no further work will be performed, and no employees will be paid again, then it is acceptable to cancel your policy. However, if you plan to reopen or have employees perform any work during the remainder of the policy term, the policy should be kept in place. Worker's compensation insurance premiums are based on payroll, not time. If a business has no payroll for a period, that will be taken into account during your next premium audit. Another reason to leave the policy in force is so that the employer can resume work immediately when conditions warrant, without having to apply for a new policy and ensuring coverage is in place before work is performed. There are substantial penalties for operating without worker's compensation insurance when legally required to have it. In addition, it may be more expensive to cancel a policy and be issued a new one when the business reopens: every policy premium contains what is known as the expense constant, which accounts for the insurance company's cost of issuing a policy. The employer must pay this charge each time a policy is issued, so an employer's costs can actually be higher if it cancels the current policy and then gets a new policy instead of leaving the existing policy in force.

The changes under 2019 Wisconsin Act 185 create a rebuttable presumption that first responders are covered by worker's compensation where an injury to a first responder is caused by COVID-19 during the Public Health Emergency (Executive Order #72) proclaimed by the Governor and ending 30 days after the order ends. Note that the public health emergency is different than the Safer at Home Emergency Order, which does not impact the worker's compensation language in 2019 Wisconsin Act 185.

A rebuttable presumption is an assumption that is taken to be true unless someone comes forward to contest it and prove otherwise. As it relates to COVID-19, it is assumed that a first responder's contraction of COVID-19 injury is work-related; however, this can be rebutted by specific evidence the injury was caused by something outside of the first responder's work for the employer.

A first responder under 2019 Wisconsin Act 185 is defined as an employee or volunteer for an employer that provides firefighting, law enforcement, medical or other emergency services, and who has regular direct contact with, or is regularly in close proximity to, patients with COVID-19, or other members of the public requiring emergency services within the scope of the individual's work for the employer.

The law covers work-related injuries due to COVID-19 with dates of injury on and after March 12, 2020 through the 30-day period following the expiration of the Public Health Emergency Executive Order (June 10, 2020).

A work-related injury due to COVID-19 must be supported by a specific diagnosis by a physician or by a positive COVID-19 test.

Worker's compensation benefits by first responders for injuries due to COVID-19 may be claimed if the date of injury is outside the time period specified in the law, but there will be no presumption that COVID-19 was work-related.