Frontline workers are at daily risk of contracting Coronavirus. For many, it is a matter of IF not WHEN they contract the virus. It poses the question, “Who is liable if an employee tests positive?” 

Employers are responsible for the permanent injury and death of any employee who suffers injury from COVID-19 where work was the prevailing factor in contracting the virus.  

The duty starts with medical treatment. An employer must provide the medical care necessary to cure or relieve the effects of the virus. Proper medical care is essential to a good recovery. 

The scientific community is constantly learning about the long-term consequences of the virus on frontline workers. 

COVID-19 cases are variable. Some patients recover with seemingly no consequences but there is a percentage of cases that result in debilitating symptoms, including:

  • Lung Disease
  • Heart Disease
  • Extreme Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Severe cough
  • Joint pain
  • Persistent chest pain
  • Intermittent fever
  • Heart palpitations
  • Inflammation of the heart muscle
  • Respiratory issues
  • Kidney injury
  • Loss of smell and taste
  • Difficulty with thinking and concentrating (“brain fog”)

Death cases are compensable and there is money provided under the Missouri Workers’ Compensation statute for the dependents of a worker who dies from the virus.

Work as the Most Likely Exposure

In proving COVI-19 work comp cases the focus will be on the work vs. non-work exposure to the virus. This is a fact-intensive study of what possible Covid exposures the employee had that lead to contracting the virus. We focus on work being the most likely cause of exposure.

PPE and Precautions

Part of proving that the virus was contracted at work the attorneys at Wolfgram Law will explore what protocols were in place to protect the employee. As an example, we discuss the COVID-19 protocols that restaurants must follow, when a restaurant may be liable if an employee tests positive, and what you should do if you test positive for COVID-19 as a result of work exposure.

COVID-19 Employer Guidelines

Employers are required to provide a safe and sanitary environment for employees. During the COVID-19 pandemic, hospitals, nursing homes, long-term care facilities, restaurants, and other facilities should have a plan in place to prepare for an outbreak, know what to do if an employee tests positive, and have strict hygiene and protective strategies in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19 amongst staff and customers.

CDC COVID-19 guidelines for healthcare facilities, nursing homes, restaurants, and other public businesses include:

Healthcare Facility COVID-19 Guidelines

  • Advising employees to stay home and get tested for coronavirus if they display symptoms or have had close contact with a person that tested positive, and informing employees when a staff member tests positive
  • Performing daily temperature checks and frequent wellness checks on employees
  • Providing masks, hand sanitizer, gloves, and other protective equipment to employees, and educating them on when to swap out gloves and masks for new ones
  • Requiring frequent employee handwashing, before, during, and after preparing food, serving food, removing garbage, cleaning tables, and touching other shared surfaces and objects
  • Requiring frequent cleaning of shared surfaces, such as doorknobs, tables, chairs, bar surfaces, server stations, phones, bathrooms, kitchen line stations, and other shared surfaces with a disinfectant solution containing at least 70% alcohol or bleach-containing 5.25%–8.25% sodium hypochlorite
  • Educating employees on how to limit the sharing of high-touch objects (serving/bar spoons, check clipboards, etc)

Nursing Home & Long-Term Care Facility Coronavirus Guidelines

  • Educate employees and residents about COVID-19, including signs and symptoms
  • Ensure that residents displaying symptoms of COVID-19 are quarantined away from other residents
  • Advise all sick employees to stay home and get tested for coronavirus if they display symptoms or have recently had contact with someone who tested positive for the virus
  • Advise staff to wash their hands frequently and whenever possible to  use hand sanitizer 
  • Provide hand sanitizer, face coverings, cleaning supplies, and gloves to all residents
  • Ensure that all employees have access to clean, unused facemasks, protective shields, gloves, cleaning supplies, and other protective equipment and materials
  • Daily temperature checks for all residents and staff members, and for all visitors prior to entering the facility
  • Limit visitors when at all possible, and send letters and emails to families to remind them to not visit if they are feeling ill or have had contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19
  • Place signs and flyers throughout the facility to remind staff and residents to keep their masks on at all times, be mindful of hand hygiene, and to keep at least 6 feet between themselves and other people in the facility when possible

Restaurant COVID-19 Guidelines

  • Advising employees to stay home and get tested for coronavirus if they display symptoms or have had close contact with a person that tested positive, and informing employees when a staff member tests positive
  • Performing daily temperature checks and frequent wellness checks on employees
  • Providing masks, hand sanitizer, gloves, and other protective equipment to employees, and educating them on when to swap out gloves and masks for new ones
  • Requiring frequent employee handwashing, before, during, and after preparing food, serving food, removing garbage, cleaning tables, and touching other shared surfaces and objects
  • Requiring frequent cleaning of shared surfaces, such as doorknobs, tables, chairs, bar surfaces, server stations, phones, bathrooms, kitchen line stations, and other shared surfaces with a disinfectant solution containing at least 70% alcohol or bleach-containing 5.25%–8.25% sodium hypochlorite
  • Educating employees on how to limit the sharing of high-touch objects (serving/bar spoons, check clipboards, etc)

COVID-19 Employer Liability

If a healthcare facility, restaurant owner, or other employer fails to provide adequate protection to employees against Coronavirus, and an employee tests positive or spreads the virus to other employees, they could be liable and will need to submit a worker’s compensation claim. An investigation will then be done by the insurance company to see if the claim is legitimate. If the claim is deemed compensable, the employee could receive compensation for lost wages, medical bills, and other expenses related to recovering from COVID-19.

What You Need to Do If You Get Coronavirus as a Front-Line Worker

Under Missouri’s worker’s compensation laws, individuals are not just compensated because they are injured or become sick on the job – work has to be the prevailing cause of why the worker contracted COVID-19. If you test positive for Coronavirus while being exposed to a coworker that was required by your employer to continue working, or due to unsafe work conditions (ie: lack of safety materials, cleaning equipment, etc. from your employer), you need to file a worker’s compensation claim with your employer. If they deny that you were exposed on the job due to unsafe work conditions, despite a positive COVID-19 test, or refuse to submit your claim, you need to immediately speak with an attorney to protect your rights.

Contact Our Coronavirus Worker’s Compensation Lawyers Today

If you are a Frontline worker and contract coronavirus you have a viable worker’s compensation claim. The difficulty of these cases is in establishing that work was the prevailing factor in causing the illness (to the exclusion of other exposures) and what are the long-term consequences of contracting the virus. The experienced St. Louis Coronavirus worker’s compensation attorneys at Wolfgram Law can help you understand your rights, collect evidence, and recover the compensation you need and deserve. For a free consultation, contact Wolfgram Law today.