In late April, the Iowa American Federation of Law, AFL-CIO, called on Iowa state officials to establish standards and protections for workers during the COVID-19 pandemic, including expanding workers’ compensation coverage to essential workers.  Both Iowa and Nebraska have yet to consider extending such protections.

Ordinarily, the worker must demonstrate that he or she was injured in the course or scope of employment.  With respect to COVID-19, the employee would therefore have to demonstrate that he or she was infected with the disease during the course and scope of employment.  This places a substantial burden on the worker, because the exact moment of infection is difficult to ascertain.

However, some states have taken action to extend workers’ compensation coverage to certain essential workers during COVID-19 by establishing a reverse presumption.  In these states, the employer now has the burden of proving that the employee covered under the extension was infected with COVID-19 outside of work.  Some states have extended workers’ compensation solely to first responders and health care workers; however, Illinois and Kentucky both provided coverage to other essential workers, including grocery store workers.

California’s Governor Gavin Newsom recently signed an executive order which establishes a rebuttable presumption that any essential worker infected with COVID-19 became infected while on the job.  The executive order covers claims filed for a period of 60 days beginning on  May 6, 2020, and retroactively covers claims filed as early as March 19, 2020.  Notably, this legislation applies to workers who tested positive within 14 days of working, or those who received a diagnosis within 14 days which was then confirmed by a test within 30 days.    In addition, employers have only 30 days to rebut the presumption.

For a list of state legislation, executive orders, and other administrative policy changes related to workers’ compensation coverage of COVID-19, please refer to the following links:

If you have questions about the above information, please give Partner Attorney, Stacy Morris a call at 402-397-7300.