Illinois Is the Latest to Add COVID-19 Workers’ Comp Presumptions; What Will that Mean for Employers?

Illinois joins the growing list of states with legislative amendments that extend workers' compensation protections to certain classes of employees who contract COVID-19. 
By: | June 24, 2020

As the impact of COVID-19 on worker safety continues to unfold, Illinois became the latest state to pass a sweeping presumption law aimed at ensuring workers’ compensation protections for all essential workers.

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Thus far, 14 states have taken legislative action to extend workers’ comp coverage to include COVID-19 as a work-related condition, and up to 10 more states are currently considering similar legislation, according to a recent webinar presented by Goldberg Segalla.

There are broad variations in the scope of employees covered from state to state. Several states, including Alaska, Utah and Wisconsin, limit coverage to first responders and health care workers.

Kentucky extends the protection to grocery store workers, while Minnesota’s law includes those providing child care for health care workers and first responders. California’s law is the broadest, extending protection to all employees working outside the home who contract COVID-19 between March 19 and July 5, 2020.

Illinois’ new law, which was withdrawn in early May and quickly reintroduced, went into effect on June 5, and applies to all cases which receive a COVID-19 diagnosis between March 9 and Dec. 31, 2020.

Illinois employers should take note that as the amendment is written, COVID-19 claims will not impact their workers’ comp insurance experience rating or modification.

What Constitutes a Front-Line Worker?

Under Illinois’ amendment, the presumption of compensability applies to any first responder or front-line worker as defined by the governor’s executive order. In addition to emergency responders, that includes but is not limited to employees of:

  • Food and beverage manufacturers/distributors
  • Restaurants offering carry-out and curbside pickup
  • Suppliers of goods for essential business
  • Manufacturers and distributors of critical products for industry
  • Suppliers of goods necessary to work from home
  • Financial institutions
  • Gas stations
  • Transportation businesses
  • Educational institutions
  • Charitable and social services organizations
  • Hardware and supply stores
  • Media enterprises
  • Critical trades such as contractors, plumbers, and electricians
  • Laundry services
  • Home-based care and services
  • Professional services, such as legal, accounting, insurance, and real estate services
  • Some child care centers
  • Hotels and motels
  • Funeral services

While Illinois’ law is sweeping, it does have some eligibility constraints. The presumption only applies to workers who are required to interact with the public, or work with 15 or more employees at their place of business.

Rebutting a Presumption of Compensability

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From the beginning of the outbreak, there has been no one-size-fits all solution to determining compensability of a COVID-19 claim.

Presumption laws such as Illinois’ make it easier for employees to make a case for compensability, but employers won’t necessarily be forced to pay for every claim.

Like California’s law, Illinois’ law creates a rebuttable presumption of causation. Illinois employers can rebut the presumption by:

  1. Demonstrating compliance with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or Illinois Department of Public Health guidelines during the 14 days prior to the employee’s diagnosis
  2. Establishing that the employee contracted COVID-19 outside the workplace.
  3. Showing that the employee either worked from home or was off work during the 14 days prior to receiving a diagnosis of COVID-19.

Wrote Goldberg Segalla in an update on the passage of Illinois’ presumption law, “We continue to encourage employers and insurance carriers to swiftly and thoroughly investigate any COVID-19 claims, as the claims remain defendable, particularly where employers follow established safety precautions and are actively documenting their efforts to minimize exposure and spread of the virus.” &

Michelle Kerr is Workers' Compensation Editor for Risk & Insurance, and chair of the annual National Comp conference. She can be reached at [email protected]

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The R&I Editorial Team can be reached at [email protected]