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Can I Sue My Employer if I Catch COVID-19 at Work?
Even with vaccines on the market and a year to learn proper behavior, COVID-19 cases are still logging large numbers in many states as businesses fully open up and people decide to give up on wearing a mask. If you are following CDC guidelines and still catch COVID-19, there is a chance you have an opportunity to sue your employer. The ability to seek compensation is dependant on your unique situation and your state laws.
Lawsuits and Workers Comp
Workers’ compensation laws usually take precedent over any personal injury lawsuits due to work-related illness or injury. This simple fact severely limits most people’s ability to sue an employer over an illness contracted while on the job.
Workers’ comp claims that are for illnesses deemed common or seasonal are usually rejected since employers cannot be held responsible for routine sicknesses like colds and the flu. In most cases, full-time employees are covered completely by workers comp laws and also have to be given a minimum number of sick days, to offset these normal infections and conditions.
Some employers are taking the stance that COVID-19 is just a new standard illness, and an employer is not responsible for an employee who has been infected. There are also extra programs in place in some areas or by employers that cover an employee’s recovery time from a COVID-19 infection, though those programs are few and far between.
In most cases, a workers compensation or personal injury lawyer is your best chance for a successful claim or lawsuit. Without gathering solid evidence that your infection was due to work-related duties or the work environment, you will have a hard time receiving any compensation.
Learn Your State Laws
There is precedence in some states already that gives people an opening to sue an employer. However, these situations involve the company not following public health directives or endangering the public. In some states, the courts have filed injunctions demanding the involved company change their policies or put more protections into place. Unfortunately, there is not yet a clear precedent that helps infected workers win a claim against their workplace.
State laws will also impact your ability to even seek a lawsuit against your employer for anything. In many states, any work-related personal injury or medical condition will only be covered by workers comp laws, and you will be unable to seek damages on top of that.
The Government Protects Employers, Not You
In order to protect companies from being sued by their employees over COVID-19, several states have provided special liability shields for employers. Michigan and Ohio come to mind as specific cases where the state governments have blocked almost all COVID-19 related lawsuits. In many states, the laws only apply to healthcare workers, since it is expected they will be exposed to the risk of contracting COVID-19.
Many people who have contracted COVID-19 cannot prove they got it in their office, but to prove it was work-related is actually much broader than that. If you have been infected while performing any duties of your position, it can be considered work-related. Meetings at a client’s office, taking a business trip, or visiting a job site are all scenarios where an infection may occur outside of your personal office.
This is a double-edged sword, however, since any time spent off the clock could be when you contract COVID-19. If your employer can even cast suspicion that you were infected on a lunch break, your claim or case may be finished. It can be extremely challenging to prove when and where you were infected.
If you have already contracted COVID-19 and believe it was work-related, you should contact an attorney that is taking COVID-19 cases. They can help you review all the facts of your situation and further educate you on the applicable state laws where you work. Finding a lawyer who is working on other COVID-19 cases can be a huge help since the legal landscape is constantly shifting during this global pandemic.