On April 13, 2020, the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission (the “Commission”) announced an emergency amendment to its regulations that would make it easier for certain Illinois employees to prove their COVID-19 illness is work-related and a valid workers’ compensation claim. The emergency amendment provided a rebuttable, or automatic, presumption that any exposure to the COVID-19 virus would be presumed to have “arisen out of and in the course of petitioner’s COVID-19 First Responder or Front-Line Worker employment.” However, on April 27, 2020, the Commission voted to repeal the emergency amendment in its entirety.
On May 22, 2020, the Illinois General Assembly took action and passed House Bill 2455 (the “Bill”), which lowers the burden of proof for essential employees who have contracted COVID-19, making it easier for them to receive workers’ compensation benefits as discussed above. Governor J.B. Pritzker has ten (10) days from the Bill’s passage to sign it into law.
The Bill provides that there is a rebuttable presumption that an employee's contraction of COVID-19 arises out of and in the course of the employee’s first responder or front-line worker employment and that the injury or occupational disease shall be rebuttably presumed to be causally connected to the hazards or exposures of the employee's first responder or front-line worker employment.
Under the Bill, employers may rebut claims by providing evidence, including, but not limited to, the following:
- The employee was working from his or her home for a period of fourteen (14) or more consecutive days immediately prior to the employee's injury, occupational disease, or period of incapacity resulting from exposure to COVID-19;
- The employer can demonstrate the workplace was following current public health guidelines to the fullest extent for fourteen (14) consecutive days prior to when the employee claims they contracted the virus; or
- The employee was exposed to COVID-19 by an alternate source.
The term “COVID-19 first responder or front-line worker” means:
- All individuals employed as police, fire personnel, emergency medical technicians, or paramedics;
- All individuals employed and considered as first responders;
- All workers for health care providers, including nursing homes and rehabilitation facilities and home care workers;
- Corrections officers; and
- Any individual employed by essential businesses and operations as defined in Executive Order 2020-10 dated March 20, 2020, as long as individuals employed by essential businesses and operations are required by their employment to encounter members of the general public or to work in employment locations of more than 15 employees.
The attorneys at Reno & Zahm LLP continue to monitor COVID-19 related statutes, rules, regulations and guidance, and we will endeavor to provide regular updates when warranted. Please contact us with any questions. We are here to help you make it through these challenging times.