Connecticut Governor Lamont Strengthens Workers’ Compensation Claims for Workers Affected by COVID-19

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On July 24, 2020, Connecticut Governor Lamont issued Executive Order JJJ (“E.O. JJJ”), which creates a presumption that employees who contracted COVID-19 in the early days of the pandemic contracted it at work and are eligible for workers’ compensation benefits.

Pursuant to E.O. JJJ, there shall be a “rebuttable presumption” that an employee, who makes a claim for benefits under the Workers’ Compensation Act, and who missed one or more days of work between March 10, 2020 and May 20, 2020, inclusive, due to a diagnosis of COVID-19 or symptoms that were diagnosed as COVID-19, contracted COVID-19 as an occupational disease arising in the course of his or her employment. The following four conditions must be met for the rebuttable presumption to apply:

  1. The employee must have worked, at the direction of the employer, outside the home during at least one of the fourteen days immediately preceding the date of injury, and had not received an offer or directive from the employer to work from home instead of from his or her place of employment;
  2. If the date of injury was more than fourteen days after March 23, 2020, the employee was employed by an employer deemed essential by the Department of Economic and Community Development pursuant to Executive Order 7H, available here;
  3. The contraction of COVID-19 was confirmed by a positive laboratory diagnostic test within three weeks of the date of injury, or diagnosed and documented within three weeks of the date of injury by a licensed physician, licensed physician’s assistant, or licensed advanced practice registered nurse, based on the employee’s symptoms; and
  4. A copy of the positive test is provided to the employer or insurer.

An employer may only rebut the presumption if it demonstrates to the Workers’ Compensation Commissioner, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the employment of the individual was not the cause of his or her contracting COVID-19.  Even if the employee who has contracted COVID-19 is not entitled to the presumption, he or she can still make a claim under the Workers’ Compensation Act.

Furthermore, E.O. JJJ provides that any wage replacement benefits paid under Section 31-307 or 31-308(a) of the Workers’ Compensation Act[1] shall be reduced by the amount of any sick leave available to the employee through the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, or through another paid sick leave program specifically available in response to COVID-19, and separate from any accrued paid time off regularly available to the employee.

E.O. JJJ also amends Section 31-290a of the Workers’ Compensation Act[2], to provide for a civil action in superior court if an employer deliberately misinforms or otherwise deliberately dissuades an employer from filing a claim for workers’ compensation benefits.  Employers should therefore be careful not to interfere with the filing of such claims.

This E.O. remains in effect for six months, or until January 24, 2021, unless modified or terminated earlier.

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[1] Section 31-307 provides for  workers’ compensation for total incapacity, and Section 31-308(a) provides for additional benefits for partial permanent disability.

[2] Section 31-290a provides that it is illegal to discriminate against an employee for exercising his or her right to claim or receive workers’ compensation benefits and provides that an employee can bring a claim for a violation of said right to the Workers’ Compensation Commission or in the Connecticut Superior Court.

[View source.]

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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