Can I file a workers comp claim if I get coronavirus at work?

In short, a very qualified maybe. Per the BWC’s Covid-19 policy faq, that if you work in a job that poses a special hazard or risk and contract covid-19 from work exposure, the BWC could allow your claim. Notice the qualified word “COULD” not “should” or “will.”

The challenge for you the worker who contracted the coranavirus is proving that you in fact contracted the virus at work rather than at home, or picking up food from a carryout or buying precious toilet paper at the grocery store or filling up your gas tank at BP.

The other question is does your job pose a special hazard or risk? I think you could make a strong argument that if you are considered an essential worker your job currently poses a special hazard or risk.

So lets run down some scenarios:

Scenario 1: Cashier at Meijer, Kroger, or Costco

You are a cashier or stocker at Meijer, Kroger, or Costco. You contract the coranavirus. You develop a serious form of the virus requiring a period of hospitalization. You file a workers comp claim for your coronavirus exposure.

During the period of time required to contract the coronavirus you only worked at Meijer, Kroger, or Costco. You did not have an alternate job. In addition you did not go to meet and speak with neighbors. You did not pick carry out food at Tacobell or McDonalds. You filled your tank the gas station on the property of Meijer/Kroger/Costco. You either live only or you live with others (family/wife/husband/son/daughter, etc), but no one else in your house contracted coronavirus or tested for the coronavirus.

In this case you can show that you probably did contract coronavirus in the course of employment of working at Meijer or Kroger or Costco. Why because you didn’t go anywhere else outside of work. You filled your gas at the store’s gas station therefore you were in the “zone of employment” of the store. You can show that you didn’t contract it from anyone at your house. You face a special hazard because the grocery store is required to stay open and you face with an excessive amount of people, where most everyone else is camping at home under the “shelter at home order.” Therefore as an occupational disease your claim may be allowed.

Scenario 2: Amazon or warehouse worker at Cardinal Health

You are a picker at Amazon. Amazon is considered an essential business so you are forced to show up to work. You work in a giant warehouse with 100’s of other folks. You are required to pick a set number of items each hour. Once you clock out from work you go Kroger’s and pick up some milk, ground, and vegetables. You fill your gas tank at the BP near your house. You live alone. Another picker in your section is absent for a week after they had been complaining of a bad headache and a fevor. You subsequently learn that that person contracted coronavirus. Unfortunately you also develop coronavirus necessitating that you be hospitalized.

In this case, you likely face a special hazard, every none essential business is closed, yours is not. The problem that you would be presented with is whether you developed coronavirus in the course of employment. You would have to show that it was more likely than not that you developed coronavirus at work. This would be very difficult to do because you have had multiple contacts and opportunities to contract coronavirus outside of work, including the grocery you shopped at or the gas station you filled your car up.

Scenario 3: Your are an ICU nurse at a hospital that is caring for coronavirus patients

You are an ICU nurse at OSU Wexner caring for those coronavirus patients on ventilators. You are doing god’s work. Everyday you clock in put on your personal protective equipment (ppe’s); you are doing possible avoid getting sick. Once you are done working a 24-hour shift you go to Meijer to pick up some fresh vegetables because you’ve ate nothing but cafeteria food for the week. When you get home you open a package of special moisturizer you’ve ordered from Amazon. You go to sleep, you wake up with a fever. It doesn’t get better, eventually you get diagnosed with coronavirus and end up in the same ICU you were a nurse.

In this situation, you can make a very strong argument that you face a special hazard or risk different from that experienced by the public in general. You exclusively work with patients with the coronavirus. This is your job.

The problem in your case is that you cannot eliminate the possibility that you contracted the virus at Meijer’s or even from the package that you received from Amazon.

That’s going to be the challenge in every scenario and situation, eliminating other sources of the coronavirus.

Uncharted Territory

This is new, uncharted territory.Everyone and all workers in Ohio have been affected by the coronavirus. Its quite possible that the Ohio government passes legislation that grants some kind of relief or benefits for those who have contracted covid-19 as a result of exposure at work. They may create a special category of workers compensation benefits due to covid-19 for medical providers, nurses, doctors, grocery story workers, Amazon workers, and workers from essential businesses.

If you want to learn more about the Ohio Bureau of Workers Compensation’s faq regarding covid-19, click on the link below:

https://www.bwc.ohio.gov/downloads/blankpdf/COVID-19-BWCFAQs.pdf

Currently the attorneys and staff at Malek & Malek Law Firm are working at work or at home to protect our clients and their families during this coronavirus epidemic. Doug has been working from home. In lighter piece of news, his family has recently adopted puggle puppy:

puggle puppy