On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic, meaning it is prevalent over the whole world. Contracting this virus can result in symptoms that are mild or that can result in death. A question that will eventually need to be answered is whether contracting the condition can result in a workers’ compensation claim. In Ohio, illnesses and injuries contracted in the course and scope of employment are compensable, including death occasioned because of a work-related illness or injury.
Ohio’s Workers' Compensation Law
The Ohio workers’ compensation law requires there to be a causal relationship between the medical condition and the employment activity. The condition must arise out of and be within the scope of the employment activity. In other words, the injured worker will have to prove that they developed the condition during the course of employment.
Ohio Law and COVID-19
For a condition like a virus, how does the injured employee prove that he or she did not contract the illness from some other non-work-related activity of daily living? Of course, this is the problem with pursuing a workers’ compensation claim for a viral condition. It would be nearly impossible for the employee to show that they indeed contracted the condition at work.
Because coronavirus is now prevalent and an ordinary disease of life, the injured worker will likely not be able to link it to their employment. The injured worker must have medical evidence in the form of an opinion from a physician linking the work activity to the diagnosis of the condition. This means a doctor will have to support the alleged causal link. Under Ohio law, the injured worker has the burden of proving the claim, including eliminating other sources for the development of the condition. For these reasons, it is unlikely employees in Ohio who contract the coronavirus will be successful in pursuing a workers’ compensation claim for the COVID-19 virus.
Workers' Compensation and Working From Home
A related issue while discussing this topic concerns employees who are now working from home due to COVID-19. What happens if you sustain an injury while working from home? The answer is that an employee may have a valid Ohio workers’ compensation claim if he or she sustains an injury while working remotely, away from his or her normal work location. The employee must sustain the work injury while performing work duties, and not while the employee is between work and personal activities, or while performing personal activities.
For more information about pursuing a workers’ compensation claim for contracting Coronavirus or for sustaining injuries while working from home, please call us.