Does Florida Classify a COVID-19 Infection as an Occupational Disease?
Florida workers’ compensation attorney Joseph M. Rooth explains when COVID-19 may be treated as an occupational disease.
While vaccines, social distancing, and other safety measures have put a dent in the COVID-19 pandemic nationwide, Florida continues to see a high number of cases. Many employees have concerns about contracting it on the job and whether workers’ compensation in Florida covers it as an occupational disease. Find out when an infection could entitle you to benefits.
Protecting Workers Who Face Increased Risk of Exposure to COVID-19 on the Job
According to the Florida Department of Health (DOH), close to 80,000 new COVID-19 cases were reported each week in September 2021. Particularly for those that deal with the public, this raises concerns about the risk of infection and whether they are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits if they get sick.
In response to the outbreak last year, Florida’s Chief Financial Officer (CFO) directed the state workers’ compensation program to begin providing benefits to people in high risk jobs. This includes:
- First responders, such as the police, firefighters, and emergency medical technicians (EMTs);
- Corrections officers, who are required to be physically present in state operated facilities;
- Child safety inspectors, whose duties require them to make at-home welfare checks;
- State employees working in the healthcare field, whose duties involve dealing with people being tested for COVID-19;
- The Florida National Guard, who were called to duty at the height of the pandemic.
While this is a start, it leaves plenty of at-risk jobs off the list. This includes people working at public and private hospitals, teachers, public utility workers, customer service representatives, and those working in the retail and hospitality fields.
Are You Entitled to Workers’ Compensation Benefits Due to COVID-19?
Obtaining workers’ compensation benefits for COVID-19 can prove challenging, but it is possible. Under the Florida Statutes, occupational illnesses generally occur due to causes and conditions that are characteristic of and specific to certain types of industries or occupations. So-called ‘ordinary diseases of life’ to which the general public is exposed are not included, unless there are actual studies showing the incidence rate is higher in a particular occupation than in the general population. Even then, a COVID-19 infection would need to result in disability or eventual death.
Short of this, you may have more success obtaining workers’ compensation benefits for COVID-19 if it can be classified as an occupational injury. This involves proving you were exposed to the virus during the course of your job and that the rate of exposure is enough to reasonably cause an infection.
Reach Out to Our New Port Richey Workers’ Compensation Attorney Today
If you acquired COVID-19 from your job and complications prevent you from working, our New Port Richey workers’ compensation attorney is here to help you get the benefits you are entitled to. Call 727-849-3400 or contact the office of attorney Joseph M. Rooth online and request a consultation to discuss your case today.