Many workers’ are sometimes forced to be quarantined as a result of workplace exposure to COVID-19. Does workers’ compensation apply to these exposures?
Many workers’ are sometimes forced to be quarantined as a result of workplace exposure to COVID-19. Does workers’ compensation apply to these exposures? The answer is probably no. Under Texas law you must actually have an injury or occupational illness to obtain Texas Workers’ Compensation benefits. But what if you actually contracted COVID-19 at work, would you then be able to successfully recover Texas Workers’ Compensation benefits? That is a tougher question, first, you would have to prove causation. That is, you would have to show that you actually contracted the virus at work and not somewhere else. This is not impossible, but might be difficult to do. For instance, if someone at your workplace contracted COVID and you were posting on facebook that you went to house parties or traveled out of town, then you would have a difficult time proving your exposure came from work. However, if you stayed home and no one in your household became infected and you knew of people at your work who were infected then you have a better chance to prove causation. Even then, Texas Workers’ Compensation law only covers work illnesses that are an “occupational disease”. An ordinary disease of life to which the general public is exposed outside of employment is not considered an “occupational disease”. So if you are an office worker, would COVID be an “occupational disease”? Maybe not, because the exposure is not unique to that business. On the other hand if you are exposed in the medical field, such as an ambulance driver or hospital worker then you certainly have a better argument that you have unique exposure to the disease based on your occupation.
But if you are denied Texas Workers’ Compensation benefits due to it not being an “occupational illness”, then you may be able to sue your employer for negligence if they did not take the proper precautions to protect you from the disease. See the link to my article regarding this information.