Are You Eligible for Unemployment and Workers’ Compensation Due to Coronavirus (COVID-19)?
As CNN reported that nearly 80 million jobs in the nation are “at high or moderate risk” due to the coronavirus outbreak, are Pennsylvania workers eligible for unemployment or workers’ compensation benefits?
Of the 153 million jobs in the U.S. economy, more than half (80 million) are at risk due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. According to the report citing Moody’s Analytics, at least 10 million of the at-risk workers across the nation could be affected by:
- Fewer work hours; or
- Wage cuts.
On March 17, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf urged all nonessential businesses in the state to shut down due to the spread of the deadly virus that hads killed nearly 90 people in the U.S. and more than 7,100 people worldwide. Restaurants and bars across Pennsylvania were also urged to close for the next 14 days, except for take-out service.
Eligibility for Unemployment Benefits Due to Coronavirus (COVID-19)
On March 16, two days after President Donald Trump declared a national emergency, the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry (DLI) has provided guidance on unemployment compensation eligibility for Pennsylvania workers who were affected by shutdowns due to the coronavirus outbreak. If you were impacted, you might be eligible for benefits if:
- Your employer closes due to the coronavirus;
- Your employer goes out of business due to COVID-19;
- Your employer has cut your work hours due to the coronavirus;
- You have been advised against working because your employer is concerned that you might contract or spread COVID-19;
- You have been told to self-isolate or quarantine; or
- You live or work in a county under government-recommended mitigation efforts.
Eligibility for Workers’ Compensation Benefits Due to Coronavirus (COVID-19)
Typically, only those who contracted the coronavirus at work may be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. However, whether being exposed to COVID-19 will result in a compensable workers’ comp claim depends on the nature of your job, your duties, and other circumstances.
For example, healthcare workers and first responders are more likely to be eligible for workers’ comp than office workers. Grocery store employees and other workers from other essential businesses will also more likely be eligible based on their frequent contact with co employees and public. However, any worker who wants to obtain workers’ comp benefits must prove that they contracted the coronavirus at work or that their infection was proximately caused by their employment.
The coronavirus can be considered an “occupational disease” if the infected worker is able to establish two elements:
- The disease arose out of or in the course of employment; and
- The virus arose out of or was caused by conditions peculiar to the employee’s work (i.e., the peculiarity of your job creates the risk of contracting the virus to a greater degree than in public generally).
In order to prove that your coronavirus infection arose “out of and in the course of employment,” you must demonstrate that you were involved in some work-related activity when exposed to the virus. When determining eligibility, whether the contraction of the coronavirus was “peculiar” to your employer will also be considered.
Healthcare workers, first responders, physicians, plant nurses, and other medical professionals are more likely to prove that they were exposed to the coronavirus at work. For other employees, meanwhile, eligibility for workers’ compensation benefits will be analyzed depending on the specific circumstances.
Speak with our Harrisburg workers’ compensation attorneys at Ira H. Weinstock, P.C., to determine your eligibility for unemployment and workers’ compensation if you were exposed to the coronavirus at work. Call at 717-238-1657 to evaluate your case.