Employers: How to Handle the New Minnesota Workers’ Compensation Law That Extends Greater Protection to Front-Line Employees
Minnesota Governor Tim Walz signed a workers’ compensation bill on April 7, 2020, to help first responders, healthcare workers and daycare workers who contract COVID-19 in the workplace. The law is intended to ensure front-line employees will receive worker’s compensation benefits for their care.
Workers’ compensation benefits include medical treatment, monetary benefits for wage loss and permanent disability, certain dependency benefits, and vocational rehabilitation benefits. When an employee is injured or sickened at work, they generally have the burden of proving that their injury or illness is work-related. But this law changes that requirement and creates a presumption for these workers (that they contracted COVID-19 while working).
Who does the new law cover under “front-line” employees?
- home healthcare workers
- emergency medical technicians
- police officers
- corrections facility officers and counselors
- childcare workers currently providing care for the children of health care workers and first responders
What does an employee need to provide to an employer for a Workers’ Comp claim?
To receive workers’ compensation benefits, the employee’s condition would have to be confirmed by either a positive laboratory test or the diagnosis of a physician, physician’s assistant, or nurse, based upon the employee’s symptoms. If the employee was able to provide this test result or diagnosis, the employer would be obligated to prove that the employee’s employment was not a direct cause of the disease for benefits to be denied. A copy of the test results or the diagnosis by one of the listed health care providers must be provided to the employer or insurer.
Does an employee need to be diagnosed by a certain date?
The proposed legislation covers cases diagnosed on or after April 8, 2020, and it will sunset on May 1, 2021.
What documents or steps should employers recommend when advising their employees on applying for Workers Comp?
- Notification should be sent to the employer as soon as possible after developing symptoms they think could be COVID-19. There are time limitations for reporting an injury to the employer.
- A record should be sent to the employer of when the employee developed symptoms and when they notified their employer of those symptoms.
- The employee should seek medical care from a healthcare provider and request a test for COVID-19. If a test is not available, the employee should request that the healthcare provider document that a test was not available, further document their symptoms, and provide a diagnosis of whether they believe the employee has COVID-19.
- A copy of the test results or the diagnosis should be provided to their employer or their employer’s insurer.
What are an employer’s obligations when an employee reports an injury or illness?
- The employer must file a first report of injury with the workers’ compensation insurer or claim administrator. This is true regardless of the injury or illness type. In other words, process as usual.
- Follow CDC guidance on potential COVID-19 exposure at work and interim guidance for implementing safety practices for critical infrastructure workers who may have had exposure. Employers should also refer to guidance from local public health authorities.