Workers’ Compensation Presumptive Eligibility for COVID-19

HF 4537 (Wolgamott)/SF 4458 (Howe):

What does presumptive eligibility for COVID-19 mean?

Currently, contraction of COVID-19 at work is considered an “occupational disease” under Minnesota’s Workers’ Compensation program. However, it requires workers to provide evidence that they contracted the virus at work. With the passage of this bill, nurses and workers who are on the frontlines of this pandemic are presumed to have contracted COVID-19 through their employment. Meaning, the burden of proof is shifted from the employee to the employer. Through this legislation, hospitals will need to provide proof that a nurse didn’t contract COVID-19 through the course of their employment.

Who is covered?

  • Nurses, healthcare providers, and assistive employees in a healthcare, home care, or long-term care setting with direct COVID-19 patient care or who provide necessary support to the primary functions of COVID-19 patient units. In addition to nurses who provide direct care to COVID-19 patients, this should include nurses in hospitals and other healthcare settings such as public health or long-term care who are triaging patients, assessing patients, and working with patient tests. This would also include support staff who launder materials, clean rooms, etc.
  • Nurses, healthcare workers, corrections officers, and security counselors at corrections, detentions, and secure treatment facilities. MNA fought hard to ensure nurses at corrections facilities were covered under this language.
  • Licensed peace officers;
  • Firefighters;
  • Paramedics;
  • EMTs; and
  • Workers required to provide childcare to first responders and healthcare workers under Executive Order 20-02 and Executive Order 20-19.

What is required for presumptive eligibility?

A nurse must either test positive for COVID-19 or be diagnosed by a physician or APRN. Then, either the positive test or documentation of the diagnosis must be provided to the employer. MNA successfully fought back against efforts to require a positive test only to qualify for this presumptive eligibility status.

Can an employer rebut the claim?

The only cause for a rebuttal is if the employer can show that employment was not a direct cause. This is a much higher threshold and would likely be very difficult to prove in most situations.

What constitutes the official date of injury?

The date of injury is the date in which a nurse was unable to work due to receiving a positive test for COVID-19 or by exhibiting symptoms that were later diagnosed as COVID-19, whichever came first.

When is the effective date?

This presumption is effective on April 8, 2020. Despite MNA’s hard-fought attempts to get a retroactive effective date, businesses and hospitals refused. While cases in which nurses contracted COVID-19 before April 8, 2020, would not be able to benefit from presumptive eligibility status, they would still qualify for workers compensation under Minnesota Statutes 176.011, section 1, subdivision 15. They would just need to provide evidence that they contracted COVID-19 on the job. For example, if their employer told them to go home or if they are a nurse who routinely works with COVID-19 patients, they have a very good case for receiving Workers’ Compensation benefits.

How long does this presumption last?

Presumptive Eligibility for COVID-19 related claims is in effect until May 1, 2021.

How’s it paid for?

This part is still unknown. The legislature will be coming back at the end of April to decide how this will ultimately be financed. By that time, the state should receive any federal funding, Minnesota will have a clearer picture of how the state budget looks, and the legislature will better understand how many workers are taking advantage of this legislation.