Reinisch Wilson Weier PC Workers' Compensation Defense and Employment Law

Coronavirus and Worker’s Compensation: first thoughts

By Shawna Fruin, Vincci Lam and Steve Reinisch, Mar 03, 2020

The news of Coronavirus spreading around the globe is alarming, prompting all of us at Reinisch Wilson Weier to think about how to plan and prepare for the unknown. As we work internally to get ahead of this issue, we are sharing some guides and ideas that may be helpful to employers and third party administrators.

Resources for Business in General

For businesses in general, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO) have published guides for preparing for Coronavirus. The guides are available here and here.

Here at Reinisch Wilson Weier, we are actively working to implement these guides at our firm. We are also taking an inventory of which employees have remote access, who would be affected if schools are closed (for example, parents without other childcare options who would be forced to stay home if schools were closed), etc., to prepare for the possibility of a significant portion of our firm working remotely. Furthermore, in addition to government recommendations such as frequent hand washing and staying home if you have any sign of illness, we are also encouraging all employees to disinfect their own spaces in an effort to reduce spread of any contagious agents.

Compensability of Coronavirus-related Workers’ Compensation Claims

For Washington workers’ compensation, our attorneys are working with the Washington Department of Labor and Industries to investigate what type of exposures, if any, could lead to a compensable workers’ compensation claim for Coronavirus. The Department previously published a guide for Ebola here and may take a similar position for Coronavirus. If you receive a workers’ compensation claim related to Coronavirus, we recommend considering the Ebola guide and contacting the Department for additional guidance as necessary.

For Oregon workers’ compensation, our attorneys have been in contact with the policy analyst/rules coordinator at the Oregon Worker’s Compensation Department. Currently, the Oregon Department has no formal plan for addressing the compensability of Coronavirus-related claims. However, the policy analyst/rules coordinator is raising this issue with the Interim Workers Comp Division Administrator. We will provide updates as received.

Penalties for Coronavirus-related Delays

For Washington, our attorneys are working with the Washington Department of Labor and Industries to find out how it would address possible Coronavirus-related delays in replies to a worker’s requests for a claim file update (for example, if an employer was unable to provide a full claim file update within the time-frames of WAC 296-15-420 because its employees were quarantined, staying home due to school closures, etc.). The Department is looking into this issue, and we will update this blog once we have an answer. Our request is that the Department consider the timeliness of claim file update replies under a “reasonableness” standard.

For Oregon, our attorneys contacted the Oregon Worker’s Compensation Department, who advised that they are considering if and how response time-frames might change if there is a reduction in the workforce as a result of medical precautions. We will keep you updated as to any industry notices or bulletins.

Conclusion

We will continue to update you as this Coronavirus issue develops, but please do not hesitate to contact an attorney at Reinisch Wilson Weier for any questions you have on this topic.



« Back to Workers’ Compensation Defense Blog