The outbreak of the COVID-19 virus has left us all in unprecedented and uncertain times. On March 20, Governor J.B. Pritzker issued a statewide “shelter-in-place” order which requires all non-essential businesses to close and all non-essential employees to stay home. However, employees in many of the “essential businesses” are exempt from that order including nurses, hospital employees and first responders. Unfortunately, such medical professionals are the ones most at risk of contracting the virus while they continue to work and treat those suffering from COVID-19. Understandably, those individuals must have questions and concerns about what happens if they contract the virus through their work.
Under the Illinois Workers Compensation and Occupational Disease Acts, employees who suffer from an accident/injury or illness which “arises out of” and “in the course of” their employment are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. Contracting conditions, such as COVID-19, while performing your nursing/medical duties satisfies those requirements and should entitle nurses and medical professionals to the benefits under the law. These benefits include full payment of your medical bills, weekly workers’ compensation pay equal to 2/3 of your weekly pay and potentially a permanency recovery. There is a 3 day waiting period before receiving the weekly pay but if you are off 14 or more days the waiting period is waived and you are entitled to workers’ compensation pay from day one. You must establish, more likely than not, that you contracted the condition from work as opposed to at home (or some other location outside of work). Your entitlement to benefits is determined on a case-by-case basis. However, employees in the medical field such as nurses, medical professionals, as well as first responders who, by the very nature of their employment, are at a higher risk of exposure than the general public should still complete an accident report/incident if they develop symptomology and seek treatment. Obtaining the necessary paperwork with the diagnosis, work ability and treatment plan is important.
The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Laws were enacted to protect employees, such as nurses, medical professionals and first responders, who are trained and employed to protect society. These laws not only apply to you, but are necessary for you to utilize in order to get you back healthy and able so you can continue to help others. We need these workers’ compensation laws now more than ever during these uncertain times.