We have rallied around our first responders who are protecting us against Covid-19 and who maintain order and protect our homes and lives. Many houses have homemade signs in their windows expressing solidarity with police, fire and healthcare workers. We join in that sentiment and are aware of the risks those workers take every day. However, they are not the only ones who are continuing to work and continuing to put their lives at risk.
There is a wide range of “essential workers” who continue to provide service, continue to risk their lives by making contact with other humans as we attempt to live normal lives in the wake of the pandemic. The Governor has designated the following workers as essential:
- Healthcare and Public Health Operations (includes businesses in the supply chain)
- Human Services Operations
- Essential Infrastructure o-Food production, distribution and sale; construction, building management and maintenance, airports, utilities, distribution centers, transportation.
- Essential Government Functions – First responders, emergency personnel, law enforcement, safety and welfare.
- Stores that sell groceries and medicine
- Food, beverage and cannabis production and agriculture
- Charitable and social services
- Gas stations and businesses needed for transportation
- Financial institutions
- Hardware and supply stores
- Critical trades – Plumbers, electricians, exterminators, cleaning and janitorial staff, security, etc.
- Mail, post, shipping, logistics, delivery and pick-up services
- Educational institutions
- Laundry services
- Restaurants for consumption off-premises
- Supplies to work from home
- Supplies for essential businesses and operations
- Transportation (airlines, taxis, ridesharing)
- Home-based care and services
- Residential facilities and shelters
- Professional services (legal, accounting, insurance, real estate)
- Day care centers for employees exempted by the Executive Order
- Manufacture, distribution, and supply chain for critical products and industries
- Critical labor union functions
- Hotels and motels
- Funeral services
These are the people in your grocery store, dry cleaner, accounting and law offices Yes, offices like ours. Tradespeople who may come to your home to resolve an electrical or plumbing emergency, restaurant workers, construction workers, laundry workers are all at risk of contracting Covid-19 because they are not confined to their homes from the rest of us.
We hear about all the personal protective equipment (PPE) that first responders need. However, the rest of the essential workers are not as well protected. Perhaps the cashier in the grocery store has a paper mask and a Plexiglass shield and perhaps there is a taped line to keep the customer at a distance. However, the employees are still running around the store close to each other and working behind the deli counter and trying to restock shelves with customers milling about.
Construction crews are still working on homes and lawn care crews are still trimming and cutting outside of them. The workers are often riding together in one truck and working right next to each other. Sometimes they have masks and sometimes they don’t. Smaller employers do not always protect their workers the same way a police department or hospital or large corporation will do so
Protection is variable. One restaurant may have enacted strong protection for its workers and the next has a teenaged kid with no mask and gloves outside for curbside delivery who is hanging out talking with a coworker who is just a few feet away.
All essential workers need protection. Businesses that remain open are doing a service by allowing us to continue to obtain their service. However, if they do not protect their workers everybody is at risk. Employees, customers, employees of other companies making deliveries are all vulnerable if there is no thought given to the protection of these workers.
The Governor’s insistence that essential workers who contract Covid-19 is great news for all workers and to the lawyers who protect them. However, nobody wants to contract the disease. The knowledge that there may be a viable workers compensation claim is important but is no even exchange for the loss of a loved one or the extended hospitalization of that loved one or the risk of exposure to every other member of the household.
We applaud the businesses that have taken precautions and have put their employees’ best interest at the forefront. We had an employee test positive for Covid-19 and immediately quarantined every person who was in our office on the days when that employee worked for two weeks. We had our office closed for two days so cleaning staff could perform a deep clean before any non-quarantined employees returned. We view our lawyers and staff members as family members and are hoping that all employers of essential workers in the State of Illinois do the same.
Katz Friedman is currently representing many injured essential employees in work accident cases against their employers and will continue to investigate claims being made by any essential worker for all injuries whether it takes place from lifting, slipping and falling, or contracting Covid-19. When making decisions regarding a work injury, it is wise to consult an attorney. If you or someone you know works has been deemed an essential employee and suffers from Covid-19, the attorneys and staff at Katz Friedman are here to help with obtaining proper compensation.