The Department of Labor has issued new procedures to make it easier for high-risk federal employees to get workers compensation if they contract coronavirus.
DOL’s Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs (OWCP) will now accept that if federal employees who work in high-risk positions, such as front-line medical personnel, first responders, and law enforcement officers, contract COVID-19, their illness is “proximately caused by the nature of their work.”
Prior to the change, an employee had to prove that he/she was infected at work, and with community spread, that would be hard to do. The change makes it easier for them to get the workers’ compensation benefits they deserve.
“Federal workers in such positions routinely encounter situations that may lead to infection by contact with sneezes, droplet infection, bodily secretions, and surfaces on which the COVID-19 virus may reside,” OWCP said. “Therefore, the employment-related incidence of COVID-19 is more likely to occur among members of law enforcement, first responders and front-line medical and public health personnel, and among those whose employment causes them to come into direct and frequent in-person and close proximity contact with the public.”
Our union supports this change.
“Health care workers and first responders are risking their lives to serve the American public during this challenging time and, if they contract COVID-19 while performing those duties, they should not have to worry about proving it’s work-related,” said AFGE President Everett Kelley. “AFGE has been fighting for presumption of workplace illness for all essential employees working through the pandemic, and this is a step in the right direction.”
AFGE is also working with members of Congress to pass a new COVID-19 bill that includes several of our union’s priorities, including a presumption of worksite illness. Under this provision, employees who must interact with the public, who have been quarantined, or who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 during the performance of their duties will be presumed to have contracted the virus at work.