On Friday, June 5th, Illinois Governor J. B. Pritzker signed an omnibus labor bill that includes death benefits for first responders who were presumably infected with COVID-19 while on duty and workers' compensation benefits for essential workers under certain conditions.

HB 2455 is the product of negotiations between business and labor establishing evidentiary standards and workplace safety protection requirements for front line workers. Front line workers include first responders, police, fire personnel, emergency medical technicians, and health care providers, including nursing homes, rehabilitation facilities, and home care workers. HB 2455 also applies to employees of essential businesses and operations as defined in Executive Order 2020-10.

Under the new law, a front line worker who contracts COVID-19 is presumed to have contracted it at work, which means it is covered by workers' compensation insurance. This is a departure from how workers' compensation insurance typically deals with communicable diseases. Employers can refute the presumption under certain conditions, including:

  • The employer was engaging in and applying to the fullest extent possible or enforcing to the best of its ability industry-specific workplace sanitation, social distancing, health and safety practices based on updated guidance issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or Illinois Department of Public Health, or was using a combination of administrative and engineering controls and personal protective equipment to reduce the transmission of COVID-19 to all employees for at least 14 consecutive days prior to the employee's injury, occupational disease, or period of incapacity resulting from exposure to COVID-19.
  • The employee was working from his or her home, on leave, or some combination of both, for 14 or more consecutive days immediately prior to the employee's injury, occupational disease, or period of incapacity resulting from exposure to COVID-19.
  • The employee was exposed to COVID-19 by an alternate source.

This applies to all cases in which the diagnosis of COVID-19 was made on or after March 9, 2020, and on or before December 31, 2020. Business operations that are not utilizing the latest guidance from the CDC or Illinois Department of Public Health when interacting with the public could see an increased number of claims from their employees.

Please refer to HB 2455 for details: http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/BillStatus.asp?DocNum=2455&GAID=15&DocTypeID=HB&SessionID=108&GA=101

The Pharmacists Mutual Risk Management Center at www.phmic.com has several tools available for our commercial members' use to ensure work sites are as safe as possible.