A new Oklahoma law, which was filed on February 1, 2021, would change the rules for obtaining workers’ compensation benefits for first responders who acquire COVID-19 while performing their duties.
What is House Bill 2236 in Oklahoma?
House Bill 2236, authored by Rep. Stan May, would make it easier for first responders who acquire the deadly virus at work to receive workers’ compensation.
The legislation, if passed, would amend Oklahoma’s workers’ compensation law to introduce a “rebuttable presumption” that first responders who test positive for COVID-19 acquired the virus within the course and scope of their employment, which is a requirement under 85A OK Stat § 85A-2 to be eligible for workers’ comp.
The rebuttable presumption would be applicable to workers’ compensation claims:
- Filed by first responders on or after the effective date of the proposed legislation; and
- Filed before the effective date if (a) the claim was denied and (b) the worker filed an appeal with the Oklahoma Workers Compensation Commission.
The legislation would take effect immediately if passed and signed into law. Under the legislation, first responders include such occupations as:
- Police officers
- Firefighters, including volunteer firefighters
- Emergency medical technicians
Currently, there is no presumption that first responders who test positive for COVID-19 acquired the virus on the job.
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Is COVID-19 an Occupational Disease?
COVID-19 could be considered an “occupational disease” under the current workers’ compensation law in Oklahoma.
85A OK Stat § 85A-65 defines the term “occupational disease” as any disease or illness that arises out of and in the course of employment and results in the worker’s disability or death.
However, an employee must prove that they acquired COVID-19 in the course and scope of his or her employment because of the high-risk nature of the job.
Is COVID-19 an Accidental Injury?
Technically, COVID-19 could also be compensable under the Oklahoma workers’ compensation law as an “accidental injury.” You might be eligible for workers’ compensation if you got infected with COVID-19 on the job as long as you can prove causation.
Each case is unique, which is why it is essential to consult with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney to evaluate your particular situation and help you establish a causal link between your employment and COVID-19.
Note: You are more likely to be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits if you are a first responder or have another “high-risk” occupation.
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Can You Receive Workers’ Compensation if You Acquired COVID-19 Remotely?
Possibly yes. However, as with other types of workers’ compensation claims, you will have to prove that your condition arose out of and in the course of employment. For the purposes of seeking workers’ compensation benefits, a worker’s home is treated as a worksite.
However, the court will also consider the following factors to determine whether a remote worksite injury is compensable:
- The presence of work equipment at home;
- The amount and regularity of work at home; and
- Whether the employer directed the employee to work remotely.
Contact our Tulsa workers’ compensation attorneys at BDIW Law to analyze your particular case and determine whether you can get compensated for being infected with COVID-19 at work. Call 918-728-6500 to schedule a free case review.
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