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IL essential businesses threatened with workers comp lawsuits if employees acquire COVID-19



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SPRINGFIELD – Illinois businesses deemed "essential" by Governor JB Pritzker's executive order concerning COVID 19 will now need to pay workers compensation claims if their employees acquire COVID19, the state's Workers Compensation Commission decided Wednesday during an emergency meeting.

The policy could place any grocery store, pharmacy, service or facility deemed "essential" at risk of lawsuits and workers' compensation premium hikes – putting them between a demanding, sometimes desperate public and protecting their employees from COVID-19 exposure.

The changes, in addition to those entities covered in Section 1 Part 12 of the Governor’s Executive Order 2020-10, adds "Healthcare and Public Health Operations; Human Services Operation; Essential Infrastructure; Essential Government Functions; and Businesses Covered by the Executive Order, including any for-profit, non-profit, or educational entities, regardless of the nature of the service, the function it performs, or its corporate or entity structure.”

The Schaumburg-based Technology & Manufacturing Association released a statement Thursday saying they are engaged in an effort with Illinois business groups to pursue a Temporary Restraining Order of the group's policy change.

The result of the revised emergency rule is that any Illinois employer, private, public for-profit or non-profit, whose worker is exposed to COVID-19 now has the burden shifted upon the employer to prove that the COVID-19 injury, disease, or incapacity did not occur at the workplace. Otherwise, the employer will be required to provide workers comp benefits while the employee is ill – and perhaps a settlement if permanent physical damage occurs as a result.

The new policy – put into place without prior public notice or debate – “If the petitioner’s injury, occupational disease, or period of incapacity resulted from exposure to the COVID-19 virus during the Gubernatorial Disaster Proclamation 2020-38 and any subsequent COVID-19 disaster proclamations, the exposure will be rebuttably presumed to have arisen out of and in the course of the petitioner’s COVID-19 First Responder Front-Line Worker employment." 

The emergency rule says the petitioner’s exposure “will be rebuttably presumed to be causally connected to the hazards or exposures of the petitioner’s COVID-19 First Responder or Front Line Worker employment.”

TMA says from their perspective,  the emergency rule will result in undermining Illinois’ long standing application of the law’s doctrine of “increased risk” which states a workers’ compensation claimant must show that they were at greater risk of injury than the public because of the requirements of their job.



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