MINNESOTA LAWMAKERS ADDRESS WORKERS’ COMPENSATION COVID-19 CLAIMS
Legislation Creates Rebuttable Presumption of Coverage for Certain Workers
On April 7, 2020, Minnesota lawmakers passed workers’ compensation legislation protecting employees in the state deemed particularly susceptible to the COVID-19 virus. Gov. Tim Walz signed the bill on April 7. The legislation affects employers and insurers. This update answers questions about that legislation.
What is it?
The legislation creates a rebuttable presumption of workers’ compensation coverage for certain employees who contract COVID-19.
To whom does it apply?
·Licensed peace officers;
·Nurses or health care workers, correctional officers or security counselors employed by the state or a political subdivision at a corrections, detention or secure treatment facility;
·Emergency medical technicians;
·Health care providers, nurses, or assistive employees employed in a Health Care, home care, or long-term care setting, “with direct COVID-19 patient care or ancillary work in COVID-19 patient units”; and
·Workers required to provide childcare to first responders and health-care workers under previously issued Executive Orders.
How does it work?
It creates a rebuttable presumption of coverage for employees in these categories. Employees in these specified occupations contracting COVID-19 are “presumed to have an occupational disease arising out of and in the course of employment” if the employee satisfies two criteria:
1.) They are a member of one of the designated occupations; and
2.) Their contraction of COVID-19 is confirmed by:
a.) a positive laboratory test; or
b.) if a laboratory test was not available for the employee, “as diagnosed and documented by the employee’s licensed physician, licensed physician’s assistant, or licensed advanced practical registered nurse (APRN), based on the employee’s symptoms.
A copy of the positive lab test or written documentation of the provider’s diagnosis must be provided to the employer or insurer.
Once the employee satisfies the criteria for the rebuttable presumption of coverage, the presumption “shall” only be rebutted if the employer or insurer demonstrates the employment “was not a direct cause of the disease.”
How do you determine the date of injury in these cases?
The date of injury is the date the employee was unable to work due to a diagnosis of COVID-19, or due to symptoms later diagnosed as COVID-19, whichever occurred first.
How long do employers and insurers have to evaluate and determine compensability for these cases?
The 14-day time limit in Minn. Stat. §176.221, subdivision 1, still applies as do the requirements for a denial of liability.
What if an employee has COVID-19 but is not entitled to the presumption?
Employees contracting COVID-19 not entitled to the presumption may still claim an occupational disease or personal injury.
When does this take effect and end?
It is effective for employees who contract COVID-19 on or after the date following final enactment. Governor Walz signed the bill on April 7, 2020. A bill is typically “enacted” when the governor signs it, so the day after final enactment would be April 8, 2020. Therefore, the bill applies to employees who contract COVID-19 on or after April 8, 2020.
The legislation contains a “sunset” provision ending it on June 1, 2021. It also provides that the Commissioner of the Department of Labor and Industry must provide a detailed report of Covid-19 workers’ compensation claims to the Workers Compensation Advisory Counsel and certain state legislators by January 15, 2021.
Are there any other workers’ compensation provisions in this emergency legislation?
The legislation gives the Commissioner of the Department of Labor and Industry authority to extend the implementation date of the Campus system beyond August 31, 2020, if she determines its implementation should be delayed due to the virus. The Campus system is the Department’s new electronic filing and case management system. The Commissioner would have to publish an appropriate notice of delay in the State Register and include a new date for implementation of the Campus system. A new extended date would have to be at least 60 days after the date of the published notice.
There are other workers’ compensation bills moving through the legislature, including a bill supported by the Minnesota Workers’ Compensation Advisory Committee. We will update you if this other legislation passes.
How does Governor Walz’s Executive Order 20-20 effect ongoing workers’ compensation claims and disputes at the Minnesota Office of Administrative Hearings?
OAH issued its latest update to all stakeholders on April 2. OAH staff will work remotely when possible. All conferences (pretrial, .239, .106, settlement), motion hearings, mediations and attorney fee hearings will be by telephone. All exhibits for all proceedings must be e-filed at least one day in advance of the proceeding. Stipulation status conferences will resume. If OAH does not receive a stipulation for settlement within 45 days after receiving notice that the case settled, the assigned judge will contact the parties and follow-up by phone as needed to assist them in submitting the stipulation. OAH will determine requests for continuances for in-person hearings on a case-by-case basis. OAH may consider a telephone hearing in certain situations while in-person hearings may be necessary. OAH will use larger hearing rooms that accommodate social distancing of 6 feet between participants. This could change in the future as the COVID-19 situation continues to evolve.
For further information about Minnesota workers’ compensation and COVID-19, please see our March 13 update and our response to frequently asked questions. https://www.olwklaw.com/documents/2020_03_13_OLWK_WC_COVID_19_Update.pdf In that update, we anticipated this legislative response. Please contact any of the attorneys in our Workers’ Compensation Practice Group with any questions. Stay safe, healthy and be well.