What is still unclear is the coverage of the COVID-19 illnesses under workers’ compensation. If the employee contracts COVID-19 and tells the employer that they believe that they contracted it on site, the employer should file a worker's compensation claim within 72-hours with their insurer as this is a reportable incident. The employee will need to show that they contracted it from work when an insurance adjuster does contact tracing. This process will take into account how well the employer followed Vermont Department of Health and CDC guidelines and take into account the potential risk doctrine.
This week, the Vermont legislature is looking at a proposal to create a presumption that an “essential employee” who contracts COVID-19 is eligible for workers’ compensation. The presumption could be rebutted if the employer “shows the employment was not a direct cause of the disease.”
With the closure of businesses in Vermont due to Covid 19, the current workers’ compensation rate employers pay should change. The Department of Financial Regulations (DFR) will be finalizing an order soon which should result in a decrease in worker's compensation rates reflective of a decrease in risk for employees working from home.
The committee will be meeting on April 17th to consider the proposal and to consider codifying the actions taken by DOL and DFR around prohibiting discontinuation of benefits until the state of emergency is lifted.