Legislators OK bill that gives ‘essential’ workers stricken with COVID-19 better access to worker’s compensation

Legislators OK bill that gives ‘essential’ workers stricken with COVID-19 better access to worker’s compensation

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In a bipartisan effort aimed at helping workers who become infected with COVID-19, the Illinois House on Friday overwhelmingly approved a measure that would increase access to worker’s compensation benefits.

The House voted 113-2 in favor of the legislation, which reflects a deal agreed to by organized labor and business groups. The bill workers considered “essential” under Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s statewide stay-at-home order who contract the new coronavirus to qualify for worker’s compensation benefits with the assumption that the virus was contracted on the job.

Employers could contest the claims by showing evidence an employee contracted the virus somewhere other than the workplace or that the employer was following state and federal public health guidelines.

“If you’re doing the right thing, that presumption would be rebutted,” Democratic Rep. Jay Hoffman said Friday of the presumption the virus was contracted on the job.

The Senate approved the bill Thursday, and it now goes to Pritzker.

Workers whose jobs require them to come into contact with the public or work in a location with more than 15 employees would qualify, and the agreement requires anyone diagnosed after June 15 to test positive for COVID-19.

The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission approved a similar emergency rule last month, but withdrew it after it was blocked by a Sangamon County judge in response to a lawsuit filed by the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association and the Illinois Retail Merchants Association.

“Today’s agreement strikes a fair balance, allowing employers to defend themselves using an ordinary standard of evidence,” Mark Denzler, president and CEO of the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association, said in a statement following the House vote. “Illinois businesses can rebut the presumption simply by showing ‘some evidence’ that they complied with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control or Illinois Department of Public Health."


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