In a recent workers’ compensation blog post, we looked at whether Missouri’s workers’ compensation scheme would cover healthcare workers infected with the coronavirus. That post looked at Missouri Statute 287.067, which defines “occupational diseases,” and predicted that, based on prior cases in the state, it would provide workers’ compensation coverage for healthcare workers. However, the post ended with the hope that Missouri would follow the lead of other states and guarantee coverage for workers infected with the virus, rather than leave it up to the same courts that have consistently narrowed the scope of workers’ compensation coverage.
Recently, Missouri issued an emergency regulation that would cover workers who contracted coronavirus on the job. The regulation, however, does not cover healthcare workers. Instead, it only covers first responders.
Missouri’s Emergency Regulation Provides Workers’ Compensation for Coronavirus
On April 7, 2020, Missouri Governor Mike Parson and Labor Department Director Anna Hui announced that state regulations governing workers’ compensation were being amended because of the coronavirus. Those changes, which are found in Emergency Rule 8 CSR 50-5.005, include a presumption that a covered worker got infected on the job. This shifts the burden of proof from the injured worker to the defense lawyer – rather than the infected worker having to prove that they got COVID-19 on the job, it is up to the defense attorney to prove that they got infected off the job.
The emergency order, which was filed on April 8 and technically becomes effective on April 22, is retroactive to the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak. This means anyone covered by the order and who tests positive for COVID-19 will benefit from the legal presumption that they were infected on the job. The order is set to expire on February 1, 2021.
Order Only Applies to First Responders
While the emergency order is being touted as a huge development, though, its scope is shockingly narrow for the need created by the coronavirus: It only covers “first responders.” Under Missouri Statute 287.243, these include:
- Emergency medical technicians, or EMTs
- Volunteer firefighters
- Police officers
It does not include the healthcare workers or other essential workers who are the most at risk for a coronavirus infection. These workers still have the burden of proving that they got the coronavirus while they were at work.
St. Joseph Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at the Smith Law Office
Recovering workers’ compensation for a viral infection that was gotten in the workplace is more essential now than it ever was. Noticing that they are at risk of losing millions of dollars, though, workers’ compensation insurance companies are ramping up their lobbying pressure on state legislatures to protect their bottom lines, even if it comes at the expense of thousands of working class Americans.