Worker's Compensation COVID-19 Public Information

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The Worker's Compensation Division has provided the following information related to their programs and the effects of COVID-19:

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For coronavirus to be covered by worker's compensation it must be established that contracting the disease was work-related. In other words there must be evidence to prove that contracting coronavirus arose out of your employment while you were performing services growing out of and incidental to your employment.

In the event you become ill, it is your responsibility to:

  • Immediately tell your supervisor that you are ill immediately
  • Obtain any necessary medical attention. This may include first aid, seeing a doctor or going to the emergency room; and
  • Maintain all relevant medical and payment records for possible future use.

Complete Instructions on How to File a Worker's Compensation Claim

A: OSHA has the primary responsibility for investigating private-sector worker – workplace complaints in the State of Wisconsin. For more information refer to:

Based upon this evolving public health emergency, as of the week of March 23, 2020, the Office of Worker’s Compensation Hearings will stop conducting in-person hearings, prehearings, and mediations until further notice. Hearings will be converted to settlement conferences. Conference calls will be conducted between the attorneys and the presiding administrative law judge.

Refer to the Notice of the Office of Worker’s Compensation Hearings for complete details.

Your worker's compensation insurance policy should be kept in place, but you will not be charged premium for the furloughed employees you keep on payroll. The Wisconsin Compensation Rating Bureau has issued guidance letting all employers know that if they choose to keep furloughed employees on payroll, while doing no work, as a gesture of goodwill during the COVID-19 epidemic they will not be charged worker's compensation premium for those workers.

Yes. In order to take advantage of the special rate approved by the Office of Commissioner of Insurance, employers will need to keep detailed records of all payroll, particularly the payroll paid for which no work was performed.

If your business is closed permanently, and no further work will be performed, and no employees will be paid again, then it is acceptable to cancel your policy. However, if you plan to reopen or have employees perform any work during the remainder of the policy term, the policy should be kept in place. Worker's compensation insurance premiums are based on payroll, not time. If a business has no payroll for a period, that will be taken into account during your next premium audit. Another reason to leave the policy in force is so that the employer can resume work immediately when conditions warrant, without having to apply for a new policy and ensuring coverage is in place before work is performed. There are substantial penalties for operating without worker's compensation insurance when legally required to have it. In addition, it may be more expensive to cancel a policy and be issued a new one when the business reopens: every policy premium contains what is known as the expense constant, which accounts for the insurance company's cost of issuing a policy. The employer must pay this charge each time a policy is issued, so an employer's costs can actually be higher if it cancels the current policy and then gets a new policy instead of leaving the existing policy in force.

The changes under 2019 Wisconsin Act 185 create a rebuttable presumption that first responders are covered by worker's compensation where an injury to a first responder is caused by COVID-19 during the Public Health Emergency (Executive Order #72) proclaimed by the Governor and ending 30 days after the order ends. Note that the public health emergency is different than the Safer at Home Emergency Order, which does not impact the worker's compensation language in 2019 Wisconsin Act 185.

A rebuttable presumption is an assumption that is taken to be true unless someone comes forward to contest it and prove otherwise. As it relates to COVID-19, it is assumed that a first responder's contraction of COVID-19 injury is work-related; however, this can be rebutted by specific evidence the injury was caused by something outside of the first responder's work for the employer.

A first responder under 2019 Wisconsin Act 185 is defined as an employee or volunteer for an employer that provides firefighting, law enforcement, medical or other emergency services, and who has regular direct contact with, or is regularly in close proximity to, patients with COVID-19, or other members of the public requiring emergency services within the scope of the individual's work for the employer.

The law covers work-related injuries due to COVID-19 with dates of injury on and after April 17, 2020 through the 30-day period following the expiration of the Public Health Emergency Executive Order that was issued on March 12, 2020.

A work-related injury due to COVID-19 must be supported by a specific diagnosis by a physician or by a positive COVID-19 test.

Worker's compensation benefits by first responders for injuries due to COVID-19 may be claimed if the date of injury is outside the time period specified in the law, but there will be no presumption that COVID-19 was work-related.