Governor Andy Beshear signed an executive order on April 9th expanding workers’ compensation benefits to workers who, because of their jobs, are at higher risk of being exposed to COVID-19.
If an employee is removed from work by a doctor due to an “occupational exposure,” the employee will be entitled to temporary total disability payments during the period of removal. In order for the exposure to be “occupational,” there must be a causal connection between the conditions under which the work is performed and COVID-19.
The order explains that certain workers removed by a doctor’s order, like healthcare workers and first responders, are presumed to have been removed due to occupational exposure. The order goes further to note that, among others, domestic violence shelter workers, child care workers (that are permitted under other special orders to operate), and grocery store workers removed by a doctor’s order are also presumed to have been removed due to occupational exposure.
In making the announcement, Governor Beshear’s Chief of Staff and General Counsel, La Tasha Buckner, specifically noted that you don’t actually have to be sick—you just have to have been exposed to COVID-19 due to the nature of your job.
The order applies to both insurance carriers as well as employers that are self-insured.
Importantly, an employer can still contest an employee’s claim for workers’ compensation due to COVID-19, and the payment of temporary total disability payments pursuant to the executive order does not waive the employer’s right to contest the claim.