While the pandemic affected every area of life, the American workforce experienced major shifts – with new protocols and updated legislature shaping the way we work. There has been some confusion involving Workers’ Compensation eligibility for employees infected with COVID-19, especially federal employees. Hoffman Law Firm is here to help, answering some common questions below.
Read on to learn more, then get in touch to schedule your free consultation. If you believe you may be eligible for benefits, our Workers’ Compensation lawyers can help.
Is COVID-19 Still Impacting Workers and Employers?
Yes, COVID-19’s impact spans industries, continuing to change the way many employees get their jobs done. While much better than the peak of the pandemic, many workers and employees are still affected. State and local governments were forced to adapt as well, issuing new regulations to address an unprecedented situation.
Here at Hoffman Law Firm, our Workers’ Compensation lawyers are doing our best to stay current on the latest guidance and regulations. If you are interested in learning more about the current COVID spikes in your local South Carolina area, check out these resources: South Carolina Covid Community Levels and CDC’s Data Tracker.
Federal Employees’ Compensation Act Due to COVID-19
Many federal employees wonder if they are eligible for Workers’ Comp benefits after contracting COVID-19 at work. The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA) paves the path, making it easier to establish coverage under the Federal Employees’ Compensation Act (FECA).
As of February 15, 2022, you must only establish the following to file a claim:
- You were diagnosed with COVID-19 via a positive test result (excluding home tests) or medical professional
- You carried out job duties that required contact with patients, members of the public, or co-workers within 21 days of diagnosis**
Common Question About Federal Employees and COVID-19
After a positive COVID-19 test, do federal workers get continuation of pay (COP) if they miss shifts while in isolation?
Yes, federal workers will receive continuation of pay (COP) under the FECA if the following applies:
1) You can prove you have COVID-19 via a positive test result (excluding home tests) or a medical professional’s diagnosis. A notice to quarantine for exposure without a proper COVID-19 diagnosis will not suffice.
2) You file your CA-1 form within 30 days of the date of the injury (the last date you were exposed at work, prior to the positive test result). See 20 CFR 10.205. If you choose to use COP, you must provide medical evidence of your diagnosis to your employer within 10 calendar days after filing. Once the positive test result is on file, you are eligible for COP for that period of time.
Note: If you are disabled and must miss more than 10 days of work, you are required to provide your employer with medical evidence supporting COVID-related disability. If this is not submitted, your employer is legally permitted to stop COP after the initial 10-day period. Be sure to submit proof of your COVID-19 diagnosis and inability to work into your OWCP case file.
How long will federal workers receive Continuation of Pay (OP) while in isolation after a positive COVID test ?
If you meet the two requirements detailed above, the CDC recommends a period of isolation of at least 5 days (from start of symptoms or positive test). If your file contains a COVID-19 diagnosis, OWCP will not intervene during the first 10 days of COP. This is because isolation is akin to disability.
Do I need proof of COVID-19 to file a FECA claim?
Yes. Failure to submit proof could result in lost benefits. If your claim is denied because you did not provide evidence (positive test result or medical professional diagnosis), your employer may also recover any COP you previously received.
What happens if I don’t have COVID-19 but must quarantine for COVID-19 exposure?
If you are not infected but cannot work due to possible exposure, keep this in mind:
- Quarantine recommendations vary based on several factors, like vaccine status and whether you had COVID-19 in the last 90 days. Check the CDC’s COVID-19 website for more details.
- OWCP cannot accept a Workers’ Compensation claim based solely on quarantine or potential exposure, and therefore, will not provide COP.
- Discuss leave options with your employer if you are forced to quarantine. Or visit the Safer Federal Workforce website to learn more.
What is FECA?
FECA stands for Federal Employees’ Compensation Act (FECA) – the provision of much-needed coverage to federal civilian workers who suffer illness or injury on the job. Benefits include compensation for reasonable medical expenses, lost wages, and permanent impairment. Death benefits are available to survivors as well.
Who is eligible for this FECA program?
If you meet either of these criteria, you may be eligible for FECA program benefits:
- Federal civilian employee who sustains a work-related injury or disease
- Eligible survivor of a federal employee who died due to a work-related injury or disease.
How Do I File A FECA Claim for COVID-19?
The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, signed on March 11, 2021, simplifies the process for federal workers diagnosed with COVID-19 to establish coverage. To be eligible for FECA, you must prove the following:
- You were diagnosed with COVID-19 while in federal service (at any time between January 27, 2020 to January 27, 2023).
- Your job duties include any risk of exposure. Job duties must have been carried out within 21 days of your COVID-19 diagnosis, and included:
- Contact with patients, members of the public, or co-workers
- Or risk of exposure to COVID-19
For further details, visit the U.S. Department of Labor website.
CHARLESTON WORKERS’ COMP LAWYER NEAR ME
If you suffered a workplace illness or injury, you need experienced legal representation on your side. Hoffman Law Firm can help, with our team of Workers’ Compensation lawyers at the ready. We will work hard to recover the benefits you deserve, offering trusted legal advice throughout the claims process.
Not sure if you have a case? Our local lawyers can determine eligibility – and your initial consultation is free! Contact Hoffman Law Firm today to get started.
We also offer some helpful Workers’ Comp blogs while you wait on your consultation, like these:
Our personal injury law firm offers trusted legal representation in a wide variety of cases here in the Lowcountry, including:
South Carolina COVID-19 Resources:
** You are deemed to have had exposure if you have COVID-19 symptoms or positive test results within 21 days of interaction with at least one other person (a patient, a member of the public, or a co-worker) in the course of your employment duties.
- The interaction does not have to be direct physical contact. Nor is there a specified time for such interaction, any duration qualifies. General office contact and interaction is sufficient. This includes but is not limited to interaction in shared workspaces such as lunchrooms, break areas and common restrooms.
However, an employee that is exclusively teleworking during a covered exposure period is not considered a “covered employee” under the ARPA. See FECA Bulletin 20-09.
Disclaimer: Information on this page is sourced from reliable sources including the CDC, DHEC and DOL website. In the event of a discrepancy between the information on Hoffmanlawfirm.com and the website above, please follow the guidance of the CDC, DHEC and DOL.