At Meuser, Yackley & Rowland, P.A. we have been leaders in providing updates & information regarding Coronavirus (COVID-19) and its impact on first responders. First and foremost, we are open for business as an operation deemed essential. Our number one priority is protecting the safety and health of our staff, attorneys, clients and Minnesota workers including first responders. We will accommodate requests to conduct client meetings over the phone or video conference and will also be available via phone and email during normal business hours. Mediations and depositions are being handled this way as well.
Keeping Minnesota Workers Safe
Call your doctor if you believe you have been exposed to COVID-19 and develop a fever and other symptoms. Other symptoms may include coughing or difficulty breathing. These symptoms can surface 2-14 days after exposure. Illnesses that have been reported thus far have ranged from mild symptoms to severe illness as well as death. Learn more about your employment rights should you come into contact with COVID-19.
New Legislation for First Responders
In response to the COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak, our state government has taken swift and decisive action to financially protect Minnesota’s first responders who contract the virus. Governor Tim Walz signed into law a revision to the Minnesota’s workers’ compensation statute that creates a presumption that COVID-19 is a work-related occupational disease for first responders. The new revision covers licensed peace and police officers, firefighters, paramedics, nurses, health care workers, correctional officers, emergency medical technicians (EMTs), and many long-term care facility workers. The presumption also covers workers required to provide child care to first responders and health care workers. Most importantly, it increases the likelihood that Minnesota’s first responders who are infected with COVID-19 will receive workers’ compensation benefits. These benefits include compensation for lost wages and medical expenses that are incurred because of COVID-19. Read more about this legislation for Minnesota’s first responders.
We recommend that you follow your department’s policies. If you do subsequently test positive for the virus, any and all medical care should also be covered by workers’ compensation. If you miss time off work either due to being ill with Coronavirus, or being self-quarantined per your department’s policy, that time off work (beyond the 3-day waiting period) should also be covered by workers’ compensation. Our firm cautions that self-quarantining without your employer’s approval, or getting a coronavirus test outside of your employer’s policies may not be covered. We remind you that the most important thing is to be careful, be smart, and do what you need to do to protect yourself. The legalities can always be sorted out after the fact.
In the video below, Brian Peters, Executive Director of the Minnesota Police & Peace Officers Assocation (MPPOA) interviewed Minnesota Senate Majority Leader, Ryan Winkler and Minnesota State Representative, Dan Wolgamott to show how this legislation took a true bipartisan approach. Peters also describes what the MPPOA is doing to help their members during this pandemic.
Minnesota workers must prove that their condition:
- arose out of and occurred in the course of employment and
- that the disease is peculiar to the employee’s occupation meaning that the employee’s occupation exposes the employee to the virus to a greater degree than the general public is exposed
If an employee contracts the virus for any work-related reason, he or she could be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. Eligibility will depend on where the employee works and what their position entails.
If an employee meets these criteria, they may be entitled to compensation for lost wages and medical expenses that resulted from the illness.
Current & Pending Work Comp Cases
Now that “social distancing” and “flatten the curve” have become part of the collective consciousness, many employees are asking how the efforts to contain Covid-19 will impact their pending workers’ compensation case. Here is an overview of what to expect.
- First and foremost – follow your department’s policy regarding testing, monitoring for and/or reporting symptoms, taking sick time, and self-quarantine in the event of exposure. All other details can be sorted out after the fact.
- E-filing will continue, but expect disruptions and delays in processing
- Administrative Conferences and Mediations will be conducted by phone
- Some Hearings may continue in-person, others will be conducted by phone or reset
- Currently, the CDC does not have specific recommendations for testing or self-quarantine for first responders after a known exposure – protocol is going to be determined on a department-by-department basis.
- Document any and all encounters where you may have come into contact with anyone experiencing an upper respiratory illness. Make note of symptoms you observed, as well as hands-on or close contact you had with the individual, whether it is in the context of an emergency medical call, or an enforcement situation.
While we have been fierce advocates for our clients, there have been impacts on pending workers’ compensation cases. They are:
- Independent Medical Evaluations (IMEs) and Independent Psychological Evaluations (IPEs) that have already been scheduled, are now being cancelled.
- E-filing will continue, but expect disruptions and delays in processing
- Administrative Conferences and Mediations will be conducted by phone.
- Some Hearings may continue in-person, others will be conducted by phone or reset.
Get answers to other important questions regarding if you’re currently getting wage-loss benefits such as Temporary Partial Disability (TPD), Temporary Total Disability (TTD).
What does this new law do?
Who is covered under this new law?
Can I make a claim related to COVID 19 if my industry was not mentioned?
What are an employee’s rights if their workers’ compensation claim is denied?
What if I have a pre-existing condition. Does that protect any future claims?
How will employees get paid if they are quarantined due to COVID-19?
What should someone do if they’re experiencing COVID-19 symptoms?
Are family members of a loved one who has passed away after contracting COVID-19 entitled to workers’ compensation benefits?
For families mourning the loss of a loved one whose life was taken by the virus, the spouse and children may be entitled to workers’ compensation dependency benefits. If the employee’s dependents can prove that the death was work-related, as discussed above, the dependents may be entitled to compensation for burial expenses and lost wages. Learn more about death and dependency benefits.
Thank You Minnesota Workers
While many in Minnesota are following the governor’s advice to stay home and follow social distancing guidelines, Minnesota’s medical workers, police officers, firefighters and other first responders continue to help those in need and keep their communities safe. We thank them for their sacrifices. If you are a Minnesota first responder suffering from COVID-19, the knowledgeable attorneys at Meuser, Yackley & Rowland, P.A. can help you understand your rights. There is no other law firm who is more experienced in helping you navigate the system to ensure that you obtain all the workers’ compensation & PERA/MSRS (if applicable) benefits to which you are entitled. Contact us for a free confidential, no-obligation consultation. Call us today at 1-877-746-5680.