Employers requiring employees to physically return to work are forcing their employees to face stark realities related to COVID-19 and their employment. While the virus continues to spread, many employers may be placing their staff in harm’s way. Unfortunately, many who contract the virus may find themselves without workers’ compensation protections, as one Florida teacher recently discovered.
In Leon County, athletic director Mike Eto contracted COVID-19 and is currently fighting to recover from the virus. He filed a workers’ compensation claim in which he alleged that he contracted COVID-19 after having contact with a student who tested positive for the virus. Mr. Eto’s recovery process is proving long and costly.
“Mike will be out of work for at least another month, using his own leave, or not paid, I assume,” Allison Eto told the Tallahassee Democrat. “It could be longer if the pulmonologist says his lungs are damaged. Most families can’t afford this.”
Without the protection and support provided by workers’ compensation, many of the costs like those Mr. Eto finds himself incurring are likely to fall squarely on sick or injured individuals. Mr. Eto’s experience is sadly one that is likely to be too common in the coming days as teachers return to the classroom with the pandemic still largely underway.
“We have no idea what our medical bills will be, but [the school district] won’t assist with them if they won’t even pay his leave,” Allison said. “He didn’t choose to open gym for groups of boys.”
Workers’ Compensation and COVID-19
So why are employers able to deny a workers’ compensation claim in a case like Mr. Eto’s?
Workers’ compensation claims often require that cases prove both causation and sufficient exposure by clear and convincing evidence. This is a high standard as it can be difficult to prove the exact source of the suffering individual’s exposure.
Situations involving workers’ compensation and COVID-19 are new for the court. The law has not had time to develop around the issue. The current climate leaves workers in unclear territory when it comes to protecting their rights and how to pursue their care but it seems unlikely that workers’ compensation law currently provides them with much protection.
Florida Personal Injury Lawyer
The law firm of Thomas J. Ueberschaer represents injured individuals in matters of personal injury, motor vehicle accidents, workers’ compensation, social security disability, product liability, and more.