Can I File a Workers’ Comp Claim if I Get the Coronavirus?
Section 42-1-160 of the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act defines an injury in South Carolina Workers’ Compensation law. An “injury” means only an injury arising out of and in the scope of employment and shall not include a disease in any form, except when it results naturally and unavoidably from the accident. Diseases are further defined by Section 42-11-10 of the Act.
In short, the South Carolina State Legislature did not intend for community diseases such as the flu, colds and potentially the Coronaviris (COVID-19) to be deemed work related (compensable) under the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act.
South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Diseases
While the COVID-19 / Coronavirus is potentially a disease, it is not likely that it is considered a disease within the definitions of the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act. Section 42-11-10 addresses “Occupational Disease” which means a disease arising out of an in the course of employment that is due to the hazarsd in excess of those ordinarily incidnet to employment and is peculiar to the occupation in which the employee is engaged.
In other words the disease must be specific to the type of job and be because of that job. Most occupational disease claims are with employment types where the employee is around chemicals, fumes, silica, asbestos and specific chemicals or substances that are because of the job in which they are employed. It is unlikely that the intent was to compensate an employee for community based illness or disease like the Coronavirus / COVID-19 as that would give rise to flu claims, cold, an other illness. In addition, the Coronavirus is not peculiar to employment. You can contract this anywhere thus the reason the government has discouraged gatherings of greater than 100 people. It is not something you get just at your employer like if you were exposed to asbestos in the workplace and nowhere else.
What Do I Do About Work During the Coronavirus Pandemic
Employers seem to appreciate communication from the employees. If you are scared of contracting the illness and spreading it on then bring it to the attention of your employer. Depending on the type of employment that employer may be able to modify your job duties to alleviate some of your fears. You may be permitted to work from home. A face mask may be provided. Direct contact with other personnel may be limited. You may also ask you employer if you have access to any paid time off through vacation, personal time, or through the Family Medical Leave Act that might cover you if you decide not to come to work. At the end of they day, you must do what is best for you but with every choice there can be ramifications including, but not limited to, unpaid time off, reprimands and/or termination.
The Novel Coronavirus / COVID-19 presents novel legal challenges. The reality is that this is very new and everyone is still trying to figure it all out. Given that newness of these issues, this blog is for informational purposes only, is not intended to be relied upon and does not constitute legal advice. For advice specific to your situation you should contact a lawyer.