On April 8, 2019, the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) published an updated Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page that specifically recognizes the potential compensability of COVID-19 claims as occupational disease claims. The BWC acknowledges that although communicable diseases like COVID-19 are typically not compensable, there is a possibility that the BWC could allow claims for this virus. When evaluating compensability, the BWC will consider how the disease was contracted and the nature of the claimant’s occupation. The BWC is careful to note that few jobs will have a greater risk of exposure than the general public which will be a hurdle for a claimant with a COVID-19 claim.
Currently, to have a compensable occupational disease claim, a claimant must prove a causal connection between the workplace exposure and the harmful effect confirmed by a medical diagnosis. Moreover, a claimant must prove that employment placed him or her at a greater risk of exposure than the general public. Some states are already approving workers’ compensation claims for COVID-19 related claims. BWC’s recently updated FAQs related to COVID-19 may be an indication that Ohio intends to follow suit and do the same. If so, there is a possibility that COVID-19 approved claims may extend beyond healthcare workers and first responders to include other essential and frontline workers during this pandemic. Claims may be allowed if those workers can prove their work created a special hazard or risk and they contracted COVID-19 because of workplace exposure.
We will continue to monitor this area of law as it continues to develop and provide updates.
Information about COVID-19 and its impact on local, state and federal levels is changing rapidly. This article may not reflect updates to news, executive orders, legislation and regulations made after its publication date. Visit our COVID-19 resource page to find the most current information.