On June 5, 2020 Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed House Bill 2455 into law, thereby amending the Illinois Workers’ Occupation Diseases Act with respect to claims related to COVID-19. Codified as Public Act 101-0633, the amendment creates a rebuttable presumption that an employee’s contraction of COVID-19 arises out of and in the course of that employee’s first responder or front-line worker employment, and that the injury or occupational disease is rebuttably presumed to be causally connected to the hazards or exposures of the employee’s first responder or front-line worker employment.
The amendment further specifies that the presumption applies to any firefighter or police officer who contracted COVID-19 on or after March 9, 2020, and on or before Dec. 31, 2020; except that the presumption shall not apply if the police officer or firefighter was on a leave of absence from their employment for a period of 14 or more consecutive days immediately prior to the date of contraction of COVID-19. The amendment clarifies that the rebuttable presumption will only come into effect after a worker obtains evidence that they had contracted COVID-19 through either:
- A confirmed positive laboratory test for COVID-19 or COVID-19 antibodies, or
- A confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19 from a licensed medical professional.
The amendment further extends this rebuttable presumption for ordinary death benefits and certain annuities related to death in the line of duty as a result of COVID-19 for firefighters and police officers.
Essentially, the act codifies the emergency amendment posed by the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission on April 16, 2020, which you can read about here. That emergency amendment was challenged in court, which resulted in a judicial stay on the amendment, which in turn caused the Commission to withdraw it. The amendment creates a plethora of questions for insurers and employers. Of note, it applies retroactively – coming into effect from March 9, 2020 up through December 31, 2020. This may affect the compensability of COVID-19 claims which had previously been denied for arguably falling outside the bounds of the pre-amendment Illinois Workers’ Occupational Diseases Act. This retroactive application can also create issues regarding the sufficiency of COVID-19 antibody tests and diagnoses which occur well after the date of the alleged COVID-19 work injury.
We will continue to monitor the effects of this act as relevant cases arise. In the meantime, we are available to address your questions about how this act could affect you and your business.
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.