The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission adopted an emergency amendment to its Rules of Evidence that makes it easier for first responders and essential workers in Illinois to obtain workers’ compensation benefits for any COVID-19 related injury or illness during the COVID-19 state of emergency. This amendment took effect Thursday, April 16, 2020 and can last for up to 150 days.
Pursuant to workers’ compensation procedures, the burden is normally on the employee to establish that his or her injury or illness was directly caused by his or her duties. However, the amendment states that when a first responder or essential worker tests positive for COVID-19, it is presumed that the exposure arose out of, and in the course of, his or her employment and is causally related to the hazards of the employee’s employment. The burden then shifts to the employer for it to prove otherwise. The effect of this automatic presumption is that most employees that are in the applicable professions and test positive for COVID-19 should be able to obtain workers’ compensation benefits.
The amendment applies to any individual employed as police or fire personnel, emergency medical technicians, paramedics, and all individuals employed and considered as first responders, health care providers engaged in patient care, correctional officers and the essential personnel identified in Section 1, Parts 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 and 12 of Governor Pritzker’s stay-at-home order dated March 20, 2020.