The North Carolina General Assembly has introduced two separate bills in the House (HB 1056 and HB 1057) in an effort to address COVID-19 claims under workers’ compensation. Currently, a COVID-19 case would be treated as an occupational disease, and thus a claimant would have to prove that he contracted the virus from work and that his work placed him at an increased risk over that of the general public in contracting the virus. In contrast, if the two House bills pass successfully, an employee that tests positive for COVID-19 will be presumed to have contracted the virus from work. Employers and carriers would only be able to rebut the presumption by clear and convincing evidence (a nearly impossible standard).
The proposed bills differentiate who is covered. HB 1056 allows coverage for a law enforcement officer, jailer, prison guard, firefighter, EMT or paramedic employed by the State or local government, or a healthcare worker. Note that the bill does not define “healthcare worker.” HB 1057 expands coverage to any essential employee, as declared by Governor Cooper’s Executive Order or by Order of a local government authority that includes food service, retail and other essential personnel.
HB 1057 goes even further. It is not limited to COVID-19, but provides coverage for all future pandemics, which it defines as “an outbreak of an emerging disease prevalent in the US or the whole world.”
These proposed House bills would significantly increase employer liability and could negatively impact your business. Call your local representative today to express your concern.