The question of workers’ compensation and COVID has been debated since the pandemic began. So when it comes to long COVID, the same complicated parameters apply where the circumstances surrounding your infection, illness, and recovery will all be factors in whether you can claim workers’ compensation for COVID infection or long COVID symptoms.
Learn more about long COVID and how workers’ compensation could apply based on your unique circumstances.
What Are Long COVID Symptoms?
Long COVID symptoms can last for weeks, months, or even years after the virus infects you. And you don’t have to suffer severe symptoms from the virus to get long COVID. It can impact your general well-being, respiratory system, heart, neurological system, or digestive system.
Here’s a look at some ways people have experienced long COVID, though your symptoms may vary.
- Loss of taste or smell or changes to taste and smell
- Tiredness or fatigue, which could interrupt your daily activities
- Post-exertional malaise, or fatigue after a physical or mental effort
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Chest pain
- Heart palpitations
- Brain fog
- Trouble sleeping
- The feeling of pins and needles anywhere in the body
- Mental health changes, such as depression or anxiety
- Stomach pain
- Joint or muscle pain
- Changes in your menstrual cycle
The challenge with long COVID is that it is often hard to diagnose. Doctors can run many tests and see nothing wrong. All blood work returns normal, and nothing shows up on scans that make it appear as though anything is wrong with you.
Does COVID-19 Qualify Under the Occupational Disease Act?
The Occupational Disease Act helps protect employees who are exposed to dangerous diseases and conditions in their line of work.
But if you read the act carefully, COVID infection rarely applies, and therefore, long COVID symptoms would also not apply to workers’ compensation benefits.
The key is in Indiana Code § 22-3-7-10, which states:
“Ordinary diseases of life to which the general public is exposed outside of the employment shall not be compensable, except where such diseases follow as an incident of an occupational disease as defined in this section.”
The act goes on to say that the disease is only considered employment-related if there is a direct causal connection between infection and working conditions. The disease must be able to be traced back to employment as the proximate cause. The employee cannot be equally exposed to the disease outside of their employment. The disease does not have to be foreseen or expected to be covered.
Essential workers, such as first responders or medical personnel have seen some success in proving increased exposure risk compared to the general public due to their work. Other employees outside of essential workers struggle to prove that COVID infection is directly caused by their work and put them at increased risk of infection than in their normal lives.
What to Do Next
However, if you believe you are suffering long COVID as a result of your job, you should speak to an attorney. Each case is unique, and the wording of the law will impact whether your case applies or not.
Your first concern should be protecting your employment, which means keeping up attendance as best you can and using approved sick or vacation time to deal with your symptoms to prevent giving your employer cause to fire you. However, you should know that Indiana is an at-will state for employment, which means your employer can let you go at any time without cause.
Finding a solution for getting the medical care you need and the time to recover is extremely important. The sooner you meet with an attorney the better. Stewart & Stewart offers a free consultation to assess your case and discuss your needs.