COVID-19 AND THE WORKPLACE
I have received numerous questions from various people on what one should do if you think you have been exposed to COVID-19 at work. Under some situations, it may be covered under Nevada workers’ compensation laws. If an injured worker believes that he or she may have been exposed to COVID-19, I would suggest the following immediate action:
- Document the source of the exposure and what you were doing at the time of the exposure. Were you providing medical services to a person with COVID-19 at the time of the exposure? What were you doing at the time of the exposure? That is critical.
- File a C-1 with the Employer immediately and specifically detail the facts regarding the exposure. If the Employer does not provide an appropriate C-1 form, you can obtain one at the following link: https://dir.nv.gov/uploadedFiles/dirnvgov/content/WCS/c-1.pdf
- Follow the CDC protocols regarding symptoms. These protocols are subject to modification so you should check them regularly. According to the CDC “people with COVID-19 have had a wide range of symptoms reported – ranging from mild symptoms to severe illness. Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus. Look for emergency warning signs for COVID-19. If someone is showing any of these signs, seek emergency medical care immediately: Trouble breathing, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, new confusion, inability to wake or stay awake, bluish lips or face. Note that this list is not all possible symptoms. Please call your medical provider for any other symptoms that are severe or concerning to you.” The link for the CDC and COVID-19 protocols can be found at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/symptoms-testing/symptoms.html
- I would suggest that you seek medical advice regardless if you are experiencing symptoms. There may be preventative medicine that is recommended. If you are experiencing symptoms, request that the doctor complete a C-4 and make sure it is clear as to the exposure as the doctor will need to confirm that the exposure was work incurred.
Documentation is key to prove the causal relationship between the contraction of COVID-19 and the work environment. If you are able to provide proof of the source of the exposure and exclude contacts you had within the prior two weeks, the better chances you will have to prove the compensability of the claim.
You also have to be aware of the various time deadlines for filing a workers’ compensation claim. In Nevada there are two reporting deadlines: the C-1 and the C-4. You have to file a C-1 which is a Notice of Injury within 7 days of the accident. You have to file a C-4 within 90 days after an accident if you sought treatment or missed work.
There are also two ways to look at the compensability of a workers’ comp claim for COVID-19 exposure. First, are you a medical provider? If so, you want to look at the definition of “Injury.” Under NRS 616C.265(2)(b): the exposure of an employee to a contagious disease while providing medical services, including emergency medical care, in the course and scope of his or her employment shall be deemed to be an injury by accident sustained by the employee arising out of and in the course of his or her employment. This is very specific because you have to show that you were providing medical services to a person with COVID-19 and that person is the likely source of exposure. For all other workers, you have to prove that there was an exposure in the course and scope of employment under NRS 617.440. This is the tricky one because you have to establish the following:
- There must be a direct causal connection between the conditions under which the work is performed and the occupational disease;
- The occupational disease followed as a natural incident of the work as a result of the exposure caused by the nature of the employment;
- It can be fairly traced to the employment as the proximate cause; and
- It does not come from a hazard to which workers would have been equally exposed outside of employment.
Remember, the first goal is to minimize the potential for exposure. Follow all of the CDC guidelines to help reduce the chances of exposure. But if you do contract the disease, do not delay in notifying your employer, completing the appropriate forms, and seeking medical advice. Time is of the essence.
Herb Santos, Jr., Esq.
Herb is a NJA Board Certified Workers’ Compensation Specialist. He is recognized by the National Workers’ Injury Law & Advocacy Group as one of America’s leading attorneys representing injured workers. Herb was also selected as the 2018 Trial Lawyer of the Year in Nevada and the 2020 AITL Workers’ Compensation Litigator of the Year.