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COVID-19 workers’ comp bill dies in committee

A Colorado bill that would have paved the way for some essential workers who contract COVID-19 to be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits was killed in committee on June 10. The philosophy behind the bill created the presumption that COVID-19 contractions are always work-related for employees in specific industries, unless employers definitively show otherwise.

Bill opponents including employers, chambers of commerce and insurers, contended that it would be too costly both for businesses and governments. For example, some businesses claimed that such a bill would boost workers’ compensation insurance costs 27% among Colorado companies.

Certain frontline workers would have qualified

Introduced on June 2 by state Sen. Robert Rodriguez, a Democrat from Denver, the bill intended to expand the presumption for COVID-19 to essential workers The partial list would have included first responders, 911 operators, corrections officers, health care workers, utility and maintenance workers, custodians at facilities that treat COVID-19 sufferers as well as workers within the food-processing industry.

Currently, under state law, workers must prove their illness was job-related and not attained somewhere else before obtaining workers’ compensation benefits. Under the bill, employers would have been responsible to prove workers did not get COVID-19 while working as well as pay for treatment through workers’ compensation.

Businesses relieved

Rodriguez said on June 8 that a major purpose for the bill was protecting at-risk workers such as those employed at grocery stores, child-care facilities and meat-processing plants.

Colorado business leaders expressed relief about the bill’s fate. They reiterated that employees can still apply for workers’ compensation benefits related to COVID-19. However, workers still must prove that the attained the illness while working.

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