COVID-19 workers’ compensation bill on governor’s desk

It’s now up to Gov. J.B. Pritzker to approve a measure lawmakers passed last month that differs slightly from an emergency rule he tried to unilaterally issue in April regarding who covers the costs when a worker gets COVID-19.

House Bill 2455 passed during last month’s pandemic special session at the statehouse. One aspect of the bill deals with who covers the costs if an essential employee gets COVID-19.

The month before the bill passed, the governor repealed an emergency workers’ compensation rule after a judge granted a temporary restraining in a legal challenge. That now-repealed rule presumed essential employees contracted COVID-19 on the job without proof the disease was contracted on the job.

State Rep. Jay Hoffman, D-Swansea, said the measure the statehouse passed allows employers to challenge a case.

“That presumption can be rebutted if that employer is following the CDC or the Illinois Department of Public Health guidelines for [personal protective equipment], social distancing, and the like” Hoffman said. “So, if you’re doing the right thing, that presumption would be rebutted.”

But when pushed by Republicans, he also said it would allow for a more broad challenge, too.

“The appellate court said ‘some evidence sufficient to support a finding that something other than the claimants’ occupation caused his condition is sufficient to rebut the presumption,’” Hoffman said.

The rule lawmakers passed that’s now up for the governor’s signature has a sunset provision.

“The presumption goes away under this bill on December 31 of this year,” Hoffman said. “It is not tied to the executive order.”

Hoffman said lawmakers may have to revisit the measure by the end of the year in anticipation of a possible second wave of COVID-19 next year.

The approved change was supported by groups such as the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association.

“Illinois businesses can rebut the presumption simply by showing ‘some evidence’ that they complied with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control or Illinois Department of Public Health,” Illinois Manufacturers’ Association President and CEO Mark Denzler said. “It makes clear that a person’s residence is not considered a workplace and an employer’s experience modification will not change due to COVID-19 cases.”

The bill also extends unemployment insurance benefits for 20 weeks and brings the state in line for accepting $2.2 billion from the federal government for the unemployment insurance trust fund, but that trust fund could face a deficit of up to $14 billion.

This article was first published by The Center Square

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