Temporary Disability Benefits and COVID-19
The following is our analysis of several situations that may arise with employees who have sustained a work injury and their employment has been affected by COVID-19:
1. Situation: An employer is ordered by the government to close. Is an employee on light duty whose restrictions were previously being accommodated eligible for TTD? We believe the answer to this is yes. In this situation, an employer is not offering work to the employee, so we believe they would be eligible for temporary total disability benefits.
2. Situation: An employee wants to self-quarantine, but is not having any symptoms of COVID-19 and does not have any risk factors for developing COVID-19. Are they eligible for TTD? We believe the answer to this is no. Their decision to self-quarantine is voluntary, and their employer is continuing to offer them suitable work consistent with their disability.
3. Situation: An employee is working regular duty and develops a fever. The employee is sent home by the employer. Are workers’ compensation benefits owed? We believe the answer to this is no. The employee having a fever (even if it is COVID-19) is akin to the employee having the flu or another personal illness. Their inability to work is unrelated to the work injury and does not make them eligible for workers’ compensation benefits.
4. Situation: An employee is working light duty, has a fever, and the employer sends the employee home. Is this considered a refusal of suitable work by the employee (such that benefits are suspended), or is the employer not offering the employee work (such that benefits are owed)? This is a question that has not been answered yet by the Commissioner’s office. We believe, however, that it is reasonable to deny workers’ compensation benefits in this situation because it is the employee’s personal condition that is causing him or her to miss work when work was available to them.