On Tuesday, Governor Jay Inslee signed Senate Bill 5190 into law — which goes into effect immediately and provides presumptive eligibility for workers’ compensation and unemployment insurance.
In April, the Washington State Legislature passed the bill, which provides health care workers with presumptive benefits during a public health emergency. The bill was sponsored by Senator Jeff Holy (R‑Spokane) after he met with WSNA nurses who were told by their employers they didn’t contract COVID-19 on the job; as a result, these nurses were denied benefits like workers’ compensation and unemployment insurance. Senator Holy worked with WSNA on legislation to address this problem. Details of the bill include:
- When a nurse or health care worker contracts the illness that is the subject of a state or federal health emergency, it is presumed they got it at work. This presumption applies to workers’ compensation (for time off work due to illness) and unemployment insurance (for time off work due to quarantine).
- The Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) decides if a worker qualifies for workers’ compensation — not employers or third-party administrators.
- An employer must have “clear and convincing” evidence (the strongest evidence standard in state law) to rebut this presumption.
Presumptive eligibility has already been available to firefighters for certain work-related diseases, as well as workers at the Hanford nuclear site near the Tri-Cities. This new presumption for nurses and health care workers recognizes the unique hazards we face on the front lines of disease outbreaks while we treat patients who have the illness that is the subject of a state or federal health emergency.
Did you contract COVID-19 at work? File for workers’ compensation retroactively #
If you were out sick with a COVID-19 infection that you believe was contracted at work, we encourage you to file a workers’ compensation claim with L&I. You have two years from the date of the work-related illness to file a claim.
Once you apply and the claim is approved, you can receive time-loss back pay, which is especially valuable to nurses who exhausted their paid time off prior to acquiring COVID-19 and were told they had to take unpaid leave.
Even if you were only out of work for a few days, applying for workers’ compensation now will give you future coverage, including medical, for any long-hauler or long-term side effects of COVID-19. Once it is deemed a work-related illness and your workers’ compensation claim is approved, L&I covers the medical care for life.