Coronavirus and workers' compensation
What employers need to know
posted March 11, 2020
This section has some important information about coronavirus/COVID-19 as it relates to workers' compensation and the workplace.
For more general information about coronavirus in Oregon, visit this COVID-19 Resources for Oregonians page.
Have safety and health questions? Visit SAIF's resource page for coronavirus safety and health.
Policy and payroll
During this difficult time, while some employers temporarily close or reduce operations throughout Oregon and others must increase operations, both payroll and workers’ compensation premiums will be impacted. It’s critical for employers to report payroll accurately to ensure they are not paying too much or too little for workers’ compensation. You can find detailed instructions for reporting payroll on saif.com, including instructions for revising a payroll report based on new information.
Furlough pay should be handled (and reported for workers’ compensation) in the same fashion as vacation pay; it is not included in the subject wages that are used to calculate premium.
The impact of telecommuting on workers' compensation for your employees depends on their class codes and the employees' duties. If the employee is normally a clerical employee at the employer's location (8810), they would have the same class code when performing clerical duties at a home office.
If the employee is not normally a clerical employee, but they are going to temporarily work from home in a clerical capacity, you would be able to apply some wages to a clerical class code if the employee maintains verifiable time records. If they are performing work other than clerical duties, it would be unlikely that a different class code would apply. If you have a specific situation and want guidance, please contact SAIF or your agent.
Finally, while there isn't extensive case law in Oregon relating to injuries occurring while telecommuting, the guidance we do have indicates injuries sustained while working at home are treated much the same as injuries occurring at work. Please contact SAIF if you have questions.
If an employee’s current telecommuting assignment is temporary in nature, and they are expected to return to normal duty in Oregon after the restrictions are lifted, they are generally subject to the employer’s policy with SAIF. However, employers may need to take action if employees are working remotely in states that don’t reciprocate with Oregon’s workers’ compensation coverage. Whether you have an existing Other States Coverage (OSC) policy or not, SAIF can work with you to ensure you satisfy compliance requirements in the states in which you have employees working. Contact SAIF if this is an issue for you.
It is not necessary that an employer have all employees who are diagnosed with COVID-19 complete an 801 form. Claims should only be filed when employees believe they contracted or were exposed to coronavirus or COVID-19 on the job.
A coronavirus diagnosis is not necessarily work-related or a default workers' compensation claim. An employee should only file a claim when they are seeking treatment or medical advice for an exposure or a condition the employee believes resulted from work.
Under Oregon's workers' compensation law, the burden of proof is on the employee to show that, more likely than not, the employee contracted the coronavirus while working or traveling for work. As the coronavirus becomes more widespread in the community, this may be difficult to prove and would likely require an expert medical opinion.
An industry notice published Nov. 12, 2020 by the Workers' Compensation Division (WCD) informs workers in Oregon that they have the right to file for workers' compensation for COVID-19.
The notice says "workers who have been quarantined or isolated due to a workplace exposure or have contracted COVID-19 in the workplace may be entitled to have their lost wages and medical expenses covered by their employer's workers' compensation insurance." Also included is a list of rules for COVID-19-related workers' comp issues, including that employers may not prevent a worker from reporting or filing a claim for any on-the-job injury, exposure, or illness, and they must provide an 801 form if a worker requests it.
If the employer shuts down the company or suggests that employees be tested, that does not necessarily mean claims should be filed or that interim time loss or diagnostic testing will be paid. If a medical provider or public health authority recommends testing or quarantine for a specific individual and ties that recommendation to a confirmed or suspected work exposure, then a claim should be filed.
Diagnostic testing may be compensable if there is confirmed or suspected work exposure to the coronavirus, and a medical provider or public health authority recommends diagnostic testing to determine whether the employee carries the coronavirus or has developed COVID-19.
If SAIF accepts a claim for COVID-19, or for diagnostic testing for coronavirus, and the worker is quarantined by the worker's health care provider or a public health authority, time loss may be owed to the worker. If an employee with an accepted claim for exposure is otherwise healthy and has an agreement with the employer to work remotely and is earning full wages, SAIF will not pay time loss.
We're here to help.
Please don't hesitate to reach out to your SAIF contacts or call our general number at 800.285.8525 for more information.