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April 9, 2020

Client alert effective immediately: Minnesota workers' compensation bill to protect first responders and others is now law

Abby Johnson

The Minnesota state legislature has passed a bill that substantially changes the “burden of proof” requirement for a variety of employee classifications as it pertains to worker’ compensation claims in Minnesota. Governor Walz signed the bill into law on April 7, 2020.

The law now provides certain employees the benefit of a “presumed” occupational disease under Minnesota workers’ compensation if they contract COVID-19. Specifically, employees working in first responder or health care occupations will be presumed eligible for workers’ compensation benefits if they either test positive for COVID-19 or are diagnosed by a licensed physician, a licensed physician assistant (PA), or advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) without a test.

The bill covers the following types of employees:

  • Firefighter
  • Paramedic
  • Nurse or health care worker
  • Correctional Officer/Security Counselor — Minnesota Correctional Facilities
  • Emergency Medical Technician
  • Health care provider, nurse, or assistant employed with home care or long-term setting
  • Workers required to provide child care to first responders and health care workers

The new law is effective for employees who contract COVID-19 on or after the day following the final enactment of the law, which is April 8, 2020. The date of injury for an employee who has contracted COVID-19 has to be the date the employee was unable to work due to a diagnosis of COVID-19 or due to symptoms that were later diagnosed as COVID-19.

“Burden of Proof” becomes “Presumed” the above employee classifications.
Traditional workers’ compensation policies in Minnesota require the claimant (employee) to prove that an occupational disease developed either during the course of employment or because of an exposure peculiar to the occupation that makes the disease an occupational hazard, among other criteria.

But due to the contagious nature of the COVID-19 virus and the inability to accurately track the sources of exposure in an accurate and timely manner, the legislature has changed the “burden of proof” requirement with this new law.

What constitutes a positive case of COVID-19 under this new “presumed” status?
The bill states that the following is required for any employee to qualify:

“The employee's contraction of COVID-19 must be confirmed by a positive laboratory test or, if a laboratory test was not available for the employee, as diagnosed and documented by the employee's licensed physician, licensed physician's assistant, or licensed advanced practice registered nurse (APRN), based on the employee's symptoms. A copy of the positive laboratory test or the written documentation of the physician's, physician’s assistant, or APRN's diagnosis shall be provided to the employer or insurer.”

This legislation will have a potentially significant impact of many public and private — insured or self-insured — employers and workers’ compensation insurers in Minnesota.

MMA is here to help.
If you have any questions regarding the scope of this new legislation and how it might affect your company, please call your Marsh & McLennan Agency representative.