Counties Resist Unreasonable, Pandemic-Related Workers’ Comp Claims

On March 8, 2022, Legislative Director Kevin Kinnally testified before the Senate Finance Committee in opposition to SB 10 – Workers’ Compensation – COVID-19 Occupational Disease Presumption. This bill would establish that first responders, public safety employees, and health care workers are presumed to have an occupational disease that is compensable under workers’ compensation law after a positive test or diagnosis for COVID-19; and applying the Act retroactively.

From the MACo testimony

While counties respect the merit of this bill to protect frontline workers who become ill with COVID-19, it is unreasonable and unenforceable. It is almost impossible to determine if someone has contracted the virus as a direct result of the nature of their work, yet SB 10 will effectively settle this matter regardless of what other factors may have been in play. For example, the bill as written does not include an exclusion for unvaccinated staff who contract the virus, or for employees who have engaged in relevant risky out-of-work behaviors, essentially placing the onus completely on public sector employers.

Further, Maryland has unusually strong exclusions of rebuttability evidence during compensability hearings related to presumptions. With employers simply unable to present information about the breadth of possible exposures that may have led to the employee’s contraction of the virus, employers will surely bear more than their actual share of responsibility under this broad presumption law.

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