If you are exposed to coronavirus (COVID-19) at work and become sick, you are entitled to wage loss and medical benefits. The types of workers most likely to be exposed include nurses, doctors, first responders, and those who work in hospitals, nursing homes, jails, and other institutional settings. However, others forced to work at this time like supermarket employees may be able to claim wage loss benefits if they actually contract coronavirus.
You are also eligible for workers' compensation if exposed to coronavirus as a result of your work and are required by your employer to quarantine or are sent home, even if you don't actually go on to develop the virus. These cases are fact-specific but would certainly apply to health care workers and first responders who are exposed to ill individuals.
Many employers are closing their doors or requiring their employees to work from home. Unfortunately, not all jobs can be done from home. If you were working with a restriction at the time your job was eliminated due to coronavirus, you may be eligible for full weekly workers’ compensation benefits. The restriction must be due to a work injury and not due to personal illness or non-work-related injuries.
You are eligible for workers’ compensation in this situation because, due to no fault of your own, your employer can no longer accommodate your work restrictions. Common examples of work injury-related restrictions would include: working a sit-down job instead of a physical one; reduction of hours/pay due to an injury; and not being required to perform certain functions of your job like lifting restrictions or restrictions on using an injured hand or arm.
While you may also be eligible for unemployment, keep in mind that while unemployment benefits are taxable, workers’ compensation is not. Workers’ compensation also pays higher weekly rates than unemployment. Workers’ comp pays 66% to 90% of pre-injury wages, with the 2020 maximum weekly rate being $1081/week. Compare this to unemployment which pays 50% of your wages with a maximum weekly rate of $573 (pre-tax).
You may also be eligible for partial wage loss benefits if you were working with a restriction and are now forced to work from home at a lower rate of pay or reduced hours. A simple example:
A laborer with a back injury is working a sit-down job without loss of earnings, making $700/week as he or she always had. He or she now must work from home due to the coronavirus, but their employer is limiting him or her to 20 hours due to less need for workers and paying just $350/week. That employee is entitled to 2/3 of their wage loss in workers’ compensation, or $233.33/week.\
Many people are now adjusting to working at home and the challenges that poses. If you get injured while doing so, and can no longer work from home, you may be eligible for workers' compensation. These cases are always difficult but the law allows for such claims. An example might be someone who lifts some files and trips on a step or pet while carrying them, resulting in a fractured wrist and an inability to keep using a computer and working. If you do get injured at home, report the injury immediately via email, text, or phone to the same supervisor you would normally report an injury to. Be clear to state what happened and what body part(s) are affected. Be sure to explain how the incident is work-related and what you were doing at the time.
If you need emergency or urgent care treatment, get it. If the doctors you see feel that you can no longer work at home, have them provide you a copy of a written note stating this. Provide that note to your supervisor through email, fax, or even a photo sent via text. If the injury is serious, please call us to discuss your next steps and options for care. Some physicians are offering telemedicine options and we can direct you to them.
Many of those being laid off due to coronavirus are not able to work at home are not being paid to stay home. There are some options:
Pennsylvania is allowing those laid-off or working reduced hours due to coronavirus-related closures to apply for and receive unemployment. It is available if your workplace has temporarily or permanently closed. It is also available to those told to quarantine/self-isolate or told not to work to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
The Commonwealth is waiving the normal waiting period to receive benefits and as a result, you can apply now at https://www.uc.pa.gov/Pages/covid19.aspx
Pennsylvania is waving the charge employers normally pay as a result of an unemployment claim. Therefore, you do not have to worry that you are hurting your employer even more if they are a family business or a small business.
Not everyone qualifies for unemployment. Another option is food stamps. You can apply online here:
Today’s program is managed in a discreet way. Long gone are the days of coupon books everyone can see. If you qualify you will receive what looks like a regular credit card to use. At the market, this is considered “EBT.”
Those who lose health insurance due to their employer closing are always eligible for special enrollment under the Affordable Care Act (sometimes referred to as “Obamacare.” You may be eligible for a subsidy if you have no income. Learn more at these websites:
Apply for health insurance at the ACA Page:
Check if you are eligible for Medicaid in Pennsylvania:
Apply for Medicaid in Pennsylvania: