The Wisconsin Legislative Council released an Issue Brief
June 17 addressing questions that have arisen as to whether, and to what extent, an employer may be held financially responsible if an employee is diagnosed with COVID-19. The Issue Brief’s conclusion states, in part, that “an employee who returns to work and who is diagnosed with COVID-19 may be eligible to receive worker’s compensation if the employee can demonstrate that his or her illness is employment-related.”
The Issue Brief notes that 2019 WI Act 185
, state legislation responding to the COVID-19 public health emergency, created a presumption that a first responder’s injury was caused by his or her employment if the first responder was diagnosed with COVID-19, the injury was found to be caused by COVID-19 during the public health emergency or within 30 days after termination of the emergency, and the first responder had been exposed to persons with confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the course of employment. An employer may overcome this presumption by demonstrating that the first responder’s illness was caused by exposure to COVID-19 outside of his or her work for the employer. Act 185 defines “first responder” as an employee of or volunteer for an employer that provides firefighting, law enforcement, or medical treatment of COVID-19, and who has regular, direct contact with, or is regularly in close proximity to, patients or other members of the public requiring emergency services, within the scope of the individual’s work for the employer. The period of presumption that the injury to a first responder was caused by employment ended on June 10, 2020. The Issue Brief also discusses third-party liability.
The Issue Brief was prepared by Legislative Council Staff Attorney Peggy Hurley and dated June 2020.