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Senate approves workers’ compensation change for essential workers who contract COVID-19

Senate approves workers’ compensation change for essential workers who contract COVID-19

The General Assembly is poised to approve a plan that would allow essential employees, including nurses, first responders, paramedics and other front-line healthcare workers to receive workers’ compensation if they contract COVID-19.

The proposal, part of a larger bill on workplace safety and workers’ compensation, was approved 50-4 by the Senate and then unanimously Thursday evening by the House’s executive committee. It is set for a vote Friday by the full House.

The language echoes a previous emergency rule issued by Gov. JB Pritzker’s administration that essential employees who apply for workers’ compensation as a result of contracting COVID-19 will be “rebuttably presumed” to have contracted the virus through their employment.

The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission pulled the rule last month after business groups sued to block it. They called its implementation an overreach and inconsistent with the traditional rulemaking process.

Senate sponsor Linda Holmes, D-Aurora, said business and labor groups back the new measure.

“This is an agreement between business and labor that ensures better protections for employees and clear, consistent guidelines to ensure employers know how to operate safely,” she said. “I’m grateful for the spirit of cooperation that allowed us to work quickly and decisively to pass this plan.”

The new proposal allows employers to rebut the presumption that an employee contracted COVID-19 in the workplace through several measures, such as demonstrating the employee was exposed to the virus by an alternative source outside the workplace.

Pritzker said during his Thursday press conference that he was pleased to see both sides come together on agreed language.

“I’m glad that we’ve got the right answer,” he said.


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