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COVID presumptive workers comp coverage for frontline employees

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COVID presumptive workers comp coverage for frontline employees

On May 11, 2021, Governor Inslee signed SB 5115, the Health Emergency Labor Standards Act (HELSA), into law. Under HELSA, any “frontline” employee that contracts an infectious or contagious disease that is the subject of a public health emergency is presumed to have contracted the disease at their workplace.  Accordingly, for purposes of workers’ compensation, the disease is considered an occupational disease.

Retail Services encourages our members to contact us should any of your employees receive a positive COVID test report to help you discover facts around the situation.

Additionally, there are other employer requirements:

  • No employer may discharge, permanently replace, or discriminate against an employee who is at high risk and seeking accommodation to protect themself from exposure to the infectious or contagious disease, including using all available leave options
  • An employer with more than 50 employees at a workplace must report to L&I when they have confirmed ten or more of their employees have tested positive for an infectious or contagious disease that is the subject of a public health emergency.
  • If an employer receives notice of potential exposure to an infectious or contagious disease that is subject to a public health emergency, they are required to provide written notice to their employees, their union, and any contractors on the worksite.
  • New reporting requirement – this new law requires employers with 50 or more employees to report to Labor and Industries when “ten or more employees testing positive.” The Washington Retail Association is working with the Department of Labor and Industries to clarify guidance for the new reporting requirements such as “over what period of time” and that any reporting ensures the confidentiality of employee health information. Further, the new reporting requirements should strive to prevent duplication of current reporting requirements to state and local health departments.

Washington Retail will post additional information and guidance as it becomes available.

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