Bill would allow employers to receive workers’ comp if they contracted COVID-19 at workplace

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.- Essential workers who catch COVID-19, and can prove their employer did not follow COVID-safe practices, may be able to get worker’s compensation.

House bill 268 would need to pass in the Senate and be signed by the governor before becoming law.

"The employee must prove that at the time the COVID infection was presumed to have been contracted, or 14 days prior to, that the employer was not strictly complying with public health orders," said Rep. Day Hochman-Vigil.

Hochman-Vigil said she sponsored the bill because she belives the state’s essential workers are especially vulnerable.

"And a lot of our essential employees, they’re working two, three, minimum wage jobs just to make ends meet, and they may or may not be eligible for healthcare benefits or medicaid or medicare and so if someone finds themselves in that position and workers compensation benefits are not available it can be devastating. It can ruin their lives," she said.

The business community opposes the bill. They don’t believe anyone can prove that they got the virus from their employer.

"The bill presumes that COVID is only contracted at the workplace. Clearly, science shows that COVID is contracted anywhere and everywhere," said Sherman McCorkle, vice-chair of the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce.

However, Hochman-Vigil said her bill gives employers the option to challenge an employee’s claim.

"So there really is no way to know if and where a COVID-19 infection was contracted, but we make certain assumptions," she said.

The debate on the bill will continue in the Senate committees.