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Vermont enacts COVID-19 presumption law

Vermont capitol

Vermont Gov. Phil Scott on Monday signed into law a bill that would help frontline workers during the coronavirus pandemic gain access to workers compensation benefits.

S. 342, passed by both chambers on June 26, grants the state’s Workers’ Compensation Commission during a declared state of emergency related to COVID-19 the authority “to extend deadlines or temporarily amend or waive specific requirements of” workers comp law to allow for presumption claims by workers with “elevated risk of exposure” to the virus.

“In the case of a frontline worker, disability or death resulting from COVID-19 shall be presumed to be compensable … provided that the frontline worker receives a positive laboratory test for COVID-19 or a diagnosis of COVID-19 from a licensed health care provider between March 1 and January 15, 2021,” the law states.

The law describes elevated risk of exposure to COVID-19 as “the performance of a job that requires the worker to have regular physical contact with known sources of COVID-19 or regular physical or close contact with patients, inmates in a correctional facility, residents of a residential care or long-term care facility, or members of the public in the course of his or her employment.”

The presumption of compensability for workers with elevated risk “shall not apply if it is shown by a preponderance of the evidence that the disease was caused by non-employment-connected risk factors or non-employment-connected exposure,” the law states.

For other workers exposed to COVID-19 on the job the presumption would fail if the disease was proved by “preponderance of evidence … caused by non-employment-connected risk factors or non-employment-connected exposure or … at the time the employee was potentially exposed to COVID-19, the employee’s place of employment was in compliance with” state health and safety guidelines related to COVID-19.

More insurance and workers compensation news on the coronavirus crisis here