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Fewer than 10% of eligible workers in New York have filed a claim for COVID-19, according to estimates in a report by the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health, a workplace safety advocacy group.
The report, by Robert E. Grey, managing partner of the plaintiffs’ firm Grey & Grey LLP, estimates that nearly 250,000 essential workers developed symptoms after being infected with COVID-19 at work in 2020.
According to the report, only 20,978 claims for work-related COVID-19 were filed with the New York Workers’ Compensation Board. At the same time, the report says nearly 19,000 of those claims were either “canceled” or deemed “non-comp” and are awaiting review by the board. Fewer than 2,100 claims have received any kind of determination, according to Mr. Grey’s report.
“The number of claims the Workers’ Compensation Board has received represents a tiny fraction of the number of workers with work-related COVID-19,” the report states. “This points to a systemic failure to provide workers with basic information about the workers’ compensation system and the benefits it provides, as well as raising significant concerns about the rule of the agency in this systemic failure.”
The report concludes with recommendations including the suggestion that lawmakers enact S. 1241, which would declare that COVID-19 is an occupational disease resulting from any and all work that causes workers to be in contact with the public during an outbreak or could otherwise cause them to be exposed to the virus.
Mr. Grey also recommends that the WCB and other state agencies invest in an awareness campaign to inform the public that COVID-19 might be a compensable condition. And he said the board should schedule hearings on every case and that the state should expand the types of employer activities that constitute illegal retaliation.
“Taken together, these proposals would help restore the nature of the workers’ compensation system to its intended form: a means of providing compensation and medical benefits to workers who suffer from occupational injury and illness, interpreted broadly for their protection,” Mr. Grey writes. “This would respond not only to the specific challenge presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, but also to the broader challenge of ensuring that the system functions properly.”
WorkCompCentral is a sister publication of Business Insurance. More stories here.
An analysis of costs per claim and other performance indicators across 18 state workers compensation systems for claims through March 2020 for injuries up to and including 2019 show stable to modest increases, according to a series of reports released Thursday by the Workers’ Compensation Research Institute.