Even as businesses reopen and employees return to their new normal, the risk of becoming exposed to and ill with COVID-19 is still present. When an employee reports they have COVID-19, employers are faced with the difficult task of determining whether the employee’s illness is work-related.
As is the case with all inherently legal issues, employers are strongly recommended to seek the guidance of legal counsel when faced with these sorts of situations.
OSHA guidance on work-relatedness
An injury or illness is work-related if an event or exposure in the work environment either caused or contributed to the resulting condition or significantly aggravated a preexisting injury or illness. Work-relatedness is presumed for events or exposures in the work environment.
Unfortunately, because the coronavirus is so widespread, determining whether an employee’s illness is work-related can be difficult and should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.
Employers should ask probing questions to reveal the potential exposure of COVID-19 in their workplaces. Employers should consult with legal counsel if they are concerned about what kinds of questions they may ask. After conducting a review, employers will need to record the incident and report it to OSHA.