COVID-19 Essential Employee Work Injury Lawyer
Few could have foreseen what the world would be like today with the coronavirus or COVID-19 pandemic affecting all aspects of people’s daily lives. Most states have implemented “shelter-in-place” orders, where only those who are deemed “essential” have to report to work as usual. All non-essential employees, whenever possible, should work from home.
Now, amid this health crisis, essential workers are risking their lives. Kentucky’s essential workers mostly fall under the 14 categories with a particular focus on manufacturing and supply chains.
What Is COVID-19?
COVID-19 is an airborne infectious disease spread when someone, who can sometimes be asymptomatic, coughs or sneezes. COVID-19 also spreads when someone touches an infected surface and then touches their mouth, eyes or nose.
Symptoms of the disease are similar to the flu or bad seasonal allergies and may include a dry cough, sneezing, low-grade fever, possible loss of smell and taste, and difficulty breathing. Many who contract the novel coronavirus have been able to recover. However, they may need to be hospitalized.
According to the CDC, based on currently available information and clinical expertise, older adults and people of any age who have severe underlying medical conditions might be at higher risk if they contract COVID-19.
Based on what is known now, those at high-risk for severe illness from COVID-19 are:
- Those over the age of 65
- People in nursing homes or long-term care facilities
People of all ages that suffer from underlying medical conditions are also at risk. That includes those with:
- Chronic lung disease
- Moderate to severe asthma
- History of pneumonia
- History of bronchitis
- Serious heart conditions
- Immunocompromised individuals
- Bone marrow or organ transplants
- Poorly controlled AIDS/HIV
- A smoking habit
- Chronic kidney disease
- Liver disease
The World Health Organization recommends everyone:
- Wash their hands regularly for at least 20 seconds with liquid soap and water;
- Cover their nose and mouth with a disposable tissue when coughing or sneezing and throw the tissue away immediately;
- Avoid close contact (within six feet) of those who may have the virus;
- Avoid close contact as often as possible as you do not know if you are an asymptomatic virus carrier; and
- Stay at home and self-isolate if you are feeling unwell.
Even with these precautions, and shutdowns in many locations, the virus has continued to spread. This is attributed to many businesses, those who feel the government is taking their freedom away and the fact that numerous local and federal government operations have remained open during the pandemic.
While certain essential businesses and government offices must remain open, problems occur when these organizations fail to take additional precautions to reduce the spread of the virus.
Essential Worker Statistics
According to a New York Times:
- Across the USA there are 48,710,000 essential workers
- In social work, there are 2,320,000 essential workers
- In health care, there are 19,090,000 essential workers
- In critical retail, there are 7,570,000 essential workers
- In medical supplies, there are 520,000 essential workers
- In food processing, there are 2,290,000 essential workers
- In delivery, warehousing there are 2,620,000 essential workers
- In financial, IT services there are 360,000 essential workers
- In utilities, there are 2,100,000 essential workers
- In farming, there are 2,100,000 essential workers
- In hazardous materials, there are 330,000 essential workers
- In law enforcement, there are 1,940,000 essential workers
- In transit, transportation there are 6,140,000 essential workers
- In defense, there are 1,030,000 essential workers
- In resource extraction, there are 380,000 essential workers.
More statistics on essential workers;
- There are between 49 to 62 million essential workers in the United States, representing between 34 to 43 percent of the total workforce.
- Many essential workers earn less than the national average of $18.58 per hour.
- Twelve percent of essential workers do not have health insurance.
- Essential workers spend, on average, 55 percent of their time near others.
- As of the end of April, in Kentucky, 54,101 people tested for COVID-19.
- Approximately 4,539 tested positive for COVID-19.
- There are about 235 reported deaths.
- The highest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases is 1,281 in Jefferson county, including Louisville. Followed by Warren (313 confirmed cases), Kenton (248 confirmed cases), and Fayette (246 confirmed cases)
- The lowest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases, including essential workers, are in Greenup, Rockcastle, Pike and Meade, all reporting 11 confirmed cases.
Examples of industries where some workers are classified as essential during the pandemic include:
- Business Regulators and Inspectors
- Communications and Information Technology
- Communications Industries
- Community-Based Essential Functions and Government Operations
- Critical Manufacturing
- Environmental Services
- Food and Agriculture
- Financial activities
- Food services and accommodations
- Health Care/ Public Health / Human Services
- Institutional, Residential, Commercial and Industrial Maintenance
- Justice Sector
- Law Enforcement, Public Safety, First Responders
- Manufacturing and Production
- Public Works
- Retail and Wholesaling
- Supply Chains
- Transportation and Logistics
- Utilities and Community Services
- Water and Wastewater
Kentucky Essential Workers and COVID-19
Kentucky’s first COVID-19 case was identified in rural Harrison County, northeast of Lexington. On March 18, Kentucky governor signed an executive order stating all public-facing businesses that cannot comply with the CDC guidelines concerning social distancing are going to have to cease their operations.
Those businesses included: entertainment and recreational facilities, community and recreation centers, gyms and exercise facilities, hair salons, nail salons, spas, concert venues, theaters, and sporting event facilities.
Other businesses were considered to be exempt, including food providers, food processors, agriculture, industrial manufacturing, feed mills, construction, trash collection, retail, groceries, consumer goods, home repair, hardware, auto repair, pharmacies, other medical facilities, biomedical, health care, post offices, insurance, banks, gas stations, laundromats, veterinary clinics and pet stores, warehousing, storage, distribution, public transportation, and hotel and commercial lodging. Still, they must follow CDC guidelines for social distancing and proper hygiene.
Workers whose job fits into one of the above categories can be required by their employer to come to work, despite potentially dangerous conditions. Employers have a crucial responsibility to their employees, customers and society as a whole to operate with care during a pandemic. Studies have revealed essential workers spend roughly half their time close to others.
Guidelines for Employers
Below are some important principles that Kentucky employers should keep in mind when navigating COVID-19 issues:
- Communicate with workers in a mindful manner and respect privacy
- Have a centralized, internal communication and planning team of individuals from operations, human resources, security, legal, and information technology
- A safe workplace must be a top priority.
- Apply workplace policies fairly and neutrally, with no discrimination
- Evaluate options for leave of absences, paid/unpaid.
- Create a plan for layoffs/temporary shutdown
- Keep on top of the latest developments for the locations in which operations are conducted.
What to Do If You Were Laid off as a Result of COVID-19
In Kentucky, unemployment benefits are available for those unemployed through no fault of their own, are able and available to work, are making a reasonable effort to obtain new work and register for work when they file their claim.
Kentucky permits a worker to file a claim as soon as they become unemployed. Generally, there is a one-week waiting period after a claim is filed, during which there are no benefits. However, on March 16, 2020, Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear, by Executive Order, said Kentucky is waiving the waiting period for unemployment compensation for those who are losing their jobs because of COVID-19 and waiving any work search requirements while the state of emergency is in effect.
In Kentucky, if you are unable to work for an extended period of time as the result of an illness, such as COVID-19, or a work-related injury, you are paid for your time off work by applying for workers’ compensation. Generally speaking, workers’ compensation income benefits are 66 2/3 percent of your average weekly salary up to the Kentucky state maximum set out by the Department of Workers’ Claims.
Employers who fail to take COVID-19 recommendations seriously put employees at a heightened risk of contracting the virus. Workers who have contracted COVID-19 can reach out to one of the experienced and dedicated Kentucky personal injury lawyers at Hessig & Pohl for immediate assistance.
Our team of Kentucky workplace injury lawyers is happy to talk with employees via phone or video chat to discuss their cases. We have decades of experience advocating on behalf of injured workers and do not quit when we are seeking justice for our clients. We are prepared to address the unique challenges that COVID-19 work injury cases present.
Work Injury Attorneys Ready to Help
If you were injured or become ill as a result of your essential job duties, you have the right to file for workers’ compensation for your medical costs and to recover lost wages while you are off recovering. Hessig & Pohl’s essential worker injury lawyers offer the Fee Free Guarantee. Unless you win or settle your case, you do not pay a cent for legal services. Attorneys at Hessig & Pohl work to get you the maximum compensation that is rightfully yours.
Let Hessig & Pohl’s legal team deal with the insurance company. You have nothing to lose and everything to win. Call Hessig & Pohl at (502) 777-1111 or send us an email today.
Marty fought for me when the insurance company denied my claim. We sued and got the insurance limits.