As Colorado businesses reopen, coronavirus-related workers’ compensation claims are piling up
As restaurants reopen and people return to their offices, more than 1,400 Colorado workers have already filed compensation claims for being infected by or exposed to the novel coronavirus while on the job.
The workers’ compensation system is the only way that people who fall ill due to their work can receive payment for that hardship. But, in a system that generally places the burden on workers to prove their illness is job-related and was not contracted elsewhere, the majority of claims filed have so far not been successful. And experts say the easing of social-distancing orders will make it more difficult for workers to win new compensation cases for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.
Even if the claims do get approved, a wrinkle in the law means that companies with poor safety records can use workers’ compensation to make themselves immune from bigger — and, potentially, costlier — liability lawsuits by their employees.
The situation has some advocates eager to make changes to the law during the state legislative session that restarted on Tuesday. They argue that workers need to be protected in their jobs for the economy to rev back up fully.
“This is critical to re-opening these states and opening up the economy,” said Kim Cordova, the president of UFCW Local 7, the state’s largest labor union.
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