Temporary MN law change: COVID-19 infections presumed work-related for first responders, health care workers

Minnesota’s workers’ compensation law has been temporarily amended to include a presumption of liability for certain workers with a positive COVID-19 laboratory test or clinical diagnosis of COVID-19 when a test is not available.

On April 7, 2020, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz signed into law the amendment to Minnesota Statutes Section 176.011, subd. 15, which is Minnesota’s occupational disease statute. While the statutory definition of “occupational disease” was not changed, a new provision was added to the statute that creates a rebuttable presumption for first responders and health care workers, as well as those required to provide child care to first responders and healthcare workers, who contract COVID-19.

A worker contracting COVID-19 who falls within the list of covered workers (listed in detail below) is presumed to have an occupational disease under the Minnesota Workers’ Compensation Act. For workers on this list, the COVID-19 disease is a compensable work injury unless the employer and insurer can show that the worker's employment was not a direct cause of the disease.

Other workers who believe they contracted COVID-19 as a direct cause of their employment are not precluded from filing a claim for workers’ compensation benefits, by filing under the currently existing provisions of the occupational disease or personal injury provisions of Minnesota’s Workers’ Compensation Act, Chapter 176. The COVID-19 presumption only applies to those workers listed in Minnesota Statutes Section 176.011, subd. 15(f)(1).

In summary, the new Minnesota COVID-19 workers’ compensation presumption provides:

  1. A defined list of occupations covered by the presumption of COVID-19 as an occupational disease:  firefighter; paramedic; nurse or health care worker, correctional officer, or security counselor employed by the state or a political subdivision at a corrections, detention, or secure treatment facility; emergency medical technician; a health care provider, nurse, or assistive employee employed in a health care, home care, or long-term care setting, with direct COVID-19 patient care or ancillary work in COVID-19 patient units; and workers required to provide child care to first responders and health care workers under Executive Order 20-­02 and Executive Order 20-­19;
  2. Those on the list of covered workers can show they contracted COVID-19 by a positive laboratory  test or, if a test is not available for the employee, by diagnosis and documentation from a licensed physician, physician’s assistant, or advanced practice registered nurse (APRN);
  3. The presumption is rebuttable by the employer and insurer only by a showing that the employment was not a direct cause of the disease;
  4. The date of injury for this presumptive COVID-19 is either the date the employee was unable to work due to the diagnosis, or due to symptoms that were later diagnosed as COVID-19, whichever occurred first;
  5. If an employee who has contracted COVID-19 does not fall under the new presumption, they still have the right to file a claim under the existing occupational disease and personal injury provisions of the Minnesota Workers’ Compensation Act.

This new COVID-19 presumption legislation is effective for employees who contract COVID-19 on or after the day following enactment (April 8, 2020), with a sunset provision for the new law of May 1, 2021.

For more information on the new law, see the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry's Frequently Asked Questions document

To learn more about infectious diseases in the workplace, see our SFM blog post, Are infectious diseases acquired at work eligible for workers' compensation?

This is not intended to serve as legal advice for individual fact-specific legal cases or as a legal basis for your employment practices.

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