In the event of a work-related injury or illness, the PA Chamber supports the payment of reasonable and necessary medical treatment and, when necessary, wage-loss benefits to the injured employee. However, the workers’ compensation law must only provide benefits to eligible employees with legitimate, work-related injuries or illnesses. The PA Chamber opposes any effort that could erode employers’ rights and protections under the WC law, or weaken its “exclusivity doctrine”.
Pennsylvanians who contract COVID-19 and need assistance should be protected by a public safety net. While efforts are ongoing, lawmakers at the federal and state level have worked to establish and sustain these protections, including through workplace protections, enhanced unemployment compensation benefits and eligibility, and paid leave.
Unfortunately, trial lawyer advocates are aggressively pushing an alternative approach: legislation providing that patients are presumed to have contracted the virus at work and therefore eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. The PA Chamber has led efforts to oppose this approach, which seems intended to simply direct a portion of financial support away from patients and into plaintiffs’ attorneys’ pockets.
Current Pennsylvania workers’ compensation law generally covers occupational disease claims if the patient was exposed at work and the incidence of the disease is disproportionately higher for those in the occupation compared to the general public. These parameters ensure that benefits are awarded under appropriate circumstances without expanding workers’ compensation to cover illnesses like the flu.
In most cases, COVID-19 is unlikely to be covered under these parameters since a pandemic, by definition, is everywhere. This is why plaintiffs’ attorneys are pushing for workers’ compensation “presumption” legislation and why the stakes are so high. This would be the wrong move for multiple reasons:
Lawmakers should focus on policies and programs that drive support to COVID-19 patients who need it without further burdening employers…even if trial lawyers are not able to get a cut.
The PA Chamber will continue leading efforts to oppose workers’ compensation presumption legislation.
Montgomery County Community College has been a partner with business and industry since the College was founded in 1964. Our mission is centered on our commitment to being a community hub for learning skills and achieving credentials that promote prosperity and quality of life. Collaborating with regional employers is key to serving the workforce needs of the county and region.
The Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry is committed to promoting safe and healthy workplaces. In the event of a work-related injury or illness, it is the employer’s obligation to pay for all reasonable and necessary medical treatment and, when necessary, wage-loss benefits to the injured employee. This obligation was codified in 1915 through passage of Pennsylvania’s Workers’ Compensation Act and this ‘grand bargain’ has generally served its purpose of establishing structure, predictability and a guarantee of support for eligible claimants.
Employers’ top workers’ compensation priority is the same today as it was in 1915: providing effective treatment to facilitate the injured worker back to full function, health and work as soon as possible.
In addition to focusing on improving outcomes for injured workers, public policy related to workers’ compensation should also help address cost-drivers in the system. While the PA Chamber is encouraged that overall statewide system costs have stabilized in recent years, it is important to recognize that this trend is due to a decline in the number of workplace injuries offset by rising costs per claim.
After over one hundred years, it is ever important to ensure the law is being applied properly and to identify, combat and root out fraud and abuse in the system, including conflicts of interest that unnecessarily drive up costs. The PA Chamber opposes any erosion of employer rights and protections under the workers’ compensation law. The PA Chamber also opposes any weakening of the “exclusivity doctrine” of workers’ compensation.
The PA Chamber would support amending Pennsylvania’s Workers’ Compensation law to help achieve the following objectives:
The PA Chamber also supports the Uninsured Employer Guaranty Fund, which covers medical and wage benefits for injured workers whose employers do not have workers’ compensation coverage. The PA Chamber urges efforts to reform and improve UEGF, including providing its administrators at the state Bureau of Workers’ Compensation additional tools to help control costs and ensuring the program is focused on providing benefits to only its intended beneficiaries.