With so much uncertainty in the world today—related largely to the COVID-19 pandemic—employers have been forced to make high-level changes on the fly. With the development of a vaccine, these employers are forced to make a decision that may impact workers’ comp claims.
Two of the most important questions employers are wrestling with are:
- What’s the best way to return to business as usual, without putting employee health at risk?
- What’s the right way to protect their employees?
While there are many answers to these questions, more and more employers are implementing mandatory vaccine policies. When it comes to the COVID-19 vaccine, both the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) have said that employers can make it mandatory.
This is exactly what it sounds like. If an employee wants to continue working at the company, they’re required by their employer to get vaccinated.
But it’s not that easy
It’s commendable that employers want to provide their staff with a safe workplace. However, they must also balance this with the risks associated with requiring vaccines. This includes a potential increase in workers’ comp claims if an employee has a serious reaction to the vaccine.
Here’s what employers need to know:
- If they impose a vaccination mandate, it’s likely that they’ll also be required to pay for the vaccine. This can be a big expense for the company, especially if they have a large workforce.
- Employers should expect to receive backlash from some employees. Not everyone will agree with the mandatory vaccination policy. Employers should have a plan in place for managing this.
- Employees must be paid during the time it takes to receive the vaccine. They cannot be forced to do so after hours.
- Medical complications relating to a mandatory vaccination may be covered under workers’ comp.
And now, let’s take a look at what employees should keep in mind:
- Before agreeing to be part of the mandatory vaccination program, read any documentation provided to you by your employer. You don’t want to sign anything that suppresses your legal rights.
- You have the right to ask questions, including ‘Who can I talk to about the safety of the vaccine? Who can provide more information on potential side effects? What impact will the vaccine have on my work schedule?’
- Your workers’ comp rights. Should you run into serious side effects resulting from the vaccine, you may not be able to do your job as expected. Subsequently, you have the legal right to file a workers’ comp claim.
The effect of mandatory vaccine policies on workers’ comp claims
Employers don’t like it when employees file workers’ compensation claims. This results in an increase in cost for them.
However, should a company make the COVID-19 vaccine mandatory, they should prepare for a potential uptick in workers’ compensation claims.
Here’s the good and the bad:
- On the plus side, a vaccine mandate could act as another line of defense against COVID-19 exposure claims.
- On the downside, any employee who suffers an adverse reaction has the right to file a claim for workers’ compensation benefits.
If your employer mandated that you get vaccinated, pay close attention to your side effects and the impact they’re having on your work abilities.
Should you feel the need to take time away from work to recover, do these things:
- Report your condition to your employer.
- Seek medical care, ensuring that your doctor examines you for COVID vaccine-related symptoms.
- Follow the advice of your doctor regarding how much time to take away from work.
- File a claim for workers’ compensation benefits.
Want to know if you’re eligible for vaccine-related workers’ comp benefits? Call a Florida workers’ comp attorney today
There’s a lot of gray area in regards to who is and isn’t eligible for workers’ compensation in Florida as it relates to COVID exposure and mandatory vaccine policies.
According to the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation, “first responders, health care workers, and others that contract COVID-19 due to work-related exposure would be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits under Florida law.”
However, there’s no specific guidance in regards to what happens in the event of severe side effects resulting from vaccination.
But one thing is for sure: the state of Florida has seen its fair share of COVID-19 workers’ compensation claims.
A recent Business Insurance article notes that the state has paid out more than $46 million in COVID-19 workers’ compensation medical and indemnity benefits through the end of November 2020.
Do you have reason to believe you should receive workers’ compensation due to COVID-19 exposure or side effects from the vaccine?
If so, don’t assume that your claim will be approved the first time around. You may run into a variety of challenges. It’s best to consult with an experienced Florida workers’ compensation attorney.
At Sternberg | Forsythe, P.A., we have decades of experience helping clients obtain the workers’ compensation benefits they deserve. Contact us online or give us a call to schedule your free consultation.