Today, our attorneys participated in a conference call (so as to maintain social distancing) with workers’ compensation attorneys across the State of Pennsylvania, as well as lobbyists, regarding the status of the workers’ comp system in PA as we all deal with the Coronavirus (COVID-19). We discussed pending legislation in the Pennsylvania House and Senate, as well as how we are all handling cases under the shutdown as ordered by Governor Wolf.
There is legislation being worked upon by PA House Democrats, but nothing substantial is expected to be passed. The issue that appears most concerning to legislators is making sure those essential workers on the front lines, the doctors, nurses, first responders, and the like, are protected should they develop the Coronavirus (COVID-19). While this is a noble goal, the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act already does provide protection in such a situation. As we note on our website, when an employee is exposed to a substance (or disease) in the workplace, and is rendered disabled by the exposure, there exists a valid workers’ compensation case. We would also note that the healthcare workers are not the only employees on the front lines in this situation. Workers in grocery stores, like stockers and cashiers, restaurant workers, warehouse people and delivery drivers, just to name a few, are also at risk for catching COVID-19 through workplace exposure.
As to the Pennsylvania workers’ compensation system, cases are continuing to be litigated. Often this is being done by telephone conference, though some Workers’ Compensation Judges (WCJs) are using videoconference (which is important when an injured worker, or critical witness, is testifying, so the WCJ can better determine whether to believe such testimony). Since none of us know how long the government-ordered shutdown will continue, it is critical to the system (and the lives of injured workers throughout PA) that cases continue to be litigated.