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CT AFL-CIO Officers to Lamont: Establish Workers’ Comp Presumption for COVID-19 Now

David C. Dal Zin
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HARTFORD – The Connecticut AFL-CIO, a labor federation representing over 220,000 workers, many of whom are essential frontline workers, wrote to Governor Ned Lamont last week to urge him to quickly establish a workers’ compensation presumption for COVID-19.

"For weeks, we have asked you and your staff to act on their behalf by creating an irrebuttable workers’ compensation presumption," write the officers of the Connecticut AFL-CIO. "This would allow them to access the healthcare, wage replacement, disability and God forbid, death benefits should they contract COVID-19. There is no reason that these workers, who are doing the jobs no one else can or will do, should have to endure the stress of having their claims denied and being forced to wage an appeal during one of the most dangerous and frightening times of their lives."

The officers include Connecticut AFL-CIO President Sal Luciano, AFT Connecticut President Jan Hochadel, UFCW Local 371 Executive Assistant to the President Keri Hoehne, Connecticut Building Trades President Dave Roche, Operating Engineers Local 478 Referral Manager and Marketing Representative Tiana Ocasio.

Since Gov. Lamont signed the "Stay Safe, Stay Home" executive order over a month ago, the AFL-CIO makes the case that essential workers are only exposed to the novel coronavirus through their jobs. Creating an irrebuttable presumption would allow essential workers to quickly receive workers’ compensation benefits that might otherwise take months and the hiring of attorneys to achieve.

While waiting for Gov. Lamont to establish a presumption, three employees at the Southbury Training School, two nursing home workers, a probation officer at the Stamford courthouse, two building cleaners, a hospital worker, and countless other essential workers have died by contracting COVID-19 on the job.

"Essential workers appreciate kind words, but they need action," writes the Connecticut AFL-CIO. "They need an irrebuttable workers’ compensation presumption retroactive to the date of your initial emergency order."

Also pushing for an irrebuttable presumption are attorneys representing clients who are sick because they contracted COVID-19 on the job.

Eric Chester, an attorney with Ferguson, Doyle, & Chester, has represented healthcare workers, firefighters, and other frontline workers seeking workers’ compensation benefits. Unfortunately, some of the essential workers’ claims for benefits have been denied.

"Shockingly, these denials assert that a healthcare worker or other frontline worker may not have contracted the dangerous virus in the course of their employment," said Chester. "This is a betrayal to the workers we are asking to protect us every day by putting themselves in harm’s way. Sick workers will have to exhaust their accumulated sick time, pay for treatment, and will likely suffer a loss in wages while they are forced to navigate a lengthy appeals process with the Workers’ Compensation Commission. They deserve better."

While Gov. Lamont said he was waiting for recommendations on how to proceed in an April 20th press briefing, the Connecticut AFL-CIO points out they have been making recommendations for weeks.

"We can only interpret your delay as a capitulation to employers and insurance companies," wrote the officers of the state federation. "Essential workers have stepped up for you and the state of Connecticut during this public health crisis. It’s past time you stepped up for them."

Gov. Lamont has still not issued any executive orders to establish this presumption for essential workers.

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Click here to read the full letter the Connecticut AFL-CIO sent to Gov. Ned Lamont.