For healthcare workers and first responders, risk comes with the job responsibilities. The crucial role of these individuals in society has never been more evident than it is amidst the COVID-19 outbreak—aka coronavirus. In order to protect workers exposing themselves to danger, Washington state has responded with an addition to existing workers’ compensation law.

On March 5, 2020, Governor Jay Inslee and the Department of Labor and Industries announced that Washington has expanded workers’ compensation benefits to protect quarantined healthcare workers and first responders.

What does this mean exactly?

With immediate effect, workers exposed to the coronavirus in the course of their duties will now receive workers’ compensation benefits while under quarantine. These benefits can include medical tests, treatment expenses, prescription costs and time-loss payments from lost wages.

This legislation is a change from the preexisting provisions for those who get sick from exposure to disease at work. Quarantined workers have not been covered before.

The Department of Labor and Industries’ unofficial call-to-action

Even as it expands workers’ compensation benefits to include quarantined workers, the Department of Labor and Industries is urging employers to continue paying workers at their regular salary during the period of quarantine. Time-loss only recovers partial wages, and these workers are performing a public service as well as the job.

How soon do you need to file a claim?

A worker who is quarantined or develops a disease as a result of work-related exposure has two years to file a workers’ compensation claim. However, the sooner they file a claim, the sooner they can potentially receive benefits.