[UPDATE: Gov. Ned Lamont issued a statement July 17 that he plans to issue an executive order expanding the state's workers' compensation system for COVID-19 cases. That order is expected to be signed Monday, July 20.]

CBIA this week called on Connecticut lawmakers to oppose a proposed costly expansion of the state's workers' compensation system.

Advocates are pushing for a legal presumption that, for the purposes of workers' compensation, any employee who worked outside their home during the pandemic and contracted COVID-19 did so at work.

In an email sent July 14 to all members of the General Assembly, CBIA president and CEO Joe Brennan wrote that the proposed changes "will result in significant, long-term cost increases for Connecticut employers during one of the most challenging times of our lives."

"We don't dispute that anyone who contracted COVID-19 at their place of work should be awarded benefits, and that the workers' compensation system is the appropriate forum for any employee to demonstrate they contracted the virus in the workplace," he wrote.

"In discussions with proponents of the presumption we have not heard of a single instance where the system denied a COVID-related claim.

"Further, even employees that contracted the virus outside the workplace have access to a variety of federal programs designed to provide financial relief and wage replacement."

Legal Presumption

Brennan called the state's workers' compensation system "a success story that continues to benefit employers and employees alike."

"Our current system incentivizes employers to invest in the safety and well-being of their employees," he wrote, noting that Connecticut employers maintain some of the safest workplaces in the nation.

"[That's] a notable trend reflected in a six-year decline in workers' compensation premium costs—as other business costs in the state increased significantly over the same period.  

An independent analysis of the proposed changes showed employer costs could increase by as much as by 238%.

"Adding a legal presumption ignores the efforts of employers who took every step to keep employees safe during the pandemic, and makes them financially liable for every employee that contracted COVID-19, even if they were exposed to the virus elsewhere."

Employers, already struggling as the economic recession worsens, would see significant, long-term cost increases in workers' compensation costs if the system is expanded.

An analysis of the proposed changes by the independent National Council on Compensation Insurance showed employer costs could increase by as much as by 238% if left open-ended.

New York Proposal Dropped

New York's state legislature quickly abandoned a similar proposal because it was projected to cost employers in that state $31 billion.

Connecticut lawmakers also heard from hundreds of concerned employers and organizations over the last week urging rejection of the proposal.

The General Assembly is scheduled to meet in a special legislative session next week.

"A COVID-19 related legal presumption is a costly solution in search of a problem," Brennan wrote in his July 14 email. "It will upend a workers’ compensation system that has benefitted employers and employees alike. 

"We have all faced unprecedented challenges these last few months. Connecticut businesses made great sacrifices while answering the call to supply the products and services critical to the health and safety of our citizens.

"Rebuilding our state requires a different, more collaborative relationship between lawmakers and the business community. Let's work together to preserve what is working well, and find solutions for what is not."