By Frank Ferreri, March 15, 2022
As with just about everything employment-related, COVID-19 continues to have a shifting impact on the federal workers’ compensation landscape, with the Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs pivoting in its guidance to meet the demands of a workforce entering its third year of pandemic-related challenges.
In its latest recommendations, issued in mid-February, OWCP focused on continuation of pay and how employees must demonstrate that they had COVID-19 to earn COP. The following chart highlights the agency’s latest updates for when employees file COVID-related claims under the Federal Employees Compensation Act.
|Establishing a COVID-19 claim||To show that she has COVID-19 for purposes of receiving COP, the employee:
1. Must be diagnosed with COVID-19 via a positive test result – excluding home tests – or a medical professional; and
2. Within 21 days of diagnosis, must have carried out duties that required contact with patients, members of the public, or coworkers.
|Continuation of pay||COP is payable if a federal employee must miss time from for isolation after a positive COVID-19 test only if:
1. The employee can demonstrate she has COVID-19 via a positive test result or a medical professional.
2. The employee files a CA-1 within 30 days of the last exposure to COVID-19 at work.
|Days of COP for isolation for COVID-19||Although OWCP pointed out that the latest CDC recommendations indicate that five days of isolation following a positive test is enough, OWCP will not intervene until the 10-day regulatory timeframe of 20 CFR 10.222 has passed.|
|Filing a FECA claim without demonstrating positive COVID-19 status||If an employee files a FECA claim without evidence of a COVID-19 positive test result or a report from a medical professional within 10 days, OWCP will formally adjudicate the claim and make a determination of COP. If it turns out that OWCP denies the claim, the agency can recover any COP previously paid to the employee.|
|Employees who don’t have COVID-19 but must quarantine due to exposure||OWCP cannot accept a workers’ compensation claim based solely on quarantine or exposure, and COP is not payable solely for quarantine or exposure.|
|Safety concerns||Although COP is not available for quarantine or exposure only, OWCP advised employees and agencies to consider possible safety leave, which can include paid leave, for quarantining purposes.|
So, what’s the takeaway? When it comes to OWCP’s current stance regarding workers’ compensation and COVID-19, COP will be available – but only if employees have a positive test that’s not a home test or a report from their doctor indicating they are COVID-19-positive. info@FELTG.com