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.
|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. [email protected]