Contractor associations lobby succeeds in overturning workers’ compensation COVID-19 emergency rule

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Coronavirus Disease 2019 Rotator Graphic for af.mil. (U.S. Air Force Graphic by Rosario "Charo" Gutierrez)

Some contractor associations’ affiliated lobbying organizations have succeeded in encouraging the overturning an emergency administrative ruling that any employee in an “essential industry” that contacts COVID-19 will be “rebuttably presumed to have contracted the virus at work.”

The Construction Industry Service Corporation (CISCO) said in a bulletin that the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission (IWCC) voted unanimously on Monday to withdraw the April 16 ruling, “thus reversing the decision that shifted the burden of proof from the employee to the employer, requiring the employer to present evidence that the employee did not contract the corona virus at work.”

“There were two people who provided public comment – Illinois AFL-CIO president Tim Drea and Mark Denzler, president and CEO of the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association,” CISCO reported.

“Drea spoke on behalf of workers who were deemed ‘essential’ by the Governor. He said that the emergency rule would protect essential workers on the frontlines who contracted the virus citing grocery workers, healthcare workers, first-responders and construction workers and others who were risking their lives and the lives of their families by performing their jobs.

“Denzler reiterated the commitment that his members and other associations have initiated to prioritize worker safety during the pandemic. He said many precautions to keep workers safe were put in place, however the undue burden and economic hardship the rule would have placed on retailers, manufacturers and contractors caused them to reach out to the IWCC.”

It is likely that the commission will create a task force to work on a new rule and there may be legislation filed in the General Assembly, CISCO said, saying it “will continue to monitor this issue.”

“The Illinois Construction Industry Committee (ICIC) had planned to participate in an amicus brief with other business organizations as part of an overall effort to pursue injunctive relief.

“CISCO, which is a labor-management organization that represents both union contractors and union building trades employees, remains neutral on this emergency rule, but will continue to report developments on this issue,” the organization said in an earlier bulletin.

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