General Assembly Raised Bill No. 6595
January Session, 2021 LCO No. 4441
Referred to Committee on LABOR AND PUBLIC EMPLOYEES
Introduced by:
(LAB)
AN ACT CONCERNING LABOR MATTERS RELATED TO COVID-19,
PERSONAL PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT AND OTHER STAFFING
ISSUES.
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General
Assembly convened:
1 Section 1. Section 31-290a of the general statutes is repealed and the
2 following is substituted in lieu thereof (Effective from passage):
3 (a) No employer who is subject to the provisions of this chapter shall:
4 [discharge,] (1) Discharge or cause to be discharged, or in any manner
5 discipline or discriminate against any employee because the employee
6 has filed a claim for workers' compensation benefits or otherwise
7 exercised the rights afforded to him pursuant to the provisions of this
8 chapter, or (2) deliberately misinform or otherwise deliberately
9 dissuade an employee from filing a claim for workers' compensation
10 benefits.
11 (b) Any employee who is so discharged, disciplined or discriminated
LCO No. 4441 1 of 57
Raised Bill No. 6595
12 against or who has been deliberately misinformed or dissuaded from
13 filing a claim for workers' compensation benefits may either: (1) Bring a
14 civil action in the superior court for the judicial district where the
15 employer has its principal office for the reinstatement of his previous
16 job, payment of back wages and reestablishment of employee benefits
17 to which he would have otherwise been entitled if he had not been
18 discriminated against or discharged and any other damages caused by
19 such discrimination or discharge. The court may also award punitive
20 damages. Any employee who prevails in such a civil action shall be
21 awarded reasonable attorney's fees and costs to be taxed by the court;
22 or (2) file a complaint with the chairman of the Workers' Compensation
23 Commission alleging violation of the provisions of subsection (a) of this
24 section. Upon receipt of any such complaint, the chairman shall select a
25 commissioner to hear the complaint, provided any commissioner who
26 has previously rendered any decision concerning the claim shall be
27 excluded. The hearing shall be held in the workers' compensation
28 district where the employer has its principal office. After the hearing,
29 the commissioner shall send each party a written copy of his decision.
30 The commissioner may award the employee the reinstatement of his
31 previous job, payment of back wages and reestablishment of employee
32 benefits to which he otherwise would have been eligible if he had not
33 been discriminated against or discharged. Any employee who prevails
34 in such a complaint shall be awarded reasonable attorney's fees. Any
35 party aggrieved by the decision of the commissioner may appeal the
36 decision to the Appellate Court.
37 Sec. 2. (NEW) (Effective from passage) (a) For the purposes of
38 adjudication of claims for payment of benefits under the provisions of
39 chapter 568 of the general statutes, when there is a dispute regarding
40 whether a request for medical and surgical aid or hospital and nursing
41 services, including mechanical aids and prescription drugs, is
42 reasonable or necessary, the employer or insurer shall file a notice of
43 controversy. A copy of the notice of controversy shall be sent to the
44 originator of the request. A health care provider, employee or other
45 interested party may request a hearing regarding payment of medical
LCO No. 4441 2 of 57
Raised Bill No. 6595
46 and related services for determination of any such dispute.
47 (b) Payment of a medical bill by an employer or insurer shall not be
48 considered an admission by the employer or the insurer as to the
49 reasonableness of subsequent medical bills. The provisions of this
50 section shall not affect the applicability of any notice provision of section
51 31-294c of the general statutes.
52 Sec. 3. (NEW) (Effective from passage) (a) For the purpose of
53 adjudication of claims for payment of benefits under the provisions of
54 chapter 568 of the general statutes, an employee who died or was unable
55 to work as a result of contracting COVID-19, or due to symptoms that
56 were later diagnosed as COVID-19, at any time during (1) the public
57 health and civil preparedness emergencies declared by the Governor on
58 March 10, 2020, or any extension of such declarations, or (2) any new
59 public health and civil preparedness emergencies declared by the
60 Governor as a result of a COVID-19 outbreak in this state, shall be
61 presumed to have contracted COVID-19 as an occupational disease
62 arising out of and in the course of employment, provided (A) the
63 contraction of COVID-19 by such employee shall be confirmed by a
64 positive laboratory test or, if a laboratory test was not available for the
65 employee, as diagnosed and documented by the employee's licensed
66 physician, licensed physician's assistant or licensed advanced practice
67 registered nurse, based on the employee's symptoms; and (B) a copy of
68 the positive laboratory test or the written documentation of the
69 physician's, physician assistant's or advanced practice registered nurse's
70 diagnosis is provided to the employer or insurer. For the purposes of
71 this section, "COVID-19" means the respiratory disease designated by
72 the World Health Organization on February 11, 2020, as coronavirus
73 2019, and any related mutation thereof recognized by the World Health
74 Organization as a communicable respiratory disease.
75 (b) The provisions of subsection (a) of this section shall not apply to
76 an employee who, during the fourteen consecutive days immediately
77 preceding the date the employee died or was unable to work due to
78 contracting COVID-19 or due to symptoms that were later diagnosed as
LCO No. 4441 3 of 57
Raised Bill No. 6595
79 COVID-19: (1) Was employed in a capacity where he or she worked
80 solely from home and did not have physical interaction with other
81 employees or work-related supplies or materials of the employer, or (2)
82 was the recipient of an individualized written offer or directive from his
83 or her employer to work solely from home, but otherwise chose to work
84 at a work site of the employer.
85 (c) Notwithstanding the definition of "occupational disease" under
86 section 31-396 of the general statutes, COVID-19 shall be considered an
87 occupational disease for any employee who was diagnosed with
88 COVID-19 in accordance with subsection (a) of this section.
89 (d) The presumption under subsection (a) of this section shall only be
90 rebutted if the employer or insurer clearly demonstrates by a
91 preponderance of the evidence that the employment of the individual
92 was not a direct cause of the occupational disease. The employer or the
93 insurer, within ten days of filing a notice to contest an employee's rights
94 to compensation benefits pursuant to section 31-294c of the general
95 statutes, shall provide evidence to rebut the presumption under
96 subsection (a) of this section. If a compensation commissioner finds that
97 such presumption has been rebutted, such commissioner shall decide
98 the claim on its merits, in accordance with established practices of
99 causation. For purposes of this section, an employee's preexisting
100 condition shall have no bearing on the merits of a claim, both with
101 regard to approving a claim and continuing benefits once they have
102 been awarded.
103 (e) An employee who has contracted COVID-19 but who is not
104 entitled to the presumption under subsection (a) of this section shall not
105 be precluded from making a claim as provided in chapter 568 of the
106 general statutes.
107 (f) Beginning on July 1, 2021, and ending on January 1, 2023, the
108 Workers' Compensation Commission shall provide a detailed report on
109 the first business day of each month on COVID-19 workers'
110 compensation claims and shall provide such reports to the joint
LCO No. 4441 4 of 57
Raised Bill No. 6595
111 standing committees of the General Assembly having cognizance of
112 matters relating to labor and insurance. Such monthly reports shall
113 contain: (1) The number of total COVID-19 workers' compensation
114 claims filed since May 10, 2020; (2) the number of record-only claims
115 filed by hospitals, nursing homes, municipalities and other employers,
116 listed by employer name; (3) the number of COVID-19 workers'
117 compensation cases filed by state employees in each agency; (4) the
118 number of such claims contested by each individual employer,
119 including state agencies, third-party administrators and insurers, by
120 client; (5) the reasons cited by each employer, including state agencies,
121 third-party administrators or insurers, by client, for contesting such
122 claims; (6) the number of claims that have received a hearing by the
123 Workers' Compensation Commission; (7) the number of: (A) Rulings by
124 the Workers' Compensation Commission regarding such claims that
125 have been appealed, (B) approved voluntary agreements, (C) findings
126 and awards, (D) findings and dismissals, (E) petitions for review, and
127 (F) stipulations; (8) the average time it took to schedule an initial hearing
128 once it has been requested; and (9) the average time it took to adjudicate
129 contested COVID-19 workers' compensation claims. Employers,
130 including state agencies, third-party administrators and insurers shall
131 comply with all requests from the Workers' Compensation Commission
132 for information required to compile the reports.
133 Sec. 4. Subsection (a) of section 31-306 of the general statutes is
134 repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof (Effective from
135 passage):
136 (a) Compensation shall be paid to dependents on account of death
137 resulting from an accident arising out of and in the course of
138 employment or from an occupational disease as follows:
139 (1) [Four] Twenty thousand dollars shall be paid for burial expenses
140 in any case in which the employee died on or after October 1, 1988. On
141 January 1, 2022, and not later than each January first thereafter, the
142 compensation for burial benefits shall be adjusted by the percentage
143 increase between the last complete calendar year and the previous
LCO No. 4441 5 of 57
Raised Bill No. 6595
144 calendar year in the consumer price index for urban wage earners and
145 clerical workers in the northeast urban area of New York-Northern New
146 Jersey-Long Island, NY-NJ-CT-PA, with no seasonal adjustment, as
147 calculated by the United States Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor
148 Statistics. If there is no one wholly or partially dependent upon the
149 deceased employee, the burial expenses [of four thousand dollars] shall
150 be paid to the person who assumes the responsibility of paying the
151 funeral expenses.
152 (2) Twenty thousand dollars shall be paid for burial expenses in any
153 case in which an employee died due to contracting COVID-19 during
154 (A) the public health and civil preparedness emergencies declared by
155 the Governor on March 10, 2020, or any extension of such declarations,
156 or (B) any new public health and civil preparedness emergencies
157 declared by the Governor as a result of a COVID-19 outbreak in this
158 state. For the purposes of this subdivision, "COVID-19" means the
159 respiratory disease designated by the World Health Organization on
160 February 11, 2020, as coronavirus 2019, and any related mutation thereof
161 recognized by the World Health Organization as a communicable
162 respiratory disease.
163 [(2)] (3) To those wholly dependent upon the deceased employee at
164 the date of the deceased employee's injury, a weekly compensation
165 equal to seventy-five per cent of the average weekly earnings of the
166 deceased calculated pursuant to section 31-310, after such earnings have
167 been reduced by any deduction for federal or state taxes, or both, and
168 for the federal Insurance Contributions Act made from such employee's
169 total wages received during the period of calculation of the employee's
170 average weekly wage pursuant to said section 31-310, as of the date of
171 the injury but not more than the maximum weekly compensation rate
172 set forth in section 31-309 for the year in which the injury occurred or
173 less than twenty dollars weekly. (A) The weekly compensation rate of
174 each dependent entitled to receive compensation under this section as a
175 result of death arising from a compensable injury occurring on or after
176 October 1, 1977, shall be adjusted annually as provided in this
177 subdivision as of the following October first, and each subsequent
LCO No. 4441 6 of 57
Raised Bill No. 6595
178 October first, to provide the dependent with a cost-of-living adjustment
179 in the dependent's weekly compensation rate as determined as of the
180 date of the injury under section 31-309. If the maximum weekly
181 compensation rate, as determined under the provisions of said section
182 31-309, to be effective as of any October first following the date of the
183 injury, is greater than the maximum weekly compensation rate
184 prevailing at the date of the injury, the weekly compensation rate which
185 the injured employee was entitled to receive at the date of the injury or
186 October 1, 1990, whichever is later, shall be increased by the percentage
187 of the increase in the maximum weekly compensation rate required by
188 the provisions of said section 31-309 from the date of the injury or
189 October 1, 1990, whichever is later, to such October first. The cost-of-
190 living increases provided under this subdivision shall be paid by the
191 employer without any order or award from the commissioner. The
192 adjustments shall apply to each payment made in the next succeeding
193 twelve-month period commencing with the October first next
194 succeeding the date of the injury. With respect to any dependent
195 receiving benefits on October 1, 1997, with respect to any injury
196 occurring on or after July 1, 1993, and before October 1, 1997, such
197 benefit shall be recalculated to October 1, 1997, as if such benefits had
198 been subject to recalculation annually under this subparagraph. The
199 difference between the amount of any benefits that would have been
200 paid to such dependent if such benefits had been subject to such
201 recalculation and the actual amount of benefits paid during the period
202 between such injury and such recalculation shall be paid to the
203 dependent not later than December 1, 1997, in a lump-sum payment.
204 The employer or its insurer shall be reimbursed by the Second Injury
205 Fund, as provided in section 31-354, for adjustments, including lump-
206 sum payments, payable under this subparagraph for deaths from
207 compensable injuries occurring on or after July 1, 1993, and before
208 October 1, 1997, upon presentation of any vouchers and information
209 that the Treasurer shall require. No claim for payment of retroactive
210 benefits may be made to the Second Injury Fund more than two years
211 after the date on which the employer or its insurer paid such benefits in
212 accordance with this subparagraph. (B) The weekly compensation rate
LCO No. 4441 7 of 57
Raised Bill No. 6595
213 of each dependent entitled to receive compensation under this section
214 as a result of death arising from a compensable injury occurring on or
215 before September 30, 1977, shall be adjusted as of October 1, 1977, and
216 October 1, 1980, and thereafter, as provided in this subdivision to
217 provide the dependent with partial cost-of-living adjustments in the
218 dependent's weekly compensation rate. As of October 1, 1977, the
219 weekly compensation rate paid prior to October 1, 1977, to the
220 dependent shall be increased by twenty-five per cent. The partial cost-
221 of-living adjustment provided under this subdivision shall be paid by
222 the employer without any order or award from the commissioner. In
223 addition, on each October first, the weekly compensation rate of each
224 dependent as of October 1, 1990, shall be increased by the percentage of
225 the increase in the maximum compensation rate over the maximum
226 compensation rate of October 1, 1990, as determined under the
227 provisions of section 31-309 existing on October 1, 1977. The cost of the
228 adjustments shall be paid by the employer or its insurance carrier who
229 shall be reimbursed for such cost from the Second Injury Fund as
230 provided in section 31-354 upon presentation of any vouchers and
231 information that the Treasurer shall require. No claim for payment of
232 retroactive benefits may be made to the Second Injury Fund more than
233 two years after the date on which the employer or its insurance carrier
234 paid such benefits in ac