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Workers Comp COVID-19 Vaccinations – Part of Return To Work


Employers Require Return to Work Workers Comp COVID-19 Vaccinations?

I started pondering how the Workers Comp COVID-19 vaccination process would work if an employee were returning to work with or without vaccination.

This morning, I was reading a blog post from a Law Professor from Wyoming University.  I found it through a WorkCompCentral article, but the article is behind a paywall.

Picture of Workers Comp COVID-19 Vaccination s virus
Public Use Copyright – US NIH

WorkCompCentral still has a freebie daily newsletter.  I signed up for a paid subscription in 2014 (worth it).

Mr./Dr. Michael Duff (smarter than me) said that the presumption of an injury might be removed if the injured employee refused a vaccination.

The article started my brain up (after two Keurigs, ok three) with the thought that what happens to a regular return to work and workers’ comp injury return to work if the employee has not been vaccinated for COVID-19 (at least the first shot)?

Illinois Says No Comp If No COVID-19 Vaccination – Wow

Referring back to Attorney Duff’s article – Illinois may enact a law that says this:

A workers’ compensation bill filed in the Illinois House on February 19 provides, “no compensation shall be awarded to a claimant for death or disability arising out of an exposure to COVID-19 if the employee has refused a vaccination.” 820 ILCS 305/7.5 new

If one reads further down the blog page, Arkansas was also in the midst of legislative wrangling on the same matter.

My slightly twisted thinking then said – What happens if an injured worker is released to return to work and they are unvaccinated or have refused a Workers Comp COVID-19 vaccination?

Workers Comp Return To Work Disputes Spike?

Let us talk about the treating physician or an Independent Medical Exam (IME) physician.

The word that is tantamount would be:

Maximum Medical Improvement (MMI)

Please follow the link if you are not familiar with MMI.  One way to think of it is all the parties’ (employer, employee, claims adjuster, physician, and others) goal is and always will be a return to gainful employment.

Surgeons Workers Comp COVID-19 Vaccinations treating physicians
Wikimedia Commons – SSgt. Derrick C. Goode, U.S. Air Force

If the injured worker does not receive or refuses a vaccination, does the treating physician say that he/she is at MMI?

That would be a big question that the persons in the above paratheses very likely will have to handle as the pandemic eases and normal return to work occurs in late 2021.

Could the injured worker’s refusal of a vaccine that keeps them out of work cause them to lose their weekly benefits?  The disputes would sharply spike.

Workers Comp COVID-19 Vaccinations and The Presumption Legislation

Research into this subject today points to none of the State’s multiple-presumption Senate/Assembly Bills and laws considered this conundrum.

Letting the Workers’ Comp Judges and Appeals Courts settle this matter may not be the best avenue.  Watch for the states to address this issue soon (or maybe not). Illinois has broken the ice in an indirect manner.


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James J Moore - Workers Comp Expert

Raleigh, NC, United States

About The Author...

James founded a Workers’ Compensation consulting firm, J&L Risk Management Consultants, Inc. in 1996. J&L’s mission is to reduce our clients’ Workers Compensation premiums by using time-tested techniques. J&L’s claims, premium, reserve and Experience Mod reviews have saved employers over $9.8 million in earned premiums over the last three years. J&L has saved numerous companies from bankruptcy proceedings as a result of insurance overpayments.

James has over 27 years of experience in insurance claims, audit, and underwriting, specializing in Workers’ Compensation. He has supervised, and managed the administration of Workers’ Compensation claims, and underwriting in over 45 states. His professional experience includes being the Director of Risk Management for the North Carolina School Boards Association. He created a very successful Workers’ Compensation Injury Rehabilitation Unit for school personnel.

James’s educational background, which centered on computer technology, culminated in earning a Masters of Business Administration (MBA); an Associate in Claims designation (AIC); and an Associate in Risk Management designation (ARM). He is a Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC) and a licensed financial advisor. The NC Department of Insurance has certified him as an insurance instructor. He also possesses a Bachelors’ Degree in Actuarial Science.

LexisNexis has twice recognized his blog as one of the Top 25 Blogs on Workers’ Compensation. J&L has been listed in AM Best’s Preferred Providers Directory for Insurance Experts – Workers Compensation for over eight years. He recently won the prestigious Baucom Shine Lifetime Achievement Award for his volunteer contributions to the area of risk management and safety. James was recently named as an instructor for the prestigious Insurance Academy.

James is on the Board of Directors and Treasurer of the North Carolina Mid-State Safety Council. He has published two manuals on Workers’ Compensation and three different claims processing manuals. He has also written and has been quoted in numerous articles on reducing Workers’ Compensation costs for public and private employers. James publishes a weekly newsletter with 7,000 readers.

He currently possess press credentials and am invited to various national Workers Compensation conferences as a reporter.

James’s articles or interviews on Workers’ Compensation have appeared in the following publications or websites:

  • Risk and Insurance Management Society (RIMS)
  • Entrepreneur Magazine
  • Bloomberg Business News
  • WorkCompCentral.com
  • Claims Magazine
  • Risk & Insurance Magazine
  • Insurance Journal
  • Workers Compensation.com
  • LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and other social media sites
  • Various trade publications


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