I Contracted a Contagious Disease at Work. Can Workers’ Comp Help Me?


I Contracted a Contagious Disease at Work. Can Workers’ Comp Help Me?

If you contracted a contagious disease at work, you may be able to get workers’ compensation benefits to help you recover. While some contagious diseases are not considered workplace injuries under the law, some may qualify as diseases arising out of and in the course of employment.

Minnesota law requires that your disease qualify as either a personal injury or an occupational disease to be compensable by workers’ comp. This means that your disease must arise out of and in the course of employment, and it must occur while you are at work. People get occupational diseases from particularly hazardous jobs that cause illness you would not get in another job or in everyday life. (Minn. Statutes § 176.011, subd. 15.)

Here are some examples of contagious diseases that could be compensable by workers’ comp:

  • Bird flu from your job working with birds
  • MRSA from your job as a healthcare worker in a hospital with high rates of MRSA infections in patients
  • Malaria from a business trip to another country
  • Skin infection from contact with contaminated work equipment

Contagious diseases like a cold or the flu, that spread around offices due to airborne pathogens, are probably not compensable by workers’ comp except in very unusual circumstances.

Some people work in professions that lead to a high risk of getting contagious diseases. Minnesota law provides them special protections by giving them a presumption of having an occupational disease that is compensable if they come down with some specific diseases. (Minn. Statutes § 176.011, subd. 15(b), (c).) These workers include:

  • Emergency medical technicians
  • Paramedics
  • Nurses in the emergency room
  • State correctional officers
  • Firefighters
  • Police officers

For example, if an emergency room nurse contracts hepatitis or HIV from the blood of a patient, the disease is presumptively an occupational disease, and the law presumes that it was due to the nature of the nurse’s employment. The employer or insurer can rebut the presumption by showing other substantial factors led to the disease. If the employer or insurer know of substantial factors when the insurer denies the workers’ comp claim, they must tell the worker about them. (Minn. Statutes § 176.011, subd. 15(b).)

If you have an infectious disease that you believe you got at work, consider speaking to a workers’ compensation attorney to determine if you have a case for benefits. The attorney can fight any denials of liability and help show that you aren’t just sick – you have a workplace injury.

Need help getting workers’ compensation for your infectious disease? Joe Osterbauer, Esq. and the Osterbauer Law Firm stand up for injured Minnesota workers’ rights. Joe’s 27 years of workers’ compensation experience and his team’s speedy service combine to get clients the results they need. To schedule a free consultation, visit Osterbauer Law Firm online or call Joe’s office at (612) 334-3434.