NC Legislative Update 5/12/20
By Lexi Arthur
Two bills have been filed this session that would create a rebuttable presumption that a worker has COVID-19 due to exposure in the course of the covered person’s employment. Representative Darren Jackson (D-Wake) filed HB 1057, which currently has bipartisan support. His bill would broadly apply to firefighters, police and other first responders as well as criminal justice personnel, healthcare workers and employees of “essential businesses” such as retail and restaurants. The bill would allocate $5 million to the Office of State Human Resources to settle workers’ comp claims from state employees who contract coronavirus.
Rep. Billy Richardson (D-Cumberland) filed a similar bill that is more limited (HB 1056). Richardson’s bill would create the rebuttable presumption for workers’ comp for first responders and healthcare workers, but wouldn’t apply it to employees of retail, restaurants and other “essential” businesses. HB 1056 does not include an appropriation, and it currently has far fewer co-sponsors than HB 1057.
Earlier this month, a letter was sent to legislators explaining the unintended consequences of shifting the evidentiary burden to employers. Numerous stakeholders from the employer community signed onto the letter. Employer stakeholders will continue to educate legislators on why this legislation is not necessary – highlighting that, should it pass, all employees who contract COVID-19 would be guaranteed workers comp status, no matter where they contracted the virus. The full letter is attached.
Initial conversations have occurred that lead the employer community to believe that there are plans for this bill to be heard by the House. There is some interest in the bills among the Senate, but not in the current format. The belief is that the public image of these bills would be very positive and difficult to oppose once they begin moving.