The COVID-19 pandemic has hit a number of industries very hard, but one group that has been significantly affected here in Minnesota are meatpackers. Meatpacking plants across the country housed some of the worst COVID-19 outbreaks in the nation, and we certainly felt that here in Minnesota. Nearly 1,000 employees in Minnesota meatpacking plants filed for workers’ compensation as a result of contracting the illness, but so far, all of their claims have been denied.
However, a recent ruling in Texas could provide those employees with renewed hope that they’ll get the compensation they deserve.
Minnesota Meatpackers and Workers’ Compensation
Last month, an administrative law judge ordered the insurance provider for JBS meatpacking in Texas to pay an employee who had previously seen their coronavirus-related workers’ compensation claim denied. Moreover, JBS did not appeal the decision, meaning that it is considered a final ruling.
That ruling could prove immensely beneficial for the 933 Minnesota meatpacking workers who filed a COVID-19 claim and saw it denied by the insurance company. And while Texas certainly doesn’t set the legal precedent for Minnesota, it could be an indication of how these suits could play out around the country.
As we mentioned in a previous blog, one of the reasons why COVID-19 claims are often denied is because it’s virtually impossible to know with 100 percent certainty how the virus was contracted. Even if you’re working closely with someone who was later confirmed positive, because it’s an invisible disease, we can’t always be certain exactly when and where a person contracted the virus. That’s why many insurance companies claim they are off the hook and can deny paying out the claim, because of the absence of physical evidence proving where the disease was contracted.
However, many Minnesota workers have already won their COVID-19 cases. As we talked about on the blog in the past, healthcare workers, police officers and other frontline workers were given a presumptive benefit, meaning that if they came down with the virus, it could be presumed that they caught it in the line of duty and therefore had a rightful claim to compensation. Meatpackers were not included in this presumption, but again, the tides may be turning based on the courts in Texas.
So while nothing is certain and it will still take plenty of time to sort everything out, don’t give up hope if you work at a meatpacking plant and are currently fighting a denial or trying to collect compensation because you contracted COVID-19. There are still plenty of moving parts, but things are looking up, and we want to help. For more information, or to talk to a lawyer to see what we can do about the status of your claim, reach out to the team of industry experts at Hey Workers today.