Workers’ compensation in Georgia is not a static system. Each year, the laws and rules regulating workers’ comp are reviewed, revised, and challenged. What has changed so far in 2021 that employers and employees alike need to know about? We take a look at a few updates related to workers’ compensation and working in the state overall.
COVID-19 Family & Medical Leave
The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has likely reshaped the country and all aspects of our lives permanently. It is no surprise, then, that there are legal updates happening in Georgia and at a federal level to acknowledge the impact COVID-19 has had on the average workplace and worker.
The Families First Coronavirus Response Act was created to make it easier for workers to get sick leave if they or a family member have been diagnosed with COVID-19. Under this act, qualifying employees can get up to two weeks of paid sick leave if they have been diagnosed with the coronavirus and need to quarantine themselves for 14 days. The same amount of paid sick leave can be approved if they have to care for a dependent family member who requires a 14-day quarantine as well, such as a child or elder.
Coronavirus & Workers’ Compensation
Although it is still a bit of a legal gray area due to insurance company contests, most workers in Georgia can file for workers’ compensation in 2021 if they are diagnosed with the dangerous virus and there is a reason to believe it was contracted in the workplace or due to their work. For example, a healthcare employee who must work with sick patients could reasonably argue that they caught COVID-19 while helping a patient. But a retail worker who is instructed by their employer to provide face-to-face assistance to shoppers might have the same chances of getting workers’ compensation for exposure to an occupational disease.
Coronavirus workers’ comp filings began increasing dramatically in 2020, which prompted many insurance companies to challenge the validity of such claims. Some states and courts have upheld that these cases can be filed with a rebuttable presumption. It is presumed that the worker was exposed to the coronavirus in the workplace if their job brings them into close or repeated contact with others, but the insurance company can challenge that presumption if it has evidence showing the contrary, like a worker’s social media posts that feature them at a crowded party.
Other Important Work-Related Updates
Although not closely related to worker benefits, there are two more 2021 Georgia laws you should know about as a worker in the state: criminal background check restrictions and wage garnishment restrictions. If you have a criminal background, then you can more easily conceal parts of it when applying for employment. By petitioning with a court before you apply for a job, you can effectively hide portions of your criminal record from the potential employer. This process is usually reserved for people with nonviolent, nonfelony convictions, as it is meant to prevent employers from wrongly prejudging people for minor convictions.
In 2021, Georgia will also protect more of a worker’s wages from wage garnishments. 15% or less of your weekly earnings can be garnished to repay outstanding student loans.
Do you have questions about legal updates to workers’ compensation in Georgia that could impact your claim? Contact The Law Offices of Nathaniel F. Hansford, LLC for more information from an experienced team of attorneys.