Coronavirus Legal News

Governor Passes Executive Order Clarifying Workers' Compensation Law

June 17, 2020

Governor Asa Hutchinson issued three Executive Orders on Monday, June 15, 2020, in response to the public health crisis posed by COVID-19. Below is a summary of Executive Order 20-35.

The purpose of Executive Order 20-35 is to clarify and provide sufficient recourse under the Workers’ Compensation Law for claims related to COVID-19. The Executive Order states that requiring an employee to perform work when the employer has knowledge that, within the normal course and scope of the employee’s job performance, exposure to severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) or to coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is possible or likely is not intentional conduct that would remove the employer from the protections of the Workers’ Compensation Law.

The Order also establishes COVID-19 and SARS-CoV-2 as “occupational diseases” under the Workers’ Compensation Law. Superseding the definition found in Executive Order 20-22(3), Executive Order 20-35 defines “unusual or unprecedented incident” to include exposure to COVID-19 as a respiratory accident or incident that may be found to have been the major cause of the physical harm. 

Finally, the Executive Order provides that COVID-19 and SARS-CoV-2 are exceptions to the prohibition on compensation for ordinary diseases of life to which the general public is exposed. An employee asserting an occupational disease under this Executive Order must meet all requirements of proof for an occupational disease, including a causal connection between employment and the disease. Executive Order 20-35 applies to all claims filed after June 15, 2020, and expires when the emergency is terminated.

Guy Alton Wade is a partner in the firm’s Litigation Section. His practice focuses on workers’ compensation, medical malpractice defense, insurance defense, regulation, and commercial litigation.

Disclaimer: The information included here is provided for general informational purposes only and should not be a substitute for legal advice nor is it intended to be a substitute for legal counsel. For more information or if you have further questions, please contact one of our Attorneys.

Attorney Caitlin D. Kennedy contributed to this article.