Workers Affected by COVID-19 Deserve Workers’ Compensation

April 16, 2020

Every day, thousands of frontline workers are interacting with countless members of the public as part of their job, putting themselves and their families at risk to keep society running. These nurses, doctors, transit workers, janitors, airport workers, grocery store clerks, and others are at higher risk of contracting the coronavirus, especially as many employers remain unwilling or unable to provide workers with the personal protective equipment needed to reduce exposure. If these workers contract COVID-19 as a result of workplace exposure, or worse, tragically die from the virus, they and their families deserve workers' compensation benefits.

It is becoming increasingly evident that the burden of COVID-19 is not born equally across racial-ethnic groups. There are many factors contributing to the uneven impact of the virus, not the least of which is work. Racial and ethnic minorities are disproportionately employed in essential jobs such as nursing aides, personal care attendants, taxi and other drivers, etc.

While Blacks make up 7% of the Massachusetts workforce, they represent 41% of nursing and home care aides, 37% of LPNs, 33% of taxi and ride service drivers, 29% of personal care attendants, and 18% of bus drivers.
While Hispanics make up 10% of the Massachusetts workforce, they represent 80% of laundry workers, 34% of food preparation workers, 29% of personal care attendants, 32% of janitors and cleaners, and 24% of childcare workers.

On April 13, MassCOSH and the Massachusetts AFL-CIO called on Governor Baker to instruct that healthcare facilities and laboratories to add occupation and industry to the data that they are collecting on COVID-19 patients. In order to ensure that workers most impacted by the virus are protected, we need to fully understand the burden of the virus on different worker groups. This data will not only be important to help protect workers from COVID-19 but also to ensure that these front line workers – or their families in the tragic event they die from the virus - get the workers' compensation benefits they deserve.