Many employers in Texas are requiring employees to have COVID-19 vaccines in order to do their jobs. If your business has made vaccines mandatory as a condition of employment, then you should know that it is possible for an employee to seek workers’ compensation benefits for an adverse reaction to, or side effects from, a COVID-19 vaccine. In addition, the Texas Department of Insurance has made clear that employers have a duty to report adverse reactions in a manner similar to reporting other workplace illnesses or injuries, although making such a report does not necessarily mean that the employee will be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits.
This article provides a brief overview of employer liability for mandated COVID-19 vaccine side effects. If you have specific questions about your responsibilities concerning workers’ compensation and mandated COVID-19 vaccines, we recommend that you contact one of our Frisco employment lawyers for a consultation.
Employer Must File a First Report of Injury or Illness
If your business has mandated COVID-19 vaccines as a condition of employment and you learn of an employee’s adverse reaction to or side effects from the shot, the Texas Department of Insurance requires your business to–under certain circumstances–file a First Report of Injury or Illness with the Division of Workers’ Compensation (DWC). When do you need to file a First Report? According to a March 2021 memo from the Texas Department of Insurance, “if a COVID-19 vaccination relates to an employee’s job, and it causes the employee to miss one or more days of work,” then a First Report should be filed.
The First Report of Injury should be filed with the DWC by “using electronic data interchange (EDI) for COVID-19 or a reaction to the COVID-19 vaccine.” When filing a report, the “cause of injury” code should be listed as code 38 for a COVID-19 vaccine reaction claim. The incident description should also clarify that the claim involves a “COVID-19 vaccine reaction” to ensure that the claim is tracked properly. To be clear, employers filing a First Report for a vaccine reaction should not use code 83, which is the code for a COVID-19 infection.
Employer May be Liable for Workers’ Compensation Coverage
Depending upon the circumstances, an employer could be liable for the employee’s losses resulting from a mandatory COVID-19 vaccine reaction, and the employee could be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. However, it is important to know that the mere fact that an employer is required to file a First Report does not necessarily mean the employee is eligible to receive workers’ compensation benefits. According to the Texas Department of Insurance, “submitting a First Report of Injury to DWC does not mean that a COVID-19 vaccine is work-related or that the insurance carrier is liable for payment.”
However, if the vaccine is indeed work-related as a result of a work mandate, and the employee is otherwise eligible for benefits based on the circumstances, then employers should know that they may be liable for workers’ compensation payment to the employee with the adverse vaccine reaction.
Contact a Texas Employment Law Attorney
If you have questions about COVID-19 vaccines and workers’ compensation responsibilities as an employer, our Frisco employment law attorneys can speak with you today. Contact Simon Paschal PLLC for more information.