Maryland law may provide workers’ compensation benefits for those that contract a disease because of their employment.
MD occupational disease standards
Maryland workers’ compensation law provides compensation for individuals who contract what is known as an occupational disease through their employment. In determining whether a given condition qualifies, “[t]he court determines whether: (a) the "nature" of the employment includes the hazards of the ailment the employee suffers from to a greater degree than that present in general employment; and (b) whether the employee's job functions expose the employee to those hazards.” Balt. Cnty. v. Quinlan, 466 Md. 1, 215 A.3d 282 (Md. App. 2019), citing Clifford B. Sobin, 1 Maryland Workers' Compensation § 7.2, at 197 (2018). The Quinlan court also quoted with approval as being in line with the thinking of the Maryland judges a North Carolina opinion, which stated: “The fact that the general public may contract a disease is not controlling; the test of compensability is whether the nature of the employment exposes the worker to a greater risk of the disease than the risk experienced by the general public or workers in other employments.” Harvey v. Raleigh Police Dep’t, 355 S.E.2d 147, 150 (N.C. Ct. App. 1987) “The [Maryland] Act does not limit occupational diseases to rare diseases or those exclusive to a specific profession.” Quinlan, supra, citing Judge Laheay, A., in Quinlan, 238 Md. App. at 508.
Some MD Businesses Open During the coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic
This is a non-exhaustive list of the types of employers and industries who were given the choice by Maryland to stay open during the COVID-19 / coronavirus pandemic. See Order of the Governor of the State of Maryland, Number 20-03-23-01. https://governor.maryland.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/OLC-Interpretive-Guidance-COVID19-04.pdf
Many chose to do so.
“Big box” home improvement supply stores
Earth-moving, mining, agricultural, and construction equipment.
Parts for water, electric, and telecommunications utility infrastructure.
Emergency medical services.
Fire and rescue services.
Private ambulance companies.
Banks and credit unions.
Armored car companies. vi. Insurance companies.
Securities and investment companies.
Accounting and bookkeeping firms.
Alcoholic beverage stores and distributors, distilleries, and wineries.
Food manufacturing and processing.
Pet supply stores.
Veterinary hospitals, clinics, and kennels.
Lawyers and law firms.
Healthcare systems and clinics.
Offices of health care providers, including physicians, dentists, and pharmacists.
Physical, occupation, and speech therapists.
Behavioral health facilities and professionals, including psychologists, mental health counselors, and substance abuse counselors
Diagnostic facilities, including radiology, imaging, and laboratory facilities.
Funeral homes and crematoriums.
Senior living facilities, including independent living, assisted living, and skilled nursing.
Medical cannabis dispensaries.
Home health care companies.
Connection to the Employment
The skilled and effective workers’ compensation claimant’s attorney may point out the job duties of workers in these fields may well, and to some extent necessarily, expose the individual to contact with the public, or in some instances, to those who are ill, in a manner not encountered by an employee working from home, or in a small office, alone, or by the public, generally. The question the court will address is whether these roles include the hazard of coronavirus/COVID-19 to a greater degree than that present in general employment. The insurance company will still argue that the the injured worker must still be called upon to demonstrate a probable workplace exposure, which will depend on the unique facts and circumstances of each case.