HOUSE DEMOCRATS NEWS
Essential workers who contract COVID-19 will be able to file claims under the Workers’ Compensation Act, under new legislation advanced by the House Labor, Veterans’ and Military Affairs Committee today.
Sponsored by Rep. Dayan Hochman-Vigil (D-Albuquerque), Rep. Christine Chandler (D-Los Alamos), and Rep. Meredith A. Dixon (D-Albuquerque), House Bill 268 adds a rebuttable presumption to the Act that contraction of the deadly coronavirus by an essential employee is a work-related injury eligible for worker compensation, providing that the employee can establish that their workplace has not strictly complied with public health orders.
“We’ve heard from New Mexicans who unquestionably caught COVID-19 at work, and in some cases had severe symptoms, but were denied workers’ compensation,” said Rep. Hochman-Vigil. “HB 268 corrects this exclusion and ensures that our essential workers receive the benefits they deserve during this dangerous pandemic.”
“Our essential workers put their health and wellbeing on the line every day to provide New Mexicans with the vital services we all need,” said Rep. Chandler. “If they contract COVID-19 at work when their employer is not upholding the rules intended to keep them safe, they deserve compensation like any other workplace injury.”
“House Bill 268 is smart policy. It promotes good behavior from both employers and employees by incentivizing everyone to properly follow public health orders, and by encouraging workplaces to implement proactive testing and tracing procedures,” said Rep. Dixon.
Under HB 268, employers may rebut COVID-19 Workers’ Compensation claims by providing evidence that the worker personally and substantially violated current public health orders. The bill would become effective immediately upon the Governor’s signature and would remain in effect until January 31, 2023.
After passing the House Labor, Veterans’ and Military Affairs Committee with a 5-3 vote, HB 268 will be heard next in the House State Government, Elections and Indian Affairs Committee.
Members of the public can track legislation on the New Mexico Legislature website, access committee meetings and House floor sessions via the Webcasts tab, or participate by Zoom to provide public comment on committee hearings. During the 2021 Legislative Session, the House of Representatives is focused on passing critical legislation while protecting the health and safety of the public, the staff, and the legislators.