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Can You Get Workers' Comp for Zika?

It may sound far-fetched, but when you consider that over 2.5 billion people worldwide live within Zika danger zones, wondering if you can get compensated for contracting the virus on the job is a legitimate concern. The Florida Fraternal Order of Police seems to think so, as the police union has requested that Sunshine State workers' compensation coverage be extended to first responders who come into contact with Zika while working.

So will they get it? And what about workers' comp for other employees who contract Zika?

Taking a Bite out of Crime Fighters

The Florida FOP also confirmed this week that a second Miami Beach police officer contracted the Zika virus in South Florida. The union did not release the officer's name, but says Miami Beach officials refused both officers' workers' compensation claims. Current workers' compensation laws require proof of Zika exposure while working, and while the union claims officers were infected on the job, they didn't release details on where the officers contracted the virus.

Miami has two designated Zika transmission zones within the city and Miami Beach spokeswoman Tonya Daniels said city employees have been offered free Zika testing and mosquito repellent. But police union president Bobby Jenkins told the AP that testing "does not mitigate the need for their coverage of the employees that they place at risk," and is asking lawmakers to step in.

In Harm's Way on the Job

As a general rule, workers' compensation insurance covers on-the-job injuries, which can either mean injuries incurred at the work location or elsewhere while performing work duties, as long as the injury is work-related. State laws on workers' comp claims may vary however, in terms of coverage and filing requirements. If an employee is forced to work somewhere with a high risk of Zika infection, or comes into contact with virus as part of his or her job, an infection most likely would be covered.

Most state workers' comp structures require employees to file a workers' comp claim before they can file a lawsuit. If the claim is denied, employees may have other legal options to get compensation for their injuries.

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