The Connecticut Workers Compensation Commission, which oversees and administers worker compensation claims, lacked approvals for medical leaves of absence for its own employees, according to a new audit.
“The commission did not have medical certificates on file for 5 out of 8 medical leaves of absence we reviewed,” the auditors wrote. “In addition, the commission did not maintain required [Family Medical Leave Act] documentation for one of these absences.”
The commission responded that it agreed with the auditors’ findings but noted that “it has been difficult to enforce this requirement with employees.”
“It should be noted that doctors’ offices are frequently unwilling to complete these forms,” the commission wrote in its response. “Employees have reported that doctors are charging fees ranging from $25 to $75 dollars, which is of course not covered by health insurance plans.”
The commission said it would issue a memorandum reminding employees that they must present a medical certificate.
Gov. Ned Lamont has come under increasing pressure from unions and some lawmakers to issue an executive order to presume that any “essential employee” who contracts the COVID-19 virus was infected at work and therefore eligible for workers compensation insurance.
This would include grocery store workers, medical workers and any other employees who continued to work through the pandemic.
If such an order were enacted – as it was in California – it would place the burden of proof on the employer to show the employee did not contract the virus on the job. The claims could increase the cost of workers compensation insurance for businesses.
Eric Gjede of the Connecticut Business and Industry Association told the Hartford Courant that such an executive order would be costly and unnecessary as medical workers are likely already covered and that for other workers it is difficult to prove they contracted the virus at work.
A similar proposal was rejected in New York, where the New York Workers’ Compensation Commission estimated the move would cost $31 billion.
The Connecticut Workers Compensation Commission was working with reduced staff since late March following Lamont’s “work at home” orders, although the commissioners themselves have been conducting hearings electronically or via conference call.