The Zika virus, and the mosquitoes that carry it, have earned their share of headlines in South Florida over the past few months, but now it appears they are about to enter a new environment: Worker’s Compensation law.
A few weeks ago, two Miami Beach police officers filed Worker’s Compensation claims on the grounds that they had contracted the Zika virus while on patrol in the Ocean Drive area, an area known to be inside the Zika virus “hot” or “active transmission” zones. According to Bobby Jenkins, the president of the Miami Beach Fraternal Order of Police, one of the officers’ Workers Compensation claim was initially approved but the approval was abruptly withdrawn a few days afterward. The other officer’s claim was denied without explanation.
In a letter to the police union, Miami Beach City Manager Jimmy Morales claimed that the reason behind the two Workers Compensation denials was that the officers “… must show that the exposure/bite took place while on duty and identify the specific infected mosquito…” If the denials are allowed to stand on an appeal, the officers will have to resort to their police union-provided medical insurance and personal sick leave if they become ill from infections due to the Zika virus.
The police union contends that requiring an officer to prove that he/she was infected while on the job and that the officer must identify the specific mosquito that caused the infection places an unfair burden of proof on the officer, in addition to defeating the purpose of the Workers Compensation law.
Labor relations professionals, as well as Workers Compensation attorneys, in other sections of the country have been awaiting the outcomes of the first Zika virus-related Workers Compensation cases to emerge from South Florida because these cases will serve as “precedent” and could well influence similar decisions elsewhere.
Locally, the progress of this case is being closely watched by Coral Springs Workers Compensation attorney Evan Ostfeld. Evan has always fought for the rights of South Florida workers to receive all the compensation they are entitled to if they become ill after being exposed to health hazards while on the job.
Any South Florida workers who believe that they were infected with the Zika virus while they were on the job are urged to contact the Law Offices of Evan M. Ostfeld, P.A. at 866-478-3968 to arrange an evaluation of your claim regarding Zika virus infection or any other employment-related health issues.