HB 268 Co-sponsor Rep. Christine Chandler
SANTA FE – Essential workers who contract COVID-19 will qualify for Workers’ Compensation benefits under new legislation advanced Friday by the House.
Passed by the State Government, Elections and Indian Affairs Committee on a party-line 5-3 vote, House Bill 268 will head next to the House Floor.
Sponsored by Rep. Dayan Hochman-Vigil (D-Albuquerque), Rep. Christine Chandler (D-Los Alamos), Rep. Meredith A. Dixon (D-Albuquerque), Rep. Daymon Ely (D-Corrales), and Rep. Patricia Roybal Caballero (D-Albuquerque), the bill adds a rebuttable presumption to the Workers’ Compensation 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.
“House Bill 268 came about because we heard firsthand from constituents who unquestionably caught COVID-19 at work, but were denied Workers’ Compensation,” Rep. Hochman-Vigil said. “Essential employees put their health and safety on the line every day to provide the services that New Mexicans need. Should they become infected at work, they deserve the same protections they would receive from any other workplace injury.”
“It seems common sense that businesses should take public health orders regarding this deadly virus seriously, but sadly, this has reportedly not always been the case,” Rep. Chandler said. “HB 268 not only provides benefits for those who fall ill, but it promotes compliance by incentivizing both employers and employees to follow protocols and even take proactive testing and tracing steps.”
“Until everyone in the state takes this deadly virus seriously, all New Mexicans will continue to be at increased risk,” Rep. Dixon said. “Employees have the right to a safe workplace, and the right to compensation if they contract COVID-19 because health orders have been ignored.”
“Even if an employee does everything right, they are at serious risk of contracting COVID-19 if their workplace does not follow proper protocols,” Rep. Ely said. “HB 268 ensures that those facing these situations have proper protections under the Workers’ Compensation Act.”
“We’ve heard from many constituents whose employers did not require mask wearing, and some who were even required to come to work when they had COVID-19 and could infect coworkers or customers,” Rep. Roybal Caballero said. “HB 268 ensures that hard-working New Mexicans facing such unsafe work environments can receive the compensation and benefits they deserve should they become sick.”
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 Jan. 31, 2023.
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.