Rep. Christine Chandler Cosponsored Bill HB 268 Adding COVID-19 To Workers’ Comp Act Clears First Committee

Rep. Christine Chandler

NM House Democrats News:

SANTA FE — Essential workers who contract COVID-19 will be able to file claims under the Workers’ Compensation Act, under new legislation advanced Thursday by the House Labor, Veterans’ and Military Affairs Committee. 

Sponsored by Rep. Christine Chandler (D-Los Alamos), Rep. Dayan Hochman-Vigil (D-Albuquerque) 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. 

“Our essential workers put their health and wellbeing on the line every day to provide New Mexicans with the vital services we all need,” Rep. Chandler said. “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.” 

“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,” Rep. Hochman-Vigil said. “HB 268 corrects this exclusion and ensures that our essential workers receive the benefits they deserve during this dangerous pandemic.” 

“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,” Rep. Dixon said. 

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.

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