Member Advisory – COVID-19 and OWCP Claims for Agents

Update, April 2021: With the signing of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 into law, OWCP’s rule about presuming a COVID-19 infection took place at work for high-risk jobs was codified into law.

Click here for a PDF copy of this member advisory, along with a copy of the FAQ.

Below, and in the frequently asked questions (FAQ) linked here and below, you will learn what agents should do if you are exposed to, or test positive for, COVID-19. The most critical information can be found below, with more information in the FAQ.

Have you been exposed to COVID-19?

Each exposure is different, and not all exposures require you to quarantine at home. If you are exposed, you must explain, in great detail, to your supervisor the following (consult with a union rep if you need help):

1. Were you, others around you, and the sick person wearing PPE or facial coverings

2. How much time did you spend around the sick person, and for how much of that time were you and the sick person wearing PPE or a facial covering?

3. What level of contact did you have with the sick person? Did you eat around each other? Were masks on and off throughout the exposure time? Was the sick person coughing?

These are only examples of the information your supervisor needs to know to make a risk decision. If they don’t ask these questions, make sure you provide this and any other relevant information.

If you had a high-risk exposure, you should be placed on weather and safety leave if you have no symptoms. You cannot use weather and safety leave if you are sick, so you must use sick leave until and if you test positive for COVID-19.

If you had an exposure, consider getting tested, especially if you develop symptoms, but don’t test too early – most doctors recommend waiting four to five days to get tested. Otherwise, you could test too early and test negative when you are actually sick.

Have you tested positive for COVID-19?

Employees who contract COVID-19 in the course of their duties can be covered by OWCP for treatment and any time away from work. DOL understands that we can’t know when and where we got COVID, so we don’t have to prove it. If you test positive for COVID-19 and you believe you could have gotten it at work, fill out a CA-1. Unless you have not been at work for weeks, it’s very likely you did indeed get it at work. Even if your family member tests positive first, it’s possible you gave it to them, but they showed symptoms first. Ask your supervisor that you be promptly counseled regarding your workers’ compensation benefits, entitlements, and responsibilities under Article 18 of the CBA.

Register and fill out a CA-1 on In Box 10 (date of injury), use your best estimate when you believe you were exposed to COVID-19 at work. If you don’t know, use your last workday before you tested positive. In Box 13, write something about your job that could have led to potentially being exposed to COVID-19. For example, you could describe: 1) processing and having close contact with numerous illegal aliens; 2) being in a confined space with several employees for several hours; 3) arresting a group of illegal aliens who weren’t wearing masks; 4) working at a traffic checkpoint with numerous travelers; and 5) any other work-related situation that could lead to contracting COVID-19.

If a supervisor claims that you must prove when and where you got COVID, tell them to show you the policy requiring this. If this happens, escalate things to a WC or PAIC/DPAIC and get with a station union representative. Finally, make sure you elect to use COP in Box 15. The first day of COP is your first full day away from work because of your symptoms – not the day you tested or got your test results.

Employees are highly encouraged to refer to the frequently asked questions (FAQ) for more information (PDF).