The Common Cold and Workers’ Compensation
Workers’ compensation insurance is designed specifically to compensate injured employees for work-related illness or injury. If you are unable to work due to an illness or injury sustained as part of the regular course of employment, you could be eligible for workers’ compensation insurance benefits.
If your job requires close contact with sick customers and a customer causes you to become ill, you could file a workers' compensation claim with your employer. However, Iowa’s compensation laws limit coverage to occupational diseases - and proving that the common cold or seasonal flu were directly related to work could prove problematic.
Generally, a regular disease that the general public is exposed to is not covered under the occupational disease category. This includes influenza, colds and MRSA - even if you are a healthcare worker. These diseases can be contracted in limitless places; not necessarily at your place of employment. However, if you catch a more serious disease, one that could easily be identified as coming from your work and not endless other sources, you could be eligible for workers’ compensation under the occupational disease category.
Filing a Lawsuit for Your Illness is Possible
Workers’ compensation is not the only avenue you have for compensation. If your employer acted negligently or failed to train you properly - and then allowed sick customers into your business - you may be able to file a personal lawsuit against that employer.
This is similar to the case of the nurse that contracted Ebola. She contracted Ebola during regular course of employment, but because her employer did not provide her with the proper training nor adequate equipment, she was not protected from the virus. She was also in direct contact with an Ebola-infected patient; making it easier to prove that the patient and her job were the source of the infection.