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Division of Federal Employees' Compensation (DFEC)

Guidance on FECA Coverage for the Zika Virus

Federal employees claiming an injury due to contact with the Zika virus must be in the performance of duty within the meaning of the Federal Employees' Compensation Act (FECA) to be covered. These employees have the same burden to establish the basic requirements of coverage as other claimants and must submit medical evidence in support of an identifiable injury in the course of their federal employment and any related period of disability. See 20 C.F.R. § 10.115. The employer should accompany any such claim with a statement fully explaining the exposure and its relation to employment.

Workers' compensation coverage is only provided to individuals with an established work injury. Exposure to the Zika virus alone does not give rise to compensability--the fact that an employee gets the Zika virus during a period of federal employment does not mean the employee would automatically entitled to FECA benefits. Additionally, if an employee loses wages for absence from work as solely a preventive measure, compensation is not payable under the FECA. Nor is fear of future injury covered. The expected front line Zika cases would be employees working outdoors in areas where the Zika virus is known to be active, medical personnel with documented exposure or any federal employee whose job duties require them to work directly with the public in the expanding area where the infection has spread. Certain federal employees assigned to certain positions and locations overseas may experience a heightened risk of Zika. While Federal employees located abroad are not covered around the clock under all situations, employees in travel status or on a special mission are covered under FECA for all activities reasonably incidental to their employment, such as eating, sleeping and during travel. Other principles adopted by Federal workers' compensation law, such as the zone of special danger rule, the bunkhouse rule, the proximity rule, the positional risk doctrine or the rescuers doctrine may serve to extend FECA coverage to employees considerably beyond performing the ordinary tasks of employment. This is an evolving situation. Employing agencies may contact OWCP DFEC's Branch of Technical Assistance for guidance relating to specific claims or coverage issues.

Employees concerned for their health may wish to protect any rights to workers' compensation entitlement. Employees who opt to file a claim, but who have not experienced a known injury, should not be discouraged from filing. The employer should hold the
CA-1 in the employee's personnel file unless the employee experiences an illness or a positive exposure test requiring non-prophylactic treatment and/or time loss. Only at that point would it be necessary to forward the claim to OWCP for adjudication. Following this guideline will enable OWCP to direct maximum effort toward prompt resolution of claims for actual injuries. An employee generally has three years from the time of injury to claim wage loss compensation and medical care by filing with their agency.

October 14, 2016