This article will focus on an issue that has been coming up and potentially hurting workers’ compensation claims and, sadly, line-of-duty death benefits. It was not long ago that LVMPD did everything it could to look out for and take care of our workforce. But when it comes to workers’ compensation coverage, if there was a rating, they would probably be near the bottom of agencies across the country. Whether it is a new recruit in the academy, an officer who has a heart or lung issue, or, as we see now, COVID, LVMPD will not help you until forced by a judge. The point of this article is to talk about what you must do when it comes to a potential or actual COVID case, and also what you or your family should not do.
We are continuing to have all kinds of problems with COVID, and most of these problems can be solved with proper documentation. If you come into contact with someone who is sick or you are displaying any COVID symptoms (cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, muscle or body aches, headache, loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion, runny nose, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fever or chills), make sure you fill out an occupational exposure report every single time.
Sometimes you will have to fill out multiple exposure reports a week, but if you get sick or, God forbid, die from COVID, it could be the difference between your hours being covered by the Department or your death being declared in the line of duty or not. The Department will not automatically cover you. You or your loved ones will have to fight and provide evidence that the exposure happened at work.
We are continuing to have all kinds of problems with COVID, and most of these can be solved with proper documentation.
Make sure you follow the flow chart that Health and Safety put out for employees who are experiencing symptoms of COVID. This flow chart outlines all the steps you need to take when you become sick. I want to make something very clear to you that you need to be aware of when talking with Health and Safety: If you tell them that you had any of the symptoms listed above and still came to work or didn’t follow the flow chart in any way, they will open a statement of complaint against you. The medical information that you are telling them will not be kept private. They will then share the information you report to them with Internal Affairs, and they will use that information to discipline you. I am not telling you to be untruthful. I just want you to be fully aware that your conversation with Health and Safety will not be kept private and can lead to discipline or be used to deny your hours, depending on what you tell them.
Understand this: Health and Safety is not your friend! Sure, they will guide you on the process and give you options on what to do, and as long as you come out of the illness OK, there may not be any issues. If you have a spouse who speaks to them about your illness, they will use that against you as well. I am not bashing the people in Health and Safety. I personally think they are nice people and decent folks. That said, they work for the Department. The Department is a business, and that business needs to flourish. The decisions made and information released by Health and Safety are to better the agency and limit their exposure, not help you.
So what do we do? Stop telling Health and Safety everything. That goes for you and anyone in your family. When you call them about being ill, give them the symptoms that are making you ill. You do not have to tell them who you have been around or how long you have had these symptoms. The phone call should be brief. If they start to pry, respectfully tell them, “I will call you back, as I need to call my PPA rep.” We will join the phone call and stop potentially discipline-related questions from being answered. And if, heaven forbid, you are potentially terminally ill, do not have anyone in your family give any information about potential exposure, location or anything related to that. Health and Safety, and the Department, are using that information to distance themselves from needing to cover the employee for workers’ compensation benefits. All members need to remember is that they have the right to appeal any denial of a workers’ compensation claim under the statute. Do not settle for LVMPD denying your claim. Continue to fight for your benefits.
When it comes to vaccination, all of us at the PPA support your right to choose. We are 100% against forced vaccinations and will fight against them if they go to mandates. However, if you choose to be vaccinated, we want to inform you that you don’t have to share your vaccination records with the Department. Sharing that information is completely up to you. The employees who have shared their vaccination records with the Department did so with the belief that they would be kept private, but to everyone’s surprise, the Department emailed out lists to every supervisor detailing who has or hasn’t been vaccinated. This was a complete violation of our trust and, in my opinion, unethical and immoral.
Certain supervisors on the Department are now using that information as their personal hit list to single out unvaccinated officers, then threatening them to get vaccinated or else they will never be allowed to test for any promotions/specialized units, and telling them that if they don’t get vaccinated, they will die. It is up to you if you want to share your vaccination records with the Department, but I will never voluntarily share my medical information with them if they continue to irresponsibly use that information to target, single out or discipline officers. When the Department wants to start doing the right thing and taking care of their employees, then my opinion will change.
I also want to advise you that the Department has an insurance policy on you through The Standard Insurance Company. The PPA also has a life insurance policy with The Standard for our members. If your death is determined to be in the line of duty, The Standard is supposed to pay your beneficiary $70,000 for the Department’s policy and $30,000 from our policy.
We are now running into an issue with The Standard. They are saying they won’t honor the line-of-duty death policies because they do not recognize COVID to be a line-of-duty death, even when the officer caught COVID at work! So far, they have refused to pay our fallen officers’ families the agreed-upon benefit. I, for one, have policies with The Standard, and I will be looking to move my personal policies, along with the PPA’s policies, to an insurance company that will support law enforcement instead of turning their backs on us in our time of need.
I am saddened that I needed to write this article, especially around the holidays, but our members need to be aware of how their own agency is trying to either discipline or walk away from officers related to these issues. I hope you all have a safe and healthy holiday.