ORLANDO, Fla. – First responders with the Reedy Creek Improvement District have launched a legal battle to collect workers compensation benefits after being tested and diagnosed with COVID-19.
Michael Grant, a paramedic with Reedy Creek since 2018, tested positive with the virus “on the job” on July 3 and quarantined at home for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended 14 days.
“I lost taste and smell quickly and I haven’t gotten back,” Grant said. “I have a 3-year-old and a 7-year-old and obviously they were my biggest concern.”
Before working with Reedy Creek, Grant worked for the city of Palm Coast and the Seminole County Fire Department.
Records confirm he was diagnosed with COVID-19 on July 3, one day after he was on his shift with Reedy Creek.
Despite his contention that he was infected on the job, he was denied workers compensation benefits and because of a unique policy, was forced to use his own personal sick leave.
“We’re on the front lines dealing with COVID everyday,” Grant said. “For us not being taken care of is a slap in the face.”
Veteran Maitland attorney Geoff Bichler, a longtime champion of first responders, said the workers compensation issue needs to be addressed in Tallahassee because this is a growing issue for police and firefighters across the state.
“This is something I think that needs a legislative push and it should move quickly,” Bichler said. “They are a lot of employers in Florida simply saying you can’t prove you contracted this disease on the job, until there is a vaccine we’re going to continue to have this issue.”
In a statement to News 6, a spokesperson for the Reedy Creek Improvement District confirmed the first responder sick leave policy, writing in part:
“If an employee from the fire department tests positive for COVID-19, they are sick and can use their sick time.”
Reedy Creek also confirmed without explanation that, “If an employee is placed on district-approved quarantine, in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19, they receive paid leave.”
The president of union local 2117 Tim Stromsnes said he is waiting for Reedy Creek to “do the right thing.”
“What I’m worried about is what if Mike Grant has an issue six months from now? We don’t know,” Stromsnes said.
Officials with Reedy Creek provided the following statement:
If you have an unemployment or COVID- 19 issue, email us firstname.lastname@example.org