NJ Governor Passes Workers Comp Coverage for Essential Workers with COVID-19
According to Samantha Marcus of NJ.com, New Jersey Governor, Phil Murphy signed a bill last month that extends workers’ compensation coverage to essential workers who have contracted (and previously contracted) coronavirus, retroactive to March 9, 2020.
We are obviously familiar with the New Jersey requirements to receive workers’ compensation benefits in the state of New Jersey, as the burden of proof lies on the employee to prove the injury or illness was in fact sustained while on the job.
However, the new law removes the requirement of the employee proving the illness was contracted at work. According to Marcus, the law, “creates a presumption during the ongoing public health crisis that essential employees’ illnesses are related to their work,” and noted, “That presumption can only be refuted by a preponderance of the evidence showing the essential worker was not exposed at their workplace, according to the bill.”
Marcus cited both sides of the coin with the following:
“‘When they first entered the workforce, none of these essential workers could have imagined the kind of danger and extreme challenges this pandemic would one day present them with,’ Assemblyman Thomas Giblin, D-Essex, said in a statement. ‘Yet these dedicated workers have heroically stepped up and put their health on the line in order to help their fellow community members get through this unprecedented crisis.’”
And the other side, from employers/business owners/business groups and the like:
“‘As we have repeatedly stated, there is federal CARES Act money specifically meant to rightfully cover the costs of essential workers who truly do contract COVID-19 on the job. Instead, that money was left on the table and our beleaguered employers are forced to pick up those costs,’ said Michele Siekerka, president of the New Jersey Business and Industry Association.”
Siekerka noted that the bill should have been modified to cover essential workers when there was a stay-at-home order in place, when only essential workers were going to work. Now that restrictions have been lifted, the possibility of contracting the coronavirus elsewhere other than work, is much higher.
“‘Without that modification, any essential worker out and about at a time when more people are catching COVID-19 in social settings than workplace settings, or those traveling to other states on vacation, can now make a claim they contracted it at work,’ she argued.”
We will be watching the effects closely.