Since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak in New Jersey, more than 195,000 residents have been infected with the virus – some of whom provide essential services related to public health and safety. In an effort to assist these essential workers, a bill sponsored by Assembly Democrats Thomas Giblin, John Burzichelli, Carol Murphy and Joann Downey mandating certain work-related benefits for those who contract COVID-19 was signed into law Monday.
Under the law (formerly bill A-3999/S-2380), essential employees whose jobs require interaction with the public during the public health emergency declared and extended by the Governor will be eligible for the benefits normally given to workers who suffer an injury or illness on the job – including workers’ compensation – if they contract COVID-19.
“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,” said Giblin (D-Essex, Passaic). “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.”
“Essential employees have been critical to our state’s COVID-19 response,” said Burzichelli (D- Gloucester, Cumberland, Salem). “Nurses, police officers, EMTs and so many other workers on the frontlines of this pandemic risk exposure to this deadly virus every day as they provide indispensable services to New Jersey residents. We must do all we can to help, as they have helped us.”
Unless a “preponderance of evidence” indicates an essential worker was not exposed to COVID-19 on the job, it will be presumed that the infection was work-related in order to ensure eligibility for these benefits.
“Countless lives have been saved due to the efforts of New Jersey’s essential workers,” said Murphy (D-Burlington). “Our state owes these employees not only our gratitude, but the guarantee that they will receive the benefits they both need and deserve if they contract COVID-19.”
“If someone has to miss work because they are infected with COVID-19, they shouldn’t have to use their hard-earned vacation time to make up for their absence or worry about whether they’ll be eligible for workers’ compensation,” said Downey (D-Monmouth). “This law will ensure essential employees have one less thing to worry about during this turbulent time.”
The law will take effect immediately and be retroactive to March 9, 2020.