Any member of the Public Employees’ Retirement System (PERS) would be able to apply for accidental disability benefits if they were injured during their employment at a New Jersey psychiatric or correctional facility under a bill approved Thursday by the full Assembly, 76-0
The measure (A-259) sponsored by Assemblywomen Angela McKnight (D-Hudson) and Annette Chaparro (D-Hudson) was inspired by the case of nurse Sharon Smith, who was attacked by a patient and rendered permanently disabled while working as a temporary employee at Trenton Psychiatric Hospital in 2003. She discovered she was only eligible for workers compensation benefits because the injury occurred while she was temporary worker. Even after joining PERS later on, Smith still could not seek disability benefits.
McKnight and Chaparro released the following joint statement:
“If someone is seriously injured on the job, they should be able to apply for disability benefits regardless of whether it happened while they were a permanent or temporary employee. The hard-working professionals at psychiatric and correctional facilities face the same risks on the job each day, and should have equal access to appropriate compensation under PERS.
“We don’t want any more employees to be treated like Sharon Smith, who is continuing to fight for the benefits she deserves as a member of PERS. It’s only fair to make sure all former employees who were injured at work – especially due to circumstances out of their control – get the support they need.”