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To combat the effect of the Coronavirus (“COVID-19”) on New Jersey employers and their employees, last week lawmakers advanced several bills to Governor Murphy for his signature.In doing so, the legislature made it clear it will continue to send bills to the Governor over the next several weeks and months, all part of the State’s COVID-19 relief package. Although New Jersey employers should keep abreast of the various bills, we highlight the key ones, Bills A-3848 and A-3846, below.
Bill A-3848 was signed by Governor Murphy on March 20, 2020. It prohibits employers, during the Public Health Emergency and State of Emergency declared by his Executive Order 103 from terminating or refusing to reinstate an employee if the employee requests or takes time off from work based upon a written or electronically transmitted recommendation from a New Jersey licensed medical professional that the employee should take leave for a specified period of time because the employee has, or is likely to have, an infectious disease which may afflict others at the employee’s workplace.
Bill A-3846 was passed by the Legislature but has not yet been signed by the Governor as of the date of this QuickStudy. This bill would create a “Temporary Lost Wage Unemployment Program” allowing individuals affected by the COVID-19 pandemic to recoup lost wages due to absence from work under certain circumstances. It also would assist employers financially who pay wages to workers ordered to be quarantined by a licensed healthcare practitioner as a result of COVID-19. In particular, the program would provide – to the extent funds are available in the State fund – monetary relief to individuals for lost wages in an amount equal to the individual’s average weekly rate of compensation for the past calendar year, if the individual does not have fully paid leave available for the individual’s absence from work. The bill appropriates $20 million for the program.
The New Jersey Department of Labor has issued a helpful guide outlining certain benefits that may be available to New Jersey workers as a result of COVID-19. In particular, the NJDOL suggests that the following individuals may qualify for earned sick leave, unemployment insurance, temporary disability/family leave insurance, and/or workers’ compensation:
- Earned Sick Leave: (i) employees who have COVID-19 or symptoms of COVID-19; (ii) employees who are unable to work because of a school/daycare closures for a public health reason (e.g., COVID-19); (iii) employees who have been exposed to COVID-19 and have been quarantined, despite the employer remaining open for business; (iv) employees who are out of work because their employer was ordered to be closed; (v) employees who refuse to work for an employer which remains open in defiance of public health enactments requiring it to close; (vi) employees who refuse to go to work because they are self-distancing and are afraid of gathering in a group; (vii) employees who are immune-compromised and advised by a healthcare provider to self-quarantine; (viii) health care workers who are exposed at work to COVID-19 and self-quarantined; and (ix) workers who are caring for a sick family member due to COVID-19.
- Unemployment Insurance: (i) individuals who are out of work because their employer was ordered to close; (ii) individuals who are out of work because their employer voluntarily closed; (iii) individuals who have less hours available due to a business slow down or lack of demand; and (iv) on a case by case basis, employees who refuse to work for an employer which remains open in defiance of public health enactments requiring it to close.
- Temporary Disability / Family Leave Insurance: (i) employees who have COVID-19 or symptoms of COVID-19; (ii) employees who are exposed to COVID-19 and are quarantined, although their employer remains open; (iii) employees who are immune-compromised and advised by healthcare providers to self-quarantine; (iv) health care workers who are exposed to COVID-19 at work and self-quarantined; (v) employees who are caring for a sick family member due to COVID-19; and (vi) on a case by case basis, employees who refuse to work where their employer remains open in defiance of public health enactments requiring it to close.
- Workers’ Compensation: (i) health care workers who are exposed at work and self-quarantined; and (ii) on a case by case basis, employees who were exposed to COVID-19 at their place of employment.
We continue to closely monitor the actions being taken by the New Jersey legislature and Governor Murphy and have been advising New Jersey employers as to how they can best navigate this challenging time period.1 Of course, in addition to these actions in New Jersey, the federal government is taking action to provide further benefits to workers throughout the country. See the Locke Lord QuickStudy on the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.
NOTE: Because of the ever-changing COVID-19 legal environment, employers should consult with counsel for the latest developments and updated guidance on these topics.
Visit our COVID-19 Resource Center often for up-to-date information to help you stay informed of the legal issues related to COVID-19.
1. For example, as of the date of this QuickStudy, the New Jersey Senate has proposed amendments to certain existing laws concerning sick leave and disability benefits during epidemic-related emergencies, such as COVID-19 (S-2304), but those have yet to pass through the Assembly. If and when they do, we intend to provide a detailed report regarding the same.