The COVID 19 Pandemic has had a significant impact on workers throughout the state affecting large segments of both the public and private sector.
To address these issues, the New Jersey legislature passed Assembly Bill 3999/Senate Bill 2380 intitled “An Act Concerning Essential Employees Contracting Coronavirus 2019”. On September 14, 2020 Governor Murphy signed this legislation into law. The law provides that during the public health emergency declared by an Executive order of the Governor individuals who are considered essential employees and who contract the coronavirus while working in a place of employment other than the individuals own residence as a health care worker, public safety worker or other essential employee there shall be a rebuttable presumption that the contraction of the disease is work related and fully compensable for purposes of benefits provided under are workers compensation laws.
Who are considered essential employees?
Under this new law, Essential Employees are defined as public safety workers, first responders, fire and police, health care workers, emergency transporters, social service providers; any worker who performs functions involving physical proximity to members of the public and are essential to the public’s health safety and welfare.
The following are examples of employees who could be considered an essential employee and thereby come within the presumption created under this law.
- Public Safety workers and first responders
This category would include police officers, firemen and other emergency responders, individuals working as a correction officer at a county or correctional facility.
- Men and women involved in either the public or private sector who during the state of emergency are involved in providing medical and other health care services, emergency transportation services social services and other health care services.
This category of workers could include nurses in either a hospital or private medical office physical therapists, mental health therapists’ clerical workers working in a hospital or medical office social workers providing services to clients in residential facilities and private homes.
- Workers performing functions which involve physical proximity to members of the pubic and who are essential to the to the public heath safety and welfare, including transportation services hotel residential services financial services and the production, preparation storage sale and distribution of essential goods such as food, beverages medicine fuel and supplies for conducting essential business.
This category of essential workers potentially covers a broad group of employees in the private sector whom we might not normally think if as an essential employee.
It can be argued that this category would cover an individual working as a check in clerk at a hotel, a bank teller working at a bank or other financial institution. Workers stocking shelves in a grocery store, a checkout clerk at a food establishment, a pharmacist or clerical worker employed in a pharmacy.
What Workers Compensation Benefits would an essential employee be entitled to?
As with any workers compensation claim, our statutes provide three primary benefits that an injured worker may be intitled to in pursuing a worker’s compensation claim.
Medical treatment: In an accepted workers compensation claim, the employer is responsible for providing the injured worker with medical treatment that is necessary to cure and relieve the effects of the injury.
The medical bills associated with such treatment are paid in full by the workers compensation insurance carrier. In addition, any ancillary treatment such as diagnostic testing, physical therapy and medications prescribed by the authorized treating doctor are also covered in full by the workers compensation insurance carrier.
Wage replacement benefits: In most COVID 19 cases the employee is going to miss sometime from work. There will be the initial two-week quarantine period and possibly an additional period of lost time depending on the severity of the disease and the actual medical treatment being prescribed. Under are Workers Compensation laws, such workers are intitled to a weekly payment of 70% of their gross weekly salary at the time the COVID 19 diagnosis was made.
Partial Permanent Disability: The final benefit which the employee may be intitled to is a monetary recovery if the COVID 19 diagnosis results in any permanent partial total disability after the medical condition has concluded.
The law takes effect immediately and is retroactive to March 9, 2020.
Learn more about: COVID-19