NJ Governor Patrick Murphy Signs Landmark COVID Compensation Law
Jon L. Gelman
This week, NJ Governor Patrick Murphy signed legislation enacting sweeping measures to provide workers' compensation benefits to essential workers who contract coronavirus [COVID-19] and provides dependency benefits to their survivors.
The legislation eases the burden of proof by establishing a rebuttable presumption that coronavirus disease contracted by health care workers, public safety workers, and other essential employees is work-related and compensable under the NJ Workers' Compensation Act.
“The enacted law changes the workers' compensation litigation landscape by shifting the paradigm from legal defenses to medical prevention. Pandemic preparednesswill be a critical element in planning the reopening of the economy and protecting the health of essential workers,” remarked Jon L. Gelman, author of NJ Workers' Compensation Law.
The law (A3999)makes it easier for employees on the frontline of the coronavirus fight to get work-related benefits. NJ has been an epicenter of the COVID-19 crisis and suffered some of the highest incidents of COVID illness and death in the US. NJ was initially caught off guard as the COVID virus entered the state from Europe through the major NJ/NY Airports undetected.
Charles Wowkanech, the New Jersey State AFL-CIO president, recently expressed his opinion in the USA Today Network. He said, “One of the biggest takeaways from this pandemic is that our frontline “essential” workers are falling through the “safety net” of programs designed to help them during a crisis. Our Legislature and state government must recognize that some of our social safety net programs are either broken or woefully inadequate, and work to fix them.”
A worker who is employed by the State of NJ and who is offered the option of working at home and has refused that option shall not be considered an essential employee under the new law.
The bill is retroactive to March 9, 2020, the date Governor Murphy issued a declaration of state of emergency with respect to coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic. The provision of the act will continue during the public health emergency.
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