Murphy signs bill extending workers comp to essential workers who got coronavirus

Posted Sep 14, 2020

A bill signed by Gov. Phil Murphy on Monday will make it easier for essential workers in New Jersey who contract the coronavirus to qualify for workers' compensation.

The new law, retroactive to March 9, removes a requirement that essential workers who came down with the coronavirus to prove they did so on the job.

As of Monday, N.J. reported 196,968 coronavirus cases.

Typically, in order to receive workers' compensation in New Jersey, an employee must prove they suffered a job-related illness or injury. This new law creates a presumption during the ongoing public health crisis that essential employees' illnesses are related to their work.

That presumption can only be refuted by a preponderance of the evidence showing the essential worker was not exposed at their workplace, according to the bill.

“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,” Assemblyman Thomas Giblin, D-Essex, said in a statement. “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.”

Government employers, particularly local government employers, may see increased costs as a result of the law if it prompts an increase in workers' compensation benefit claims, according to a fiscal estimate prepared by the nonpartisan Office of Legislative Services.

Business groups decried the legislation, saying it would further burden businesses that already are struggling to weather the pandemic and economic crises.

“As we have repeatedly stated, there is federal CARES Act money specifically meant to rightfully cover the costs of essential workers who truly do contract COVID-19 on the job. Instead, that money was left on the table and our beleaguered employers are forced to pick up those costs,” said Michele Siekerka, president of the New Jersey Business and Industry Association.

Murphy should have at least conditionally vetoed the bill to restrict its application to the months when New Jerseyans were under a stay-at-home order that limited their activities, she said.

“Without that modification, any essential worker out and about at a time when more people are catching COVID-19 in social settings than workplace settings, or those traveling to other states on vacation, can now make a claim they contracted it at work,” she argued.

Do you like this post?

Be the first to comment