N.J. nursing home workers getting new job protections under law Murphy just signed

Published: Aug. 18, 2022

Companies that acquire nursing homes and other health care facilities in New Jersey must preserve employee salaries and benefits for a minimum of four months under a bill Gov. Phil Murphy signed into law Thursday.

The pandemic has claimed the lives of at least 8,700 nursing home and assisted living residents and 139 employees. It has also decimated the industry’s bottom line, prompting some owners to sell. The outcome has been bad for some employees, who have seen their wages and benefits trimmed or eliminated after these properties change hands, according to unions leaders who lobbied for the bill (S315).

Nursing home and hospital executives argued the bill would interfere with their business and ultimately lead to job losses if new owners can’t make money. They persuaded the leaders in the state Assembly to kill the bill in the last legislative session that ended in January.

The sponsors reintroduced the bill in the new session later that month, and eventually scaled it back, offering four months of wage and benefit instead of six months in the earlier version.

“Ensuring continuity of employment for existing workers will not only benefit employees of a health care entity, but ensure continuity of care for the many patients who have come to rely on the critical services provided by the health care professionals they know and trust,” Murphy said in a statement late Thursday.

The law allows layoffs within the first four months, but only if the new owner downsizes the total number of jobs, and eliminates workers with the least amount of seniority and experience first. At the end of the four-month transition period, the owner must evaluate each employee in writing and retain anyone whose performance review is satisfactory, according to the new law.

The law takes effect in 90 days.

Sen. Joseph Vitale, D-Middlesex, one of the bill’s prime sponsors, said these protections are justified for the workers, who “throughout the coronavirus pandemic, and since then, show up every day to staff our hospitals, clinics, nursing homes and health care facilities, and to administer care to the sick and dying.”

Sen. Richard Codey, D-Essex, also a prime sponsor and a vocal critic of the nursing home industry, said workers “have a right to expect their wages and benefits are going to be protected, and be insulated from any structural change that might come from the consolidation of health care entities.”

The compromise legislation was still a disappointing outcome for the New Jersey Business and Industry Association, its President and CEO Michele Siekerka said.

“While the intent of this bill is to protect workers who already have protections, it once again strikes no balance for the concerns of the business and healthcare community and may, in fact, result in unintended consequences, like the closure of facilities,” Siekerka said in a statement.

“With the continued consolidation in the healthcare industry, this law will likely have a negative effect on the market, forcing certain facilities to close. This may be particularly problematic in our urban areas, where healthcare facilities have struggled to remain open,” her statement said.

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published this page in News and Politics 2022-08-19 02:28:06 -0700