N.J. workers diagnosed with coronavirus now have protection against being fired under new law

Posted Mar 20, 2020

New Jersey’s leaders want to give you one less thing to worry about if you’re diagnosed with the coronavirus.

A new law (A3848), signed by Gov. Phil Murphy Friday, prohibits employers in the state from firing, demoting or otherwise punishing workers if they take time off because they have or are likely to have the novel coronavirus.

The job protections apply during a declared state of emergency when a person is diagnosed with specific infectious diseases, such as the coronavirus.

The bill’s sponsors said job protections that keep sick people out of the workplace could help limit the disease’s spread

“Our message in New Jersey has been loud and clear: if you’re sick, stay home,” Murphy said in a statement Friday evening.

"No one should fear retribution from their employer for an absence deemed necessary by a medical professional, particularly for an illness as communicable as COVID-19. Every New Jerseyan has a role to play in our mitigation efforts and staying away from others when you’re sick is perhaps the most important thing you can do right now.”

Under the new law, employers cannot refuse to reinstate an employee to their same position or punish them with a demotion, pay cut or other changes to the terms of their employment.

If an employer violates this new law, workers can seek reinstatement through the courts or state Department of Labor and Workforce Development, and the employer could be fined $2,500 for each violation.

So far, at least 890 people in New Jersey have tested positive for the coronavirus and 11 people have died.

The Friday figures include 155 new positive cases and two new deaths.

Unemployment during this public health crisis is expected to soar, and in the week ending March 14 the state saw a more than 20 percent increase in the number of new unemployment claims compared to the same week in 2019.

The state Legislature sent Murphy two dozen bipartisan bills in response to the coronavirus. The legislation was introduced Monday, passed the state Assembly that same day and passed state Seenate on Thursday.

Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-Gloucester, said he expects this will be just the “first wave” of legislation.

Here are some of the other coronavirus bills Murphy has signed into law:

  • (A3840) Requiring school districts in the state to provide meals to students eligible for free- or reduced- lunch and breakfast. Districts would be instructed to set up easily accessible distribution points including in high-density housing areas if there are any. Districts would have to deliver meals to students who aren’t within walking distance of a site. And if a district can’t meet these requirements, it would have to supply food vouchers families can trade in at retail stores.
  • (A3843) Requiring health insurers in the state to cover coronavirus testing and telemedicine during a public health emergency or declared state of emergency. “The bill requires the coverage to be provided to the same extent as for any other services under the health benefits plan, except that no cost-sharing may be imposed on the coverage provided pursuant to the bill,” the legislation says.
  • (A3845) Permitting the state’s Economic Development Authority to offer business grants during a declared emergency to go toward “the planning, designing, acquiring, constructing, reconstructing, improving, equipping, furnishing of a program,” including grants for working capital and meeting payroll. EDA CEO Tim Sullivan said the authority will soon “to help employers weather this challenging time.”
  • (A3850) Permitting local government bodies in the state to hold public meetings electronically during an emergency.
  • (A3851) Giving the director of the state’s Division of Local Government Services power to unilaterally extend the deadlines for counties and municipalities to adopt their annual operating budgets during an official emergency.
  • (A3852) Allowing the state Legislature to conduct its business remotely.
  • (A3854) Allowing any licensed health care facility in the state collect specimens for COVID-19 testing and give the health commissioner authority to waive health care staffing ratios during a public health crisis
  • (S3859) Empowering the governor to place a moratorium on evictions of homeowners amid foreclosure proceedings or evictions of rental tenants during and for up to two months after a widespread crisis. Murphy signed the bill Thursday and immediately ordered a halt on evictions.
  • (A3860) Allowing health care providers in the state to provide and bill for telemedicine.
  • (A3861) Allowing corporations to host remote shareholder meetings.
  • (A3862) Permitting the state’s professional licensing boards to expedite — including waiving criminal background checks — licenses and certifications to applicants who already hold a corresponding license or certification in another state. Murphy’s office launched this initiative Friday after signing the bill Thursday.
  • (A3865) Barring grocery stores in the state from accepting returns during the coronavirus outbreak and for 30 days after the state of emergency “to protect the public health.” They can accept returns because of manufacturer defect but they cannot put them up for sale again.
Do you like this post?

Be the first to comment