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New Jersey Expands Workers’ Compensation Protections for Essential Employees

On September 14, 2020, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed a new law expanding workers’ compensation protections to essential employees during the COVID-19 pandemic. The law is retroactive to March 9, 2020.

Under the new law, during a governor-declared public health emergency, if a health care worker, public safety worker, or other essential employee contracts COVID-19 in a workplace (other than their own residence), there will be a rebuttable presumption that the contraction of the disease is work-related and fully compensable for the purposes of workers’ compensation benefits, ordinary and accidental disability retirement, and any other legally required benefits provided to individuals suffering from employment-related injuries or illnesses.

An employer may rebut this presumption by establishing by a preponderance of the evidence that the worker was not exposed to the disease while in the workplace.

Any workers’ compensation claims paid will not be considered in calculating an employer’s Experience Modification Factor, pursuant to the New Jersey Workers’ Compensation and Employers Liability and Insurance Manual administered by the Compensation Rating and Inspection Bureau.

An “essential employee” is defined as an employee in the public or private sector who, during a state of emergency:

• Is a public safety worker or first responder, including any fire, police, or other emergency responders;

• Is involved in providing medical and other healthcare services, emergency;

transportation, social services, and other care services, including services provided in health care facilities, residential facilities, or homes;

• Performs functions which involve physical proximity to members of the public and are essential to the public’s health, safety, and welfare, including transportation services, hotel and other 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 and work at home; or

• Is any other employee deemed an essential employee by the public authority declaring the state of emergency.

Employees working for the State who are offered the option of working at home, but refuse that option, are not regarded as essential employees.

To review a full PDF of the law, click here.

This summary is for informational purposes only and is not intended to constitute legal advice. This information should not be reused without permission.