On March 21, 2020, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy issued a statewide stay-at-home order (Executive Order No. 107), urging all residents to stay home unless obtaining essential goods and services.
While some New Jersey workers are able to work from home, others must risk their lives and health each day during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. We rely on these brave men and women to provide us with access to medical care, food, and essential items and services. They deserve worker protections now more than ever.
Can essential workers collect workers’ compensation?
Senate President Steve Sweeney recently introduced legislation to allow essential workers to obtain workers’ compensation benefits if they become ill due to the Coronavirus.
“Health care professionals, public safety officials, grocery store clerks, pharmacy staff and other essential workers who contract the virus, are exposed to anyone infected, or need to be quarantined should be entitled to full workers’ benefits,” said Sweeney. “In this unprecedented public health crisis, it is more important than ever that basic protections for those workers who interact with the public and increase their own risk of exposure should be maintained.”
The purpose of the Sweeney bill is to classify COVID-19 illnesses (dating back to March 9th) among essential employees as “work-related.” The COVID-19 presumptions would apply to those who work directly with the public. They would apply both in the public and private sectors.
In addition, the legislation would consider an essential employee’s COVID-19-related absence “on duty” time. That means employers would be prohibited from charging employees for paid leave.
“We are grateful to the hundreds of thousands of essential workers providing the critical services we need to enable most New Jerseyans to work at home and shelter in place in order to slow the spread of this deadly disease,” Sweeney said. “We need to ensure that they can go to work with the knowledge that these benefits will be there if they need them.”
What should I do if I’m hurt on the job during COVID-19?
In addition to COVID-19, essential workers face a slew of risks on the job. There is currently more pressure on medical workers, grocery store workers, and public safety workers to push beyond their limits. This increases the risk of workplace accidents and injuries, including:
- Slip and falls
- Equipment accidents
- Strains, sprains, and musculoskeletal injuries
- Exposure to hazardous substances
An experienced New Jersey workers’ compensation attorney at Kotlar, Hernandez & Cohen, LLC can help you explore your legal options and obtain the benefits you need.
We serve clients in Cherry Hill and throughout New Jersey. Contact us online or call 856-751-7676 to schedule your free and confidential case evaluation.