New Jersey Business & Industry Association (NJBIA) formally asked Governor Phil Murphy to use his executive powers to nullify a 2020 law that created a presumption that essential workers’ who developed COVID-19 were exposed at work. This has been a critical help for the thousands of New Jersey workers who contracted COVID-19 over the past few years in that it makes it much easier for them to obtain worker’s compensation benefits.
The NJBIA is an organization that advocates for employers across the state. According to a spokesperson for the NJBIA, “[o]ver the past two years, and particularly during the recent omicron surge, it has been made abundantly clear that COVID-19 can be transmitted just about anywhere as people go about their daily lives.” In turn, the NJBIA wants to do away with the current presumption of work-relatedness because it is “unreasonable” to force employers to prove that a worker’s case of COVID-19 did not arise as a result of their employment.
What Does NJ Workers’ Comp Law Currently Say About COVID-19?
Anytime employees file for workers’ compensation benefits, they must establish that their injury or condition resulted from their employment. This is often not an issue for injuries stemming from on-the-job accidents, such as a broken arm. However, for occupational diseases, including COVID-19, it is a much more significant challenge.
In 2020, New Jersey lawmakers passed a bill that created a rebuttable presumption that a case of COVID-19 was work-related for any essential employee. Any essential employee who develops COVID-19 will be presumptively able to file for workers’ compensation benefits, provided they meet the additional requirements.
The workers who are currently covered by this presumption include:
- Public safety workers and first responders (police, firefighters, emergency medical technicians)
- Workers who provide healthcare services, emergency transportation, social services, and other care services, including those in healthcare facilities, residential facilities, or nursing homes;
- Workers who perform “essential” functions involving the health, safety, and welfare of the community, including transportation services, hotel services, financial services, and the production, preparation, storage, sale, and distribution of essential goods; and
- Any other worker who is deemed an essential employee by whatever government authority declared the state of emergency
Of course, NJBIA is advocating on behalf of business interests. However, the flip side of that argument is that someone has to be in the position of either proving or disproving that a worker’s case of COVID-19 was work-related. And from a financial perspective, it would seem that employers are in a much better position to do so. Employees who have come down with COVID have a tremendous burden they are forced to deal with. Providing them with medical and disability benefits, when in all likelihood they contracted COVID-19 at work, only seems fair.
The law firm of Petrillo & Goldberg consists of a compassionate team of advocates who have dedicated their careers to ensuring that New Jersey injury accident victims recover the compensation they deserve. Petrillo & Goldberg’s attorneys skillfully deal with the insurance companies so employees can focus on healing, returning to work, and moving forward with their life. To learn more, visit https://www.petrilloandgoldberg.com, or call 856-486-4343 to schedule a free consultation.