Since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak in New Jersey, nearly 150,000 residents have been infected with the virus – some of whom provide essential services related to public health and safety. In an effort to assist these essential workers, Assemblywoman Joann Downey has sponsored a new bill that would mandate certain work-related benefits for those who contract COVID-19.
Under the bill (A-3999), essential employees whose jobs involve interacting with the public during the pandemic would be eligible for the benefits normally given to workers who suffer an injury or illness on the job – including workers’ compensation – if they contract COVID-19.
Additionally, essential employees who are unable to perform their duties as a result of exposure to the virus would not be required to use their existing paid leave to make up for lost time. Instead, their absence would be considered ’emergency hazard health duty’ and they would be compensated as if they were on duty.
Unless a “preponderance of evidence” indicates an essential worker was not exposed to COVID-19, it would be presumed that the infection was work-related in order to ensure eligibility for these benefits.
“If someone has to miss work because they are infected with COVID-19, they shouldn’t have to use their hard-earned vacation time to make up for their absence or worry about whether they’ll be eligible for workers’ compensation,” said Downey (D-Monmouth). “This bill will ensure essential employees have one less thing to worry about during this turbulent time.”
The bill has been referred to the Assembly Labor Committee.