Houghtaling & Downey Bill Protecting Health Insurance of Locked-Out Workers Passed by Assembly

OCEAN TOWNSHIP - Legislation (A-1056) introduced by Assemblyman Eric Houghtaling and Assemblywoman Joann Downey that would protect workers’ health insurance benefits if they are stopped from working by their employer was approved by the State Assembly this Thursday.

“Health insurance is one of the most critical things an individual can possess,” said Houghtaling (D-Neptune).

“It is only fair to assist individuals who, to no fault of their own, are suddenly stripped of their ability to utilize their health insurance because of a labor dispute.”

Currently, if an employer creates a “lockout” and stops employees from working due to a labor dispute, workers may find that their health insurance coverage has been discontinued as well. Workers may find themselves “locked out” without health insurance coverage even if they have not joined a strike and if their union is in the process of negotiating pre-existing terms of employment.

To support locked-out workers, this bill would establish a “Working Family Health Security Fund” in the Department of Labor and Workforce Development that would provide them with financial assistance for the purposes of paying for continuing health insurance coverage.

“No one should be at risk of being forced into suffocating debt because of a lack of health insurance, especially if their insurance was discontinued due to a work stoppage,” said Downey (D-Freehold). “It is our responsibility to protect our residents and ensure that they are provided with the health insurance they had been assured.”

If a lockout causes the Working Family Health Security Fund to be depleted, the employer that caused that lockout would be required to reimburse the fund for the full cost of coverage during that period. The fund will otherwise be supported by a five cent annual surcharge per employee for all employers who are subject to the unemployment compensation law.

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