As an employee in the state of New Jersey, workers’ compensation insurance is available to you to provide compensation following an on-the-job injury or an occupational disease or illness that is related to workplace activities. However, whether claiming compensation for an accident or an illness, the burden of proof falls on workers to prove. This means that you must prove your injuries/illness are work-related and occurred during the course of employment. When it comes to contracting the coronavirus, though, a new piece of legislation may change that.
Bill Creates a Presumption That the Coronavirus Was Contracted at Work
The legislation, New Jersey S2380, creates a presumption that any coronavirus infection that is contracted by an essential employee in our state, such as healthcare care workers, public safety workers, etc., is work-related. For the purpose of determining eligibility for benefits, such as workers’ compensation, this presumption would be essential in ensuring that employees are compensated. While workers’ compensation is specifically mentioned in the bill, benefits are not limited to workers’ compensation only.
One of the authors of the bill, Senator Linda Greenstein (D), told reporters, “If we are willing to define some of the lowest-paid members of our workforce as essential and ask them to put themselves at a higher risk, we must ensure that we provide them with the workers’ compensation benefits they deserve.”
The bill also creates a stipulation that if an employee misses time from work as a result of being exposed to or contracting the coronavirus, the time away from work will be considered ‘on duty’ time, and the employer will be prohibited from charging the employee any paid leave. The bill also defines “essential worker” and includes a provision that states that the legislation will be retroactive to March 9, which is when the governor signed the state of emergency.
Is the Legislation Effective Now?
The legislation is not yet in effect in New Jersey; however, it has been passed by both houses, and is now on its way to the office of Governor Murphy for consideration. Again, if it is signed into law, it will be retroactive beginning on March 9. This means that if you are an essential worker who contracted the coronavirus, you can bring forth a workers’ compensation claim against your employer for benefits, and there will be an automatic presumption that the virus was contracted at work.
Call Our Experienced Workers’ Compensation Lawyers Today
If you have questions about S2380 and your rights if you contract coronavirus and are an essential worker, as well as your rights if you contract the virus and are not an essential worker, please do not hesitate to call our experienced New Jersey workers’ compensation attorneys at the law offices of Schibell Law, LLC. Our lawyers can represent you during your workers’ compensation claim, and we will aggressively advocate for your right to compensation. Please call us today or send us a message telling us more about how we can support you, and we can review your case free of charge and provide you with more information about how the new legislation may affect your right to benefits.