New Jersey Workers’ Compensation Covers Covid-19 for Essential Employees

In a move that distinguished New Jersey from many other states, Governor Phil Murphy signed Senate Bill 2380 into law on September 14, 2020, providing workers’ compensation coverage to essential workers.

New Jersey Workers’ Compensation Covers Covid-19 for Essential EmployeesThis law is a rebuttable presumption, meaning that the court assumes that workers’ compensation benefits extend to essential employees until the decision is contested and proven otherwise. This law took effect upon its signing on September 14 and was retroactively applied to March 9, 2020, when Governor Murphy first declared a state of emergency.

Under the law, an essential employee is defined as “an employee in public or private sector who during a state of emergency:

  • (1) is a public safety worker or first responder, including any fire, police, or other emergency responders;
  • (2) is involved in providing medical and other healthcare services, emergency transportation, social services, and other care services, including services provided in health care facilities, residential facilities, or homes;
  • (3) performs functions that involve physical proximity to members of the public and are essential to the public’s health, safety, and welfare, including transportation services, hotel, and other residential services, financial services, and the production, preparation, storage, sale, and distribution of essential goods such as food, beverages, medicine, fuel, and supplies for conducting essential business and work at home; or
  • (4) is any other employee deemed an essential employee by the public authority declaring the state of emergency?”

Emergency Employees outside of Medical and Healthcare Providers

The bill distinguishes that any employee who is given the option to work from home during a state of emergency is not considered an essential employee. The line blurs in considering what an essential employee, if not someone working from home, is. For this reason, the fourth component of the definition of an essential employee is broad. In this case, the “public authority declaring the state of emergency” is Governor Murphy. Any directives he gives that specifically name members of the community as essential employees not subject to quarantining protocol, for example, are to be upheld by this law. Some examples of employees that may be considered emergency employees and fall outside of the realm of medical and healthcare providers, which are traditionally seen as essential employees, are

  • employees of pharmacies
  • grocery store employees
  • childcare providers to essential employees
  • gas station employees
  • select market cashiers
  • construction workers

What kind of coverage is afforded to Essential Employees?

With the definition of essential employee established, the consideration shifts to what kind of coverage is afforded if an essential employee contracts Covid-19. Under SB2380, if essential employee contracts Covid-19 while working outside of their own home, they are eligible to receive full workers’ compensation benefits for their medical treatment and lost pay.

This law is a rebuttable presumption that means that an employer can argue that the employee was not at risk of contracting the virus during working hours. This can be shown by providing evidence of safety measures and hygiene protocols limiting contact with others. In some cases, it can also be shown by proving that the employee was unsafely in close contact with others outside of work.

Contact Our Mercer County Workers Compensation Attorneys Today

Experience Modification Factor

Fortunately for employers, workers’ compensation claims related to this rebuttable presumption providing coverage for Covid-19 illness are not calculated towards the company’s Experience Modification Factor. The Experience Modification Factor is a company’s safety rating determining what their workers’ compensation premium will be. A company whose safety protocols and systems lead to fewer injuries and workers’ compensation claims receive a lower Experience Modification Factor. Those that have a higher percentage of workers’ compensation claims have a higher Experience Modification Factor. If a company’s workers’ compensation claims are amplified due to Covid-19 cases on the workforce, their safety score and insurance premium rate will not be adversely affected.

The rise in claims due to COVID requires patience from employees

Because the bill’s signing into law took retroactive effect beginning when the initial state of emergency was called in March, employers expected the rise in workers’ compensation claims filed during that time. They were advised to handle new Covid-19-related claims as they would other claims. The backlog in addressing the claims has proven problematic for many companies who have already seen a workforce decrease due to sickness. Employers are advised to await results while maintaining awareness of the timeframe passed patiently.

Contact Our Mercer County Workers Compensation Attorneys Today

If you consider you have a claim and reside in Mercer County, Trenton, Princeton, and Hamilton, please contact us online or through our Trenton, NJ office (609) 528-2596 a free and confidential consultation regarding your case options for recovering compensation.

Am I Eligible For Workers’ Compensation?

For those injured on the job, workers’ compensation is a form of insurance that may be used to cover expenses including medical bills, health insurance, and lost wages. As per New Jersey statutes, all employers in our state which are not under the umbrella of Federal programs, must either carry workers’ compensation coverage or be self-insured. This includes employers who operate in other states so long as the employee is contracted or performs his or her work in New Jersey. Today, our workers’ compensation lawyers will identify the eligibility requirements for injured workers and what complications may come into play.

If you have suffered a work related injury and believe you might be eligible for compensation via a workers’ compensation claim, call our office today for a free and consultation with a member of our experienced legal team.

Requirements for Successful Workers’ Compensation Claims in Mercer County, NJ

It is important to understand that unlike personal injury claims, workers’ compensation claims do not require that claimants prove fault or liability of another party for their injurious accident. This carries a tradeoff, as employees injured on the job have fewer requirements to be eligible for compensation, but also surrender their right to seek damages for pain and suffering, and so on. There are three basic requirements which must be met in order for an employee to file for workers’ compensation in New Jersey:

  1. You must be an employee of an individual, corporation, LLC, sole proprietorship, or company at the time of your injury
  2. Your injury must be the result of your work or work-related activities
  3. Your employer must be covered by workers’ compensation insurance or be legally obligated to carry worker’s compensation insurance

If all of the above applies, you are in good legal standing and are likely a candidate for financial compensation through a workers’ compensation claim.

Princeton Workers’ Comp Attorneys Fight Back Against Employers and Insurance Companies

While the requirements for filing a workers’ compensation claim may seem straightforward, our Princeton attorneys understand that employers and their insurance providers will often strive to fight back against legitimate claims in order to save themselves from costly payouts. Here are a few common tactics these organizations can use to deny your claim and how our legal team defends your legal rights.

Your employer was not required to carry workers’ compensation insurance. In New Jersey, the law is in the favor of the claimant as nearly all employers in the state are legally required to carry workers’ compensation coverage.

You were not an “employee”. Independent contractors are not considered “employees”. However, in order to save themselves from legal and financial obligations, it is common practice for employers to incorrectly consider actual employees to be independent contractors. Whether or not this is done intentionally, our attorneys will strive to show that you were in fact a legal employee at the time of your accident.

Your injury was not work-related. Employers and/or insurance companies may argue that your accident was the result of non-work related activities. For cases which do not involve straightforward duties in your line of work, this can become a legally complex issue. For example, company events, traveling for work, and even lunch breaks may all be covered by workers’ compensation depending on the circumstances.

Contact our Trenton Workers’ Compensation Attorneys Today

The workers’ compensation attorneys of Kamensky, Cohen & Riechelson have extensive experience assisting clients who have been injured on the job recover the full and fair compensation to which they are entitled. We take pride in serving clients from our local New Jersey communities, as we have done since 1972 in towns like Trenton, Princeton, Lawrence, Hamilton, New Brunswick, and the greater Mercer County region. Our firm works on a contingency basis, meaning we don’t make a dime until we successfully win money for your workers’ compensation claim.

Contact us online or through our Trenton offices by calling (609) 528-2596 today for a free and confidential consultation regarding your on the work accident, your injuries, and your potential for financial compensation through a workers’ compensation claim.