By: Cristina N. Hyde, JD
Last week, Governor Murphy signed legislation which created a rebuttable presumption that coronavirus disease infections contracted by essential employees are work-related for the purpose of workers’ compensation benefits. P.L. 2020, c.84. As a result, essential employees are now entitled to full compensation unless their employer or insurance company can prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the worker was not exposed to the disease through the course of their employment.
The legislation broadly defines an essential employee as not only including health care workers and public safety workers, but also including those employees who:
- are essential in support of gubernatorial or federally declared statewide emergency response and recovery operations; or
- are in the private sector with duties and responsibilities, the performance of which is essential to the public’s health, safety and welfare.
The bill also clarifies that the presumption only applies to an essential employee “who preforms functions pertaining to those roles and involving interaction with the public during the public health emergency declared by Executive Order 103 of 2020.” Moreover, essential employees will not be required to use paid leave or any other contractual time-off to cover any period of time they are incapacitated due to a coronavirus 2019 or COVID-19 exposure or diagnosis.
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