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Gov. Murphy Signs New Jersey Essential Worker COVID-19 Presumption Bill Into Law

Levinson Axelrod, P.A. is pleased to report that Governor Phil Murphy has signed a bill that makes it easier for essential workers who contract coronavirus to receive workers’ compensation benefits in New Jersey.

The new law, which was signed on Monday, September 14, and is retroactive to March 9, 2020, creates a rebuttable presumption that contraction of COVID-19 is work related.

The law is a victory for the many courageous men and women who have kept New Jersey moving by reporting to work and performing a variety of essential jobs while facing considerable health hazards amid the pandemic, and effectively clears a legal pathway for them and their families to obtain needed benefits when they need it most.

It is also a measure our own Partner Rich Marcolus so very passionately advocated. In May, Rich testified in support of the bill before a Senate Committee in Trenton.

Key Facts About New Jersey’s Essential Worker COVID-19 Law

Workers who seek benefits under New Jersey’s workers’ compensation system are typically required to prove that their illness or injury is work related. For workers who contract infectious diseases like COVID-19, which spreads easily and for which a source of transmission cannot usually be definitively shown, proving this causal connection can be a difficult, if not impossible, task.

Here are some quick key facts about the new law:

  • Under the new law, essential workers seeking workers’ compensation now benefit from a legal presumption that their contraction of COVID-19 is work related, which relieves them of the difficult burden of having to prove a work-related connection.
  • The presumption can only be refuted by a preponderance of the evidence which shows an essential worker was not exposed at their workplace.
  • The presumption applies to “essential workers,” which the law defines as an employee in the public or private sector who, during a state of emergency:
    • Is a public safety worker or first responder, including fire, police, or other emergency responders;
    • Is involved in providing medical and other health care services, emergency transportation, social services, and other care services, including services provided in health care facilities, residential facilities, or homes;
    • Performs functions which 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
    • Is any other employee deemed an essential employee by the public authority declaring the state of emergency.

Our firm congratulates and thanks all those who played a part in passing this needed law, including Partner Marcolus. Amid deeply uncertain times, clearing a path to compensation for those who courageously brave life-altering risks is one of the most immediate and important ways we can thank essential workers for their service.

Have Questions About COVID-19 And Your Rights?

Levinson Axelrod, P.A. has closely followed legislative developments related to COVID-19 and workers’ compensation – and members of our team like Partner Rich Marcolus have been vocal in helping shape and support these laws.

As a firm that has helped thousands of workers and families navigate the New Jersey workers’ compensation system, we are available to discuss potential claims from essential workers who have questions about their eligibility for benefits due to workplace exposure. To request a FREE consultation, contact us.

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