New Jersey Issues Guidance on the Coronavirus, Employee Rights and Employer Obligations

Federal, state, and local governmental bodies and agencies continue to scramble as the coronavirus pandemic spreads throughout the U.S. New Jersey is no exception to the rule, and the New Jersey Department of Labor (NJDOL) has issued two sets of informal guidance on the coronavirus: one geared toward employee rights and the other focused on employer obligations.

The employee rights-oriented COVID-19 guidance, aptly titled “What Employees Should Know,” advises New Jersey employees that the state’s comprehensive Earned Sick LeaveTemporary Disability Insurance, and Family Leave Insurance covers all workers, including full-time, part-time, temporary, and seasonal employees, and, depending on the circumstances, may apply to the benefit of workers and their families during the course of the pandemic.

The employee guidance advises that New Jersey’s Earned Sick Leave Law covers public health emergencies and that an employee can use earned sick leave for self-care or the care of family members if his/her workplace, or his/her child’s school or daycare, are closed due to the epidemic, or if a public health authority determines the need for a quarantine. This guidance includes printable comparative charts addressing COVID-19 scenarios and benefits available under New Jersey Earned Sick leave, Unemployment Insurance, Temporary Disability Insurance, Family Leave Insurance, and/or Workers’ Compensation, in both English and Spanish.

While the charts are consistent with New Jersey state law and announce no novel legal interpretations in relation to the coronavirus, they do provide a convenient quick reference for employees – and employers – with questions about whether and, if so, when New Jersey’s state-level labor and employment protections apply. For example, the chart informs readers that an individual who is out of work because his/her employer voluntarily closed due to the pandemic could file for New Jersey Unemployment Insurance benefits, but earned sick leave, temporary disability and family leave insurance, and workers’ compensation would no longer be available to that employee. By contrast, if an employee is exposed to COVID-19 and quarantined, but his/her workplace remains open, the employee can utilize earned sick leave and temporary disability and family leave insurance, and the employee may be able to file for workers’ compensation benefits depending on the circumstances, but unemployment insurance benefits would not be available.

These charts are also available on the NJDOL employer obligations-focused guidance webpage, also aptly titled, “What Employers & Business Should Know,” and assure employers that bipartisan federal legislation (which has since been signed in the form of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, as covered in a previous Stevens & Lee Client Alert) will provide financial relief to small and medium-sized business with full compensation for providing two weeks of sick leave to employees, plus tax credits for offering up to three months of paid family leave. The guidance also urges New Jersey employers “to continue to pay [their] workers whether or not they are able to work” and that all but the largest employers will be fully reimbursed under federal legislation.

Stay tuned to Stevens & Lee’s Alerts and Newsletters for further updates as coronavirus-related developments impacting employee rights and employer obligations continue to develop in New Jersey, and under other federal, state and local laws. In the meantime, if you have any questions about how this, or any other, labor and employment law development may affect your business, please contact Lisa M. Scidurlo, Alexander V. Batoff or the Stevens & Lee attorney with whom you regularly work.

©2020 Stevens & Lee, a Pennsylvania Professional Corporation. Richard J. Pinto, attorney responsible for the New Jersey office.

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