New Jersey’s Response to Employment-Related Issues Prompted by Coronavirus (COVID-19)
Mar 19, 2020 | Written by: | Share
The widespread closure of businesses, potential short-term and long-term unemployment, reduced hours, and leave considerations have left New Jersey employers scrambling to find answers in connection with how to address leave time in light of the pandemic.
At this juncture, the Federal Government has just passed legislation intended to provide emergency relief to employees under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.
New Jersey’s Department of Labor and Workforce Development has created a helpful guide that employers can access in order to understand the various leave possibilities and entitlements employees may have when faced with childcare issues arising from the coronavirus pandemic, or when they or a family member are affected as a result of the virus.
New Jersey employers should also be aware of the Earned Sick Leave Law, which went into effect in October 2018, and provides for paid leave under many of the circumstances many New Jersey employees are currently facing as a result of COVID-19.
To reiterate, under the Earned Sick Leave Act, employees can use accrued paid leave time for the following reasons:
- For the diagnosis, care, or treatment of or recovery from an employee’s health condition or for preventative medical care for the employee;
- For the employee’s aid to care for a covered family member during diagnosis, care, or treatment of or recovery from the family member’s health condition, or during preventative medical care for the family member;
- Certain absences resulting from the employee or covered family member’s status as a victim of domestic or sexual violence;
- Certain closures of the employee’s workplace or place of childcare by the employer or by order of a public official or a public health authority; or
- For time needed by the employee to attend his or her child’s school-related conference, meeting, function or other event.
Given the foregoing, accrued sick leave time can be afforded to employees who must stay home as a result of a school closing or daycare closing. Additionally, if an employee or family member of the employee tests positive for the virus, is exhibiting symptoms or has otherwise been instructed by a healthcare provider to self-quarantine, the employee will be entitled to accrued sick leave time under the Act.
Additionally, the New Jersey Assembly passed several bills aimed to assist those impacted by the virus. One bill implements a temporary unemployment program for employees who are out of work because of COVID-19 or who must care for a sick family member or a child whose school is closed because of the virus.
Additionally, employees who may be working less than their normal hours over the next few weeks will have the option to use accrued sick time to supplement their hours worked, or if they are working less than 80 percent of usual hours, they may be eligible for partial unemployment insurance benefits. Under some circumstances, an employee may also be eligible for temporary disability or other benefits.
Our office is keeping abreast of all the legislative changes as they occur. We can provide counsel and answer any questions employers may have related to employee benefits and responses to COVID-19 as the situation continues to unfold.
Leslie A. Parikh, Esq., is a partner with Gebhardt & Kiefer, PC. She practices primarily in the areas of employment law, civil rights litigation, municipal law, insurance defense, and the representation of public entities in both State and Federal Court. Contact Ms. Parikh at 908-735-5161 or via email.
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