On September 14th Governor Phil Murphy signed S2380 into law. This means that every essential worker who has to go into a physical location to do their job now benefits from a rebuttable presumption of worker’s compensation coverage for Covid-19 cases.
The law took effect on the day of signing, and is offering retroactive coverage to March 9, 2020. This means if you got sick while on the job after that date you can now begin your worker’s compensation claim.
Note that the law does outline exactly who qualifies as an “essential employee.” The rebuttable presumption does not apply to everyone who might step into an office and get sick.
According to S380 an essential worker is:
- A public safety worker or first responder, including fire, police, or other emergency responders.
- Provides medical or health care services, including emergency transportation and social services.
- Performs services 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 like food, beverages, medicine, fuel, and supplies
- Is any other employee deemed essential by the public authority declaring a state of emergency.
Note that the presumption is rebuttable. That means your employer may still have a defense if you contract or contracted Covid-19 on the job. They will have to show “by a preponderance of evidence” that you were at no point exposed to the disease while working for their organization.
The law does provide employers with at least one less incentive to fight against having their insurance provider pay these claims, namely, that workers compensation employees cannot raise their insurance rates due to any Covid claim. Whether this will actually stop employers from fighting claims is uncertain. Many may continue to do so regardless.
The National Law review notes that employers will “face an uphill battle in proving that an alleged COVID-19 infection is not work-related, potentially leading to an increase in workers compensation claims.” It also notes that this may “benefit employers too, in that it may insulate them from ordinary civil liability arising from COVID-19 infections allegedly contracted by employees in the workplace.”
The business community might do well to focus on that benefit, as they are currently quite vocally unhappy about the passage of this law. New Jersey Business wasted no time in calling it “senseless,” and claim it is now “nearly impossible to know if an employee contracted the virus at work, or, at say, a family gathering.”
Despite their despair, it’s still a good idea to come prepared with whatever proof you can provide so that your attorney can help refute any rebuttals your employer comes up with.
Are you pursuing a workers compensation claim? Talone Law can help. Reach out to us to schedule a free consultation today.