You may be eligible for workers compensation if you contract COVID-19, or if you’re exposed to it. But where you contract the virus will matter.
You will only be able to use workers compensation if you were exposed on the job. That is, you waited on someone with the virus, or worked with someone who had the virus.
In either case you can use it if health staff told you to self-quarantine as a result, whether you’re showing symptoms of the illness or not. You will have to provide the documentation from the medical doctor who gave the order.
It is also a good idea to be prepared with evidence that the job was the source of the problem. If you were using social distancing off the job, for example, and thus did not come into contact with anyone else, then that would be vital evidence in your COVID-related workers compensation case.
New Jersey is asking you not to apply for benefits if your employer voluntarily pays you during your time off due to COVID-19. Yet you might still need workers compensation for medical care, especially if you end up needing intensive care.
If you were exposed off-the-job there may be other programs that can help you. Earned sick leave, temporary disability, family leave insurance, and the FMLA may all help. If your employer closed due to COVID-19 you should be able to collect unemployment. If there is any way you can work from home the DoL and the governor are encouraging employers to allow it, so if you think it’s possible you might try asking before you get into any difficult health situations.
Hopefully employers will make the process run smoothly by declining to fight COVID-based workers compensation claims. You might find you file the claim and get your help right now without much resistance.
If that’s not the case for you then you should be prepared to fight as hard as you’d fight over any other work-based injury or illness.
That will mean working with an experienced New Jersey workers compensation attorney. Proving exposure in the workplace can be difficult, and you’ll need someone who will gather the evidence, explore all avenues, and work hard for you so you can get the help you need during this trying time.
Nobody knows when the pandemic will be over or how bad it will get. Nevertheless, you should get your chance to enjoy working in a state with some of the strongest worker protection programs in America.