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State Senate President Steve Sweeney introduced S-2380, which would create a rebuttable presumption that certain essential employees contracted coronavirus during the scope of their employment for workers’ compensation purposes.  While the business community is appreciative of the need to ensure that our front-line workers who have contracted COVID-19 and who have been negatively affected receive the benefits that they need to make them whole, NJBIA has voiced opposition to the legislation.

The bill is scheduled for a vote before the Senate Labor Committee on Tuesday at 3:00.  The Assembly counterpart, A-3999 (Giblin, D-34), has not been scheduled for a vote at this time.

“We have significant concerns with using the workers’ compensation system as the primary method to provide these benefits,” said NJBIA Chief Government Affairs Officer Chrissy Buteas. “Our concerns are primarily that the cost of these claims can overwhelm the system, which was not designed to handle claims during a worldwide pandemic, and that the costs will be pushed back onto the business community, which is also struggling to survive.

“Worker compensation benefits are, by law, an injured worker’s exclusive remedy for workplace injuries,” Buteas added. “Therefore, this legislation will serve only to shift the cost of pandemic response to New Jersey’s workers’ compensation system and the essential businesses paying premiums for this insurance.”

Because existing federal programs are already addressing the immediate needs of workers, NJBIA believes now is not the time to enact a program that would displace otherwise available federal dollars.  The association also has particular concerns centered on some specific provisions in the legislation, including but not limited to the definition of essential employee, theory of exposure, and the duration of the rebuttable presumption.

The Business Coalition, which is comprised of over 80 business associations across the state, sent memos on federal funding and details on the bill to the Senate Labor Committee members in advance of their committee hearing on Tuesday.

If you have any questions, please email Chrissy Buteas, Chief Government Affairs Officer, at Government_Affairs@njbia.org.

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