The New Jersey Business & Industry Association opposed two bills this week that will bring more burdens to employers.

Bill A-3998 creates a separate category of worker’s compensation beneficiaries who died from COVID-19 and provides them with enhanced benefits.

Before the Assembly Appropriations committee on Wednesday, NJBIA Vice President of Government Affairs Christopher Emigholz echoed the opposition of several stakeholders who said it would drive up the cost of premiums, and thus employer costs.

Emigholz said, at the very least, the bill should be limited to the time of Gov. Phil Murphy’s stay-at-home order.

“We’ve seen research that people are not getting (COVID-19) from work more than anywhere else,” Emigholz said. “They’re getting it from all over the place – and they’re not staying at home. The biggest place they’re getting it the most is at in-home gatherings.

“So saying that employers are going to be responsible to pay the cost for something (employees) are not getting through the workplace doesn’t make a lot of sense.”

The committee advanced the bill by a vote of 8-2, with Jay Webber (R-26) and Brian Bergen (R-25) voting ‘no.’

John Burzichelli (D-3), Herb Conaway Jr. (D-7), Eliana Pintor Marin (D-29), Cleopatra Tucker (D-28), Gary Schaer (D-36), Antwan McClellan (D-1), Gabriela Mosquera (D-4), Lisa Swain (D-38) all voted ‘yes.’

In the Assembly Labor Committee on Wednesday, NJBIA opposed A-1650, which limits certain provisions in and enforceability of restrictive covenants.

Restrictive covenants are agreements between employers and employees which the employee or agrees not to engage in certain specified activities that are competitive with the employer after the relationship has ended.

NJBIA Vice President of Government Affairs Ray Cantor rejected language in the bill that said restrictive covenants harm businesses in New Jersey and their competitiveness.

He cited a prior New Jersey Supreme Court’s refusal to discard the established rule because it wasn’t a problem in need of a cure.

Cantor said under the law, there’s a 3-part test of whether restrictive covenants should be allowed: If it protects the legitimate interest of the employer; if there’s an undue hardship on an employee; and if it is not injurious to the public in general.

“Employer and employee relationships are very complex,” Cantor said. “They range from mom-and-pop shops all the way to the most sophisticated businesses. Having legislation that looks to limit those types of relationships simply does not work. The case-by-case process that is in the law right now does work.”

The committee advanced the bill by a 6-3 vote. Gerard Scharfenberger (R-13), Parker Space (R-24), and John Catalano (R-10) voted ‘no,’ on the bill while Joseph Egan (D-17), Eric Houghtaling (D-11), Anthony Verrelli (D-15), Vincent Mazzeo (D-2), Paul Moriarty (D-4), and Shavonda Sumter (D-35) all voted ‘yes.’

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