Between the two federal laws enacted shortly after the coronavirus pandemic hit, the U.S. government has provided for the testing, treatment, and paid time off for COVID-19 patients. But the state Legislature has passed a bill to stick New Jersey employers with these costs in the form of higher workers’ compensation premiums.
Legislation is sitting on Gov. Phil Murphy’s desk that would presume essential workers who contract COVID-19 did so while at work and are therefore entitled to workers’ compensation for testing, treatment, and reimbursement of lost wages while patients are quarantined, receiving treatment and recovering.
NJBIA is asking all members to contact the governor and urge him to veto S-2380.
The presumption that a worker was infected at work as opposed to the supermarket, public transportation or the potentially thousands of other locations is difficult if not impossible to prove. So if the bill is signed into law, virtually every infected essential worker could receive treatment and wage replacement through workers’ compensation. This will lead inevitably to higher workers’ compensation premiums.
The Legislature took this action despite the fact that:
- the federal government mandates that insurance policies cover all costs for testing for COVID-19;
- insurance policies cover the treatment for COVID-19;
- the federal government has provided $100 billion to help pay for treatment for the uninsured;
- unemployment benefits were enhanced to allow workers with COVID-19 to keep their jobs while they collect; and
- The CARES Act mandates paid sick leave for workers quarantined or out of work because of COVID-19 and reimburses employers for the cost through refundable payroll tax credits.
“Governor Murphy has made it clear he wants the federal government to help states financially cope with the coronavirus fallout, so it makes sense that he would veto legislation that would effectively forgo potentially hundreds of millions dollars in federal funds to treat sick New Jersey workers,” said NJBIA Chief Government Affairs Officer Chrissy Buteas.