As reported by Trentonian.com, following the publicity of numerous corrections officers beaten at work, Gov. Chris Christie has agreed to provide sick leave pay to prison workers assaulted by inmates.
Christie signed a bill into law on Monday that will make corrections, juvenile, parole and probation officers whole — albeit on a limited basis — if they were attacked by an inmate while on the job and suffered serious injuries.
Before the governor took action, corrections officers hurt during an inmate attack or riot had to wait until workers’ compensation kicked in to receive any pay as they are not entitled to salary while they are out of work. It could sometimes take several months before an injured officer received any compensation.
“These officers assume a significant deal of risk every day on the job, yet they have been excluded from provisions that make compensation available to other public safety officers,” Assemblyman Dan Benson (D-Mercer/Middlesex), a co-sponsor of the bill, said in a statement. “This new law is about taking action to eliminate that inconsistency so that people who put their lives on the line aren’t left helpless in the event of an attack.”
The corrections officers union has been on a crusade the past two years to highlight the need for sick pay protections for officers by releasing photos of injured employees and documenting attacks.
“Our juvenile justice officers risk limb and life every day while maintaining the peace in dangerous correctional facilities,” PBA Local 105 President Brian Renshaw said last month after highlighting another vicious attack at the Juvenile Medium Security Facility in Fieldsboro.
Christie conditionally vetoed the sick leave bill in May to place a time limit on how long an employee can received benefits.
Christie amended the bill to limit the supplemental compensation for up to six months for “serious” injuries. The initial pay before the workers’ compensation kicks in will also be limited to six months.
The new legislation will continue to pay officers injured at work as a result of an inmate attack until workers’ compensation is received. Then, the employees will be paid the difference of what workers’ compensation doesn’t cover from their regular salary until they can return to work.
In addition to corrections officers, the bill will cover Human Services police officers, state conservation officers, state park police officers, campus police officers, medical security officers, and civilian jail employees in relation injuries sustained from assaults or apprehensions.
“As it is, a public safety officer who gets attacked on the job essentially is punished for something he or she didn’t do,” Assemblywoman Liz Muoio (D-Mercer/Hunterdon) said in a statement. “By ensuring that these officers have financial stability after an attack, we can make it clear that New Jersey supports these vital professions and remove a deterrent to entering or staying in that line of work.”
The bill will take effect in October.
Paid sick leave for correction officers injured on the job had previously been the law of the State up until July of 2011, when they were eliminated by the State legislature. These “SLI” benefits allowed State Correction Officers to receive their full pay for a period of one year following an injury that occurred on duty. While the particulars of the new law remain unclear, based on the Trentonian’s reporting, the new version of the law appears to limit the type of incidents and injuries that qualify for sick leave pay to those stemming from an attack of an officer. Officers will also only be eligible for six months of sick leave payment, rather than the one year limit imposed by the prior conception of the law.