As reported in Insider NJ Senator Steven Sweeney introduced legislation expanding access to workers’ compensation benefits for front-line workers that have fallen ill as a result of exposure to COVID-19.

The bill, like similar legislation that has been introduced in Minnesota, would create a presumption that COVID-19 disease infections contracted by essential employees who interact with the public, including health care workers and public safety workers, are work-related for the purpose of determining employment benefits for work-related injuries and illnesses, including the receipt of workers’ compensation benefits.

The presumption would apply to essential employees in both the public and private sectors who perform needed work during the current public health emergency and would be retroactive to March 9th, when New Jersey’s state of emergency was declared.

The bill also would establish that an essential employee’s absence from work due to an employee contracting or being exposed to COVID-19 disease will be considered “on duty” time, and prohibits employers from charging that employee for paid leave.  Instead, the time that the employee is out from work will be converted to compensable time off from work under the New Jersey Workers Compensation Act.

While the bill has just been introduced, all First Responders should pay particular attention to this legislation as it has the propensity to increase workers compensation benefits exponentially for employees and their families that have fallen ill to COVID-19 or that have perished from contracting virus.