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11/12/20 UPDATE: Your Obligations to Employees During COVID-19

Employers are required to follow pre-existing State & Federal worker protection and labor laws as outlined by the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development (NJDOL), as well as new laws related to COVID-19. Use the NJDOL Benefits Eligibility Tool to help your employees determine what benefits are available to them.

Job Protection

On March 20, 2020, Governor Murphy signed N.J.B.A.C. 12:70 on COVID-19 Related Discrimination, a law that prohibits an employer -- during the ongoing Public Health Emergency and State of Emergency -- from terminating or refusing to reinstate an employee who has, or is likely to have, an infectious disease which requires the employee to miss time at work.

An employee who requests or takes time off from work, based on the recommendation of a medical professional, may not be terminated or refused reinstatement if the employee is likely to infect others in the workplace.

Discrimination and Harassment Protection

Under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (LAD), employees are also protected from discrimination and harassment based on actual or perceived race, national origin, religion, disability, and other protected characteristics in employment, housing, and places open to the public, including businesses, schools, medical providers, etc., including when the conduct at issue is related to COVID-19.

Workplace Hazard Protection

Under federal OSHA law, employers must protect workers from workplace hazards that can cause illness or injury, provide required personal protective equipment (PPE), and ensure its use. It's also against NJ Wage and Hour law for an employer to deduct the cost of protective equipment from an employee's pay.

In addition, New Jersey businesses allowed to open in-person must follow required social distancing and safety protocols that include but are not limited to;

  • Providing all employees with face coverings and gloves free of charge

  • Requiring employees and customers to wear face coverings while indoors

  • Immediately separating and sending home workers who appear to have COVID-19 symptoms

  • Promptly notifying workers of any known exposure to COVID-19, subject to confidentiality requirements in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

  • Cleaning and disinfecting the worksite in accordance with CDC guidelines when a worker has been diagnosed with COVID-19

  • Continuing to follow all guidelines and directives issued by the New Jersey Department of Health (NJDOH), the CDC, and the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) for maintaining a clean, safe, and healthy work environment

Paid Leave

Passed in March, The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA or Act) provides support to employers to provide Emergency Paid Sick Leave, Emergency Paid Family Leave, and Medical Leave to workers affected by COVID-19. This includes a 100 percent, dollar for dollar payroll tax credit that immediately and fully reimburses employers with fewer than 500 employees by allowing them to reduce their federal payroll taxes by the amount spent on emergency leave for all qualifying wages. Qualifying wages are those paid to an employee who takes leave under the act for a qualifying reason.

Under FFCRA an employee affected by COVID-19 is entitled to two weeks (up to 80 hours) of paid leave. Under the act’s expanded Family and Medical Leave program, an employee is entitled to 12 weeks of job-protected leave, the first two of which are unpaid, and the remaining 10 weeks are paid.

To understand how to access FFCRA Business Tax Credits, visit the IRS coronavirus announcement.

In addition to Federal paid sick leave, certain employees are also eligible for New Jersey Earned Sick Leave, as well as Temporary Disability Insurance (TDI) for those unable to work due to illness, self-quarantine, or pregnancy.

Updated: November 12, 2020


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