Amazon Plant Closing in New Jersey Due to COVID-19 Exposure
The Amazon plant in Robbinsville, New Jersey has closed down, and will remain closed until December 26, 2020 because several of their employees tested positive for COVID-19. Amazon spokesperson Lisa Levandowski made the following statement:
“Through our in-house COVID-19 testing program, we detected an increase in the number of asymptomatic positive cases at our PNE5 facility in New Jersey and have proactively closed the site until December 26th out of an abundance of caution.”
Since Amazon was deemed an essential facility, its warehouses have remained open during the pandemic. In addition to other essential workers, Amazon workers are given special protection because they fall into the categories carved out by the legislature in New Jersey, in recognition of their job duties. If essential workers are diagnosed with COVID -19, it is presumed that their exposure came from work. This special presumption makes it easier for Amazon workers and other essential employees such as first responders, supermarket employees, and health care workers in New Jersey to receive workers’ compensation benefits. This special presumption was enacted because these workers perform functions that involve close physical proximity to members of the public, and their business is considered essential to the public’s health, safety, and welfare during the pandemic.
While Amazon claims that the company keeps facilities clean and ensures their employees are following necessary safety precautions, the employees are still entitled to the presumption under New Jersey law that their exposure to COVID-19 came from work. The Robbinsville Amazon workers will be paid wages while the plant is closed, according to information reported in several publications. However workers who contract COVID-19 in these facilities, and who end up with ongoing health problems, may want to file for Workers’ Compensation benefits. Workers’ Compensation benefits in New Jersey potentially include ongoing medical care if necessary, weekly wage replacement, and permanency benefits for medical conditions that do not improve.
Fortunately New Jersey law gives greater protection to Amazon employees and other essential workers who contract COVID-19 by classifying them as essential employees during the pandemic. This special classification entitles these workers to a presumption that the disease is work related, and that person is entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. Yes, this presumption may be refuted by the employer if substantial evidence shows that the worker was not exposed to the disease while working.