New Jersey Extends Benefits and Protections to Workers Impacted by COVID-19
On March 25, 2020, by signing legislative bill S2304 into law, Governor Philip Murphy expanded the availability of benefits under the state’s Temporary Disability Insurance (“TDI”) and Family Leave Insurance (“FLI”) programs to employees impacted by epidemic-related illnesses such as COVID-19. The new law (“Law”) provides numerous key changes to the existing statutory scheme for state-issued disability insurance benefits, family leave insurance benefits, and use of accrued paid sick time.
Expanded Permissible Uses for Earned Sick Leave
The Law expands the permissible uses of sick leave earned under New Jersey’s Earned Sick Leave Act to include times when an employee cannot work because, by order of a public health official or because of a state of emergency declared by the Governor due to a pandemic or other public health emergency, the employee’s workplace is closed or the school or child care facility of the employee’s child is closed. The new law also provides for earned sick leave to be used when: (a) a health care provider or other public health authority determines that the presence in the community of the employee, or a member of the employee’s family in need of care by the employee, would jeopardize the health of others; or (b) the employee undergoes isolation or quarantine, or cares for a family member in quarantine, as a result of suspected exposure to a communicable disease at the direction of a healthcare provider or other authorized public official who asserts that the presence in the community of the employee or family member would jeopardize the health of others;
Broadened NJ Family and Temporary Disability Benefits
The Law broadens the availability of benefits under the New Jersey Family Leave Act and Temporary Disability Act. The law expands the definition of “serious health condition” under both laws to include, during a state of emergency, an illness caused by an epidemic of a communicable disease, a known or suspected exposure to such a disease, or efforts to prevent the spread of that disease, which requires in-home care or treatment of the employee or a family member due to an order from a public health authority or healthcare provider.
Elimination of Waiting Period in Certain Cases
In addition, the Law eliminates the current one-week waiting period for temporary disability benefits in cases related to an epidemic.