On September 14, 2020, Governor Phil Murphy signed into law S-2380, making it easier for “essential employees” who contract COVID-19 while working away from home to pursue workers’ compensation benefits claims.
The new law is retroactive to March 9, 2020, when Governor Murphy first declared a public health emergency in response to the novel coronavirus. The law applies to healthcare and public safety workers, certain transportation, hospitality and service industry workers, and other workers deemed “essential” by the Governor’s executive orders.
Under the law, “essential employees” are entitled to a rebuttable presumption that their contraction of COVID-19 was work-related if they worked away from their residence at the time of the infection. Employers may rebut this presumption by a preponderance of evidence showing the worker was not exposed to the disease at the workplace.
Given the ongoing uncertainties surrounding COVID-19, it may be difficult for employers to rebut the presumption. Fortunately, however, the law excludes any workers’ compensation claims paid from the employer’s Experience Modification Factor, meaning there is no direct impact on the employer’s workers’ compensation insurance.