Can I Collect Benefits If I Need Leave From Work Because of the Corona Virus?

It is unknown how many workers across New Jersey will fall ill with COVID-19 or be quarantined as a result of a Coronavirus exposure. Many school districts across New Jersey have already closed, with more anticipated to be closed imminently.  Many New Jersey working families will need to take FMLA or other form of leave from work as a result of a family member or themselves for contracting COVID-19, or simply to care for children not in school.

IMG_3668-300x169The New Jersey Paid Family Leave Insurance provides for benefits for up to 6 weeks to provide care for a seriously ill or injured family member diagnosed with COVID-19. In order to be eligible for Family Leave benefits, a New Jersey worker would have to had paid into the system and meet the minimum gross earnings requirements.  New Jersey workers must have worked 20 weeks and earned at least $200 per week, or have earned a combined total of $10,000 in the base year. Eligible workers are currently paid 2/3 of their average weekly wage with a maximum of $667 per week. However, starting July 1, 2020, eligible workers will be paid 85% of their average weekly wage with a maximum of $881 per week.  The New Jersey Paid Family Leave Insurance law is different from the New Jersey Family Leave Act, which provides eligible employees with job protection for qualifying reasons such as child birth or to care for a family member who is suffering from a serious health condition.

If a New Jersey employee tests positive for COVID-19 or has symptoms consistent with COVID-19 and is unable to work, there are several possible state programs under which he/she may be eligible.  The employee may use accrued Earned Sick Leave. All employers, regardless of size, must provide employees with up to 40 hours of earned sick leave per year to care for themselves or a loved one. Earned Sick Leave time may accrue as you work at a rate of one hour per 30 hours worked, or, your employer may give you a “bank” of 40 hours at the beginning of the year. A New Jersey worker exposed to Coronavirus during the course of their work and directed to quarantine as a result may also use Earned Sick Leave during the quarantine period. Earned Sick Leave is also available to employees who are unable to work because their child’s school or daycare was ordered closed by a public official.

Employees who cannot work because of Coronavirus and have no Earned Sick Leave time available, may be eligible for Temporary Disability Insurance. New Jersey Temporary Disability Insurance provides benefits to workers who are unable to work due to a work-related illness, injury or disability. Upon filing a claim for Temporary Disability Insurance, the employee’s healthcare provider would be required to certify the diagnosis and duration the employee is expected to be out of work. The amount of any benefits is determined in the same manner of New Jersey Paid Family Leave Insurance and will also be increased in the same manner as of July 1, 2020.

Workers’ Compensation is an additional program that may provide relief for employees who become sick with or are exposed to Coronavirus from his or her employment.  For employees who may have contracted Coronavirus because he or she contracted it for a work-related reason, such as caring for a patient at a medical facility or serving someone at a restaurant, or otherwise contracted it from another employee, they may be eligible for Workers’ Compensation benefits.

Should you or a loved one need to miss work because they have contracted the Coronavirus and need for legal advice concerning rights to obtain benefits, please contact our office to schedule a consultation with one of our New Jersey employment attorneys.  While our office has been closed due to the Corona-Virus, our employment attorneys and staff will be working remotely and are available for telephone and/or video consultations.

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