NJDOL Benefits and the Coronavirus (COVID-19): What You Should Know

New Jersey has among the most comprehensive Earned Sick Leave, Temporary Disability and Family Leave Insurance laws in the country, which cover all employees – full-time, part-time, temporary and seasonal.

That said, variables affect eligibility as well as the applicable benefit or protection. The NJ Department of Labor Department examines cases on an individual basis, and makes eligibility determinations in accordance with the law.

The scenarios below are for state benefits and protections. Clearly, many employers have their own more generous policies.

A Person Who Has COVID-19

If an individual has tested positive for COVID-19, or has symptoms of COVID-19 and is unable to work, he/she:

  • Can use Earned Sick Leave: As of October 2018, employers of all sizes must provide full-time, part-time, and temporary employees with up to 40 hours of earned sick leave per year so they can care for themselves or a loved one.
  • Can apply for Temporary Disability Insurance (TDI): A claim would need to be filed online at myleavebenefits.nj.gov; the health care provider would give the diagnosis and the duration the individual is expected to be out of work. Available wage records on file would determine the amount of TDI benefits.
  • May be eligible for Workers’ Compensation: If a person contracts the virus because he/she waited on or worked with someone who had the virus, or contracted the virus for any other work related reason, that person could be eligible for workers’ compensation.

A person who is out of work because their employer closed (temporarily or otherwise) because of COVID-19:

  • The person would be eligible for Unemployment Insurance benefits (UI):  A claim would need to be filed at nj.gov, preferably online, and benefits amount would be determined through available wage records. This claim would initially be considered a temporary layoff, thus suspending the provision that the worker be able, available and actively seeking work. As of now, a layoff lasting longer than eight weeks would require the person to be able, available and actively looking for employment.

A person who is losing hours because of a reduction in force related to COVID-19:

  • The person likely would be eligible for partial Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefits:If a person is still employed, but the regular hours of work have been reduced, depending on the number of hours that have been reduced and the amount of earning for the week, the person would be eligible for reduced UI benefits. To be eligible for partial unemployment benefits, the person cannot work more that 80% of the hours normally worked.  For example, if a person normally works 40 hours a week, they cannot work more than 32 hours in a week to be eligible. Additionally, if the person earns 20% or less of their weekly benefit rate, the person would receive the full weekly benefit. For earnings greater than the 20%, the weekly benefit would be reduced.

A person who is sent home from work because their employer, for some reason, thinks they are at risk, or they are at risk:

  • The person likely would be eligible for Unemployment Insurance benefits (UI):If the employer sends a person home because there is a possibility that the person was or may have been exposed to COVID-19, assuming that the person is not being paid by the employer while at home, the person may be eligible for unemployment benefits. A claim would need to be filed at nj.gov and the benefits amount would be determined through available wage records. This claim would initially be considered a temporary layoff, thus suspending the provision that the worker be able, available and actively seeking work. As of now, a layoff lasting longer than eight weeks would require the person to be able, available and actively looking for employment.

A person who is told to self-quarantine

  • Can use accrued Earned Sick Leave:The Earned Sick Leave law states, in part, the permitted use of self-care: “Time needed for diagnosis, care, or treatment of, or recovery from, an employee’s mental or physical illness, injury, or other adverse health condition, or for preventative medical care for the employee;” and, the permitted use to protect public health: “because of the issuance by a public health authority of a determination 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.”

A person who is unable to work because their place of business was ordered closed by a public official for public health reasons, or whose child’s school is ordered closed for the same reason:

  • Can use accrued Earned Sick Leave:The Earned Sick Leave law states, in part: “Time during which the employee is not able to work because of a closure of the employee’s workplace, or the school or place of care of a child of the employee, by order of a public official due to an epidemic or other public health emergency, or because of the issuance by a public health authority of a determination 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.”

A person who has to care for a relative, or any other individual considered to be family, who has the coronavirus or symptoms of COVID-19:

  • The person likely would be eligible for Family Leave Insurance: If caring for a family member who has the coronavirus or symptoms of COVID-19, a claim would need to be filed at myleavebenefits.nj.gov and the family member’s health care provider would give the diagnosis and the expected length of time the individual will need to be out of work to provide care. Available wage records would determine the amount of benefits.
  • Can use accrued Earned Sick Leave: The Earned Sick Leave law states in part, “time needed for the employee to aid or care for a family member of the employee during diagnosis, care, or treatment of, or recovery from, the family member’s mental or physical illness or other adverse health condition, or during preventive medical care for the family member.”

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