NJ businesses could be on the hook for false COVID claims
After Gov. Phil Murphy reactivated New Jersey’s public health emergency last month, whether he was aware of it or not, he also reactivated the legal presumption that if an essential worker test positive for COVID, they got it at work.
According to Chrissy Buteas, the chief government affairs officer for the New Jersey Business and Industry Association, that means it’s up to the employer to prove the worker did not get the virus at work, which is next to impossible.
Businesses are worried
“What we are concerned about is if you have an employee that has contracted COVID-19 they are going to potentially bring a lawsuit against the employer community,” she said.
Buteas pointed out “there’s going to be needless litigation on the employer community, which will then drive up insurance rates, and as we all know, New Jersey is not the most inexpensive place to do business.”
She noted after almost two years of living with the virus, “it’s really not appropriate to have that presumption on the employer community with everybody out and about right now."
She pointed out the presumption that essential employees got COVID at work ended last summer but reactivated as soon as Gov. Murphy re-declared the health emergency.
Who's considered an essential worker
Buteas noted in this instance, “essential worker” includes public safety workers or first responders, those involved in providing medical and other healthcare services, emergency transportation, social services, and other care services including services provided in healthcare facilities, residential facilities or homes.
“Essential worker” also refers to those who perform functions that involve physical proximity to members of the public and are essential to the public’s health, safety, and welfare, including transportation services, hotel and other residential services, financial services, and the production, preparation, storage, sale and distribution of essential goods such as food, beverages, medicine, fuel, and supplies for conducting essential business and work at home.
She said NJBIA is working with the governor’s office and legislators “to rectify what we hope is an inadvertent jumpstart to the presumption again.”
She is encouraging employers to stay vigilant in observing CDC health and sanitation and safety guidelines for the workplace.
You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com.