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On September 14, 2020, Governor Murphy signed a new law determining that “essential employees” who test positive for COVID-19 are presumed to have contracted the virus while at work. The law is retroactive to March 9, 2020.

Q: Who is an “Essential Employee”?
A: An Essential Employee is an employee who, during a state of emergency:

  1. is a public safety worker or first responder, including any fire, police or other emergency responders;
  2. is involved in providing medical and other healthcare services, emergency transportation, social services, and other care services, including services provided in health care facilities, residential facilities, or homes;
  3. performs functions which 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; or
  4. is any other employee deemed an essential employee by the public authority declaring the state of emergency.

Q: What Is the Impact of the Law?

  1. It creates a rebuttable presumption that, for an “Essential Employee” with COVID-19, contracting the virus will be considered work-related for the purpose of employment benefits, including but not limited to workers’ compensation. (This assumes the place of employment is NOT the employee’s own residence.)
  2. Requires an employer who wants to rebut the above presumption to show by a preponderance of evidence that the essential employee was not exposed to the disease at work.

Q: When Is the Law Effective? Is it Retroactive?
A: This law is effective immediately and it is retroactive to March 9, 2020.

Employer Takeaways:

  • Employers should review any workers’ compensation claims related to COVID that were filed from March 9, 2020 to present to determine if they are now compensable.
  • Any workers’ compensation claims paid as a result of the rebuttable presumption provided in the law will not be considered in calculating an employer’s experience modification rate or otherwise affect an employer’s insurance premium rate for the employer’s workers’ compensation policy.

NFC will provide updates as soon as significant new information related to this law is provided. In the meantime, you can read the full details of this new law: HERE

If you have any questions relating to this eAlert, or any other COVID-19 issue, please contact NFC’s COVID-19 Response Team as we are closely monitoring the rapidly changing legal landscape relating to this global pandemic. Please feel free to reach out to the NFC Attorney you typically work with or call us directly.


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