May My Employer In New Jersey Suspend Me Without Pay For Contracting COVID-19?
Your employer in New Jersey may lawfully suspend you for contracting COVID-19, but your employer will likely need to pay you during at least a portion of that suspension.
The federal Americans with Disabilities Act (the “ADA”) allows employers to make employees stay home if they have symptoms of COVID-19. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (the “CDC”) states that employees who become sick with symptoms of COVID-19 should leave the workplace. The ADA does not prevent employers from following this advice.
An ADA-covered employer may send employees home if they display influenza-like symptoms during a pandemic. Applying this principle to current CDC guidance on COVID-19, this means that an employer can send home an employee with COVID-19 or symptoms associated with it.
Similarly, an employer may delay the start date of an applicant who has COVID-19 or symptoms associated with it.
According to current CDC guidance, an individual with COVID-19 or symptoms associated with it should not be in the workplace.
Similarly, the New Jersey Attorney General recently issued guidance confirming that, consistent with the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (the “NJLAD”), an employer may send you home from work if you have symptoms of COVID-19.
Based on public health guidance, it may be appropriate for employers to determine whether an employee is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, such as a fever and a cough, and to send employees home if they are symptomatic. However, under the NJLAD, when an employee is sent home because they have or are perceived to have a disability related to COVID-19, an employer must provide reasonable accommodations to the employee (such as allowing them to telework or providing them with time off from work) unless doing so would impose an undue hardship on the employer’s operations.
Let’s move on to the issue of whether, should your employer in New Jersey suspend you for contracting COVID-19, your employer must pay you during your suspension.
Your rights to paid sick leave when you contract COVID-19 arise under two different statutes: the New Jersey Earned Sick Leave Law and the New Jersey Temporary Disability Insurance Law.
The New Jersey Earned Sick Leave Law
Under the New Jersey Earned Sick Leave Law, most employees have a right to accrue up to 40 hours of earned sick leave per year. You can use earned sick leave to take time off from work, among other reasons, you need diagnosis, care, treatment, or recovery for a mental or physical illness, injury or health condition, or you need preventative medical care.
Thus, you may use earned sick leave under the New Jersey Earned Sick Leave law for reasons relating to diagnosis, care, treatment, or recovery of COVID-19.
The New Jersey Temporary Disability Insurance Law
Further, New Jersey Temporary Disability Insurance benefits can partially replace your wages when you have to stop working because of a physical or mental health condition or other disability unrelated to your work, including pregnancy, childbirth, and COVID-19. Most New Jersey workers qualify.
To be eligible, you must (i) have earned at least $11,000 in total or $220 weekly for 20 weeks total in employment in the 18 months before the start of your claim, (ii) stop working due to an illness or injury that is not caused by your job, and (iii) be under the care of a licensed medical provider.
Under the New Jersey Temporary Disability Insurance Law, you may receive up to 85% of your average wages, up to $903 per week. Your medical provider certifies how long you need to recover from your medical condition, up to a maximum of 26 weeks.
New Jersey is one of only a very few states that provide compulsory health and accident insurance for workers. Employee’s subject to the New Jersey Temporary Disability Benefits Law are automatically included in a state plan of disability benefits which is financed through employer and employee contributions.
The Temporary Disability Benefits law is intended to protect against wage loss caused by an inability to work because of non-occupational illness, accidents or other disabilities of workers and members of their families.
For purposes of the New Jersey Temporary Disability Benefits Law, a disability occurs where a covered individual suffers an accident or illness not arising out of and in the course of his employment or not otherwise compensable under the New Jersey Workers’ Compensation Law (such as, for example, COVID-19).
Benefits for an individual’s own disability are payable from the eighth consecutive day of disability and for each day thereafter that the disability continues, up to a maximum of 26 weeks.
To sum up, although your employer in New Jersey may lawfully suspend you for contracting COVID-19, two New Jersey laws likely entitle you to be paid for at least a portion of the time that you are out of work.
If you are an executive or a professional in New Jersey and you believe that you have been wrongfully terminated, that you’ve been denied salary, bonuses, commissions, or other wages that are owed to you, or that your employer has failed or refused to reasonably accommodate your disability, call New Jersey Employment Attorney David S. Rich at (201) 740-2828 today.
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