What Every Worker Should Know During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Here at Goldman Davis Krumholz & Dillon we represent those employees who have been discriminated against at their job, and those who have been wrongfully terminated. We recognize that this is an unprecedented time in our nation’s history and that many of our clients and former clients have lost their jobs during the COVID-19 Crisis. While many of our valued clients have lost their jobs simply as a result of their employer shutting down and no longer doing business, there are others that have lost their jobs or have been threatened to be terminated unlawfully.
The following is our attempt to bring you up to date on your rights and what your employer may or may not be able to do lawfully. Please understand that rules pertaining to employers are changing rapidly, so if you are unsure of your rights, please contact us so that we can provide you with an accurate analysis of your particular situation.
Under normal circumstances if you have been lawfully terminated from your job and have not been fired due to misconduct, you are entitled to 26 weeks of unemployment benefits. The maximum amount of these weekly benefits is approximately $660.00 per week (based upon a percentage of your normal weekly wages).
Pursuant to new federal laws that were recently passed, you are now entitled to an additional
13 weeks of unemployment benefits. You do not have to do anything special to receive these benefits, as long as you continue to properly report to your unemployment office (and mostly that is done online), you will automatically receive those benefits.
More importantly, you are also entitled to an additional $600.00 per week, up to the amount of your normal weekly salary. The purpose of this new law is to try to enable those who have lost their jobs due to COVID-19 to earn close to what they were normally earning before losing their jobs. Again, you do not have to do anything special to be entitled to these benefits. It is unclear whether the additional amount will come in the same check as your unemployment or a separate check, and when those payments will begin. If you have any questions re: your unemployment, please call or contact our office to obtain more information.
Many people ask about what options you may have if you are considered an essential employee but yet, you are concerned about contracting COVID-19 in the workplace. This is a more difficult question.
If your employer provides you what they believe is a safe place to work, you are required to report to your job. However, the New Jersey Department of Labor has allowed individuals to use earned sick leave where a particular employee has an apprehension about leaving their house because of the inability to social distance. If you have exhausted your earned sick time, and do not report to work, you probably will not be entitled to unemployment.
New Jersey Family Leave Act:
Under recent changes (as a result of COVID-19) in New Jersey’s Family Leave Act the definition of “serious health condition” has been expanded to include an illness caused by an epidemic of a communicable disease, a known or suspect exposure to a communicable disease or efforts to prevent the spread of a communicable disease, which requires in-home care or treatment of a family member of the employee due to
1. The issuance by a healthcare provider or the commissioner or other public health authority of a determination that the presence in the community of a family member may jeopardize the health of others; and
2. The recommendation, direction or order of the provider or authority that the family member be isolated or quarantined because of suspected exposure to the communicable disease.
New Jersey Temporary Disability Benefits Law
Under New Jersey Temporary Disability Benefits Law, the definition of serious health condition has been expanded to now include the family member of the employee. In addition, the definition of what is a compensable disability now includes “leave to care for family members suffering from sickness”, sickness now being defined as serious health condition has described above. The new law also eliminates the seven-day waiting period for benefits eligibility when benefits are sought related to an employee’s own serious health condition only if it falls within the newly expanded definition.
We at Goldman Davis Krumholz & Dillon understand that each day brings new interpretations to the law and new crises for every family. We are now experiencing something that most of us have never seen. Please rest assured that our firm is still fully operating during these trying times and will be available to answer any questions and assist you in any way we can.
Please stay healthy and follow the guidance of our government and health officials.