Frontline Essential Employees Need Workers Compensation Reform to Protect Against the Coronavirus
Frontline essential workers continue to perform their jobs in extremely dangerous environments and are being infected with coronavirus as a result. The New Jersey State AFL-CIO demands that Gov. Phil Murphy and the State Legislature take immediate steps to reform the workers compensation rules to reflect the needs of workers infected with the coronavirus.
“Our members have provided an unprecedented response to the need of the public, and it’s critical that our lawmakers don’t forget these workers’ own needs as well” said Charles Wowkanech, President of the New Jersey State AFL-CIO. “As much as we appreciate seeing the nightly news clips of cheering neighbors welcoming home first responders after a grueling day’s work at health care facilities treating coronavirus victims, more must be done to ensure the values we put on display are indeed embraced by our elected officials,” Wowkanech concluded.
New Jersey’s workers compensation system requires that in order to be eligible, claimants must prove they were injured or infected at their workplace. For a disease with the scope and far-reaching infection rate as coronavirus, requiring a worker to prove they contracted it at their workplace is nearly impossible. For this reason, the New Jersey State AFL-CIO calls on the Governor and the State Legislature to come together to amend the law’s employee “burden of proof” requirement to provide a presumption of infection at the workplace for essential employees that have contracted the coronavirus.
As of today, there are over 47,000 confirmed infections in New Jersey, resulting in 1,500 deaths. Our members are on the front lines caring for these patients and ensuring the public has access to essential services during the pandemic. We must act NOW to ensure they are also cared for.
Legislation is currently being proposed, and the New Jersey State AFL-CIO urges swift enactment.