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30 Oct

September 2020 New Jersey HR Legal Updates

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New Jersey Department Of Labor Issues Final Regulations for COVID-19 Job Protection Law

What happened?
On March 20, 2020, New Jersey passed a new job protection law for COVID-19–related job loss scenarios. The New Jersey Department of Labor (DOL) released the final regulations to this law early September 2020.

What are the details?
The law generally protects employees from adverse actions when they take or request time off at the written or electronic recommendation of a medical professional licensed in New Jersey because they have or are likely to have an infectious disease that may infect others in the workplace. The regulations define “medical professional licensed in New Jersey” broadly to include, among others, registered nurses licensed by the state of New Jersey.

The law’s effectiveness is expressly tied to EO 103 and therefore, presumably sunsets following the expiration or revocation of the EO. As a reminder, EO 103 is the executive order establishing the state of emergency and declaring the public health emergency.

The law further provides employees with re-instatement rights and protections for seniority, status, benefits, pay, and other conditions of employment. An aggrieved individual may pursue a claim through the NJ DOL or initiate an action in a court of competent jurisdiction with potential remedies that include re-instatement and a $2,500 fine for each violation.

Additionally, the regulations provide that, upon expiration of a protected leave, the employer must re-instate the employee to the same position with no reduction in seniority, status, employment benefits, pay, or other terms of employment. However, if the employer had filled the position, the employee must be re-instated to an equivalent position. The regulations provide for an exception where the employee lost the position due to a reduction in force or layoff where the individual would have lost the employment in any event.

Finally, the Division of Wage and Hour Compliance, Wage Collection Section, will process all claims and conduct any necessary hearings pursuant to the statute. The NJ DOL will utilize the “ABC Test” to determine whether an individual qualifies as an “employee” entitled to the protections under the law.

EO 103 can be found here.

The act granting these job protections can be found here.

What do employers need to do?
New Jersey employers might need to provide training to management staff if any significant changes to workplace policy are needed.