In July of 2019, Governor Murphy signed into law the “Thomas P. Canzanella Twenty First Century First Responders Protection Act,” which expanded workers’ compensation benefits to “public safety workers” who become ill as a result of exposure to diseases or toxins by creating a presumption that the illness is work-related. Since then, the ongoing COVID-19 crisis revealed some of the fault lines in our economy and healthcare system. Governor Murphy and New Jersey’s legislature responded by enacting A-3999/S-2380 (https://www.njleg.state.nj.us/2020/Bills/S2500/2380_R1.PDF). Governor Murphy signed the bill into law on September 14, 2020.
The new law expands workers’ compensation coverage to “essential employees” diagnosed with COVID-19 by creating the same rebuttable presumption that the illness is work-related if the employee can demonstrate exposure at work. The law applies to both public and private sector employees. “Essential employees” are defined as public safety workers, first responders, and fire, police, or other emergency responders; healthcare workers, emergency transporters, and social service providers; any worker who performs functions involving 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; and, finally, any employee deemed “essential” by a public authority. Importantly, the law is retroactive to March 9, 2020.
As with all work-related injuries or illnesses, it is best to contact an attorney as soon as possible so a formal claim can be filed. If you have any questions about eligibility under this change to our worker’s compensation laws, call Costello & Mains, LLC for a free consultation. All worker’s compensation cases are done on a contingent basis, which means there is no fee unless we’re successful. Visit us at www.costellomains.com or call at 866-944-3371