A new Proposed Senate Bill 2380 sponsored by New Jersey Senate President Stephen Sweeney seeks to create a new legal presumption of compensability for “essential employees,” including public safety workers and virtually all health care workers who file COVID-19 workers’ compensation claims. This proposed legislation would require a Judge of Compensation to presume that any COVID-19 claim for public safety and health care workers must be found to be work related unless the employer could rebut the same by “clear and convincing evidence.” The current Workers Compensation Act N.J.S.A. 34:15-1 et seq., does not provide for this enhanced standard.
COVID-19 illnesses arise when the virus spreads in any close human contact, whether it is through work or outside work. Judges should understand that health care workers and public safety workers often work in close proximity to people who are already infected.
At this critical juncture, we need to protect our front line workers by making certain COVID-19 claims compensable through a new legal presumption.