COVID-19 Virus: Your Legal Rights Regarding Time Off

As the COVID-19 virus outbreak spreads across New Jersey, public health experts are advising those who feel sick to stay home. Here's a look at some of the labor protections available for employees, especially those who cannot afford to miss a paycheck.

Paid Sick Leave

Employees do not need to be sick themselves to use this time off. They can use their earned hours to: stay home if their workplace is closed due to a public health emergency; care for family members; or attend children’s required school-related meetings, etc.

Governor Murphy signed a paid sick leave law that went into effect in October 2018 that allows full- and part-time employees in New Jersey to accrue up to 40 hours of paid sick time off to use at companies of all sizes. The law applies to any person, firm, business, educational institution, nonprofit agency, corporation, limited liability company, or other entity with New Jersey-based employees, including a temporary help service firm. Employers of every size are covered, including employers based outside of New Jersey.It does not apply to unionized construction workers, hospital health care workers who are paid per diem, or public employees who already receive sick pay.

Workers don't immediately get days off to use. Businesses must provide one hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours an employee works, but a company can advance the time. An employee can start using hours after 120 days of work. Workers can carry over up to 40 hours of sick leave into the next year.

Family Leave

The New Jersey Family Leave Act law allows workers to earn up to 6 weeks of paid time off to care for a sick family member or after having a child. The law applies to companies with 30 or more employees.

Workers can receive up to two-thirds of their paycheck, or up to a maximum of $667 a week. Starting on July 1, 2020, workers will get 12 weeks of paid time off and can receive 85% of their weekly wages up to $881 a week.

Workers can use benefits to care for parents, spouses or civil union partners, children, siblings, grandparents, grandchildren, parents-in-law, any blood relative or someone considered "equivalent" of family. The employee cannot take family leave for his own health condition, and must have worked at this company for at least one year.

Employees also have up to 12 weeks of unpaid family leave under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act if they contracted the virus or need to take care of a family member with the coronavirus. The key difference between the federal law and the state law is that under the federal law employees can take leave for their own illness.

If you test positive for COVID-19, here are some additional options to consider:

  1. Use earned sick leave
  2. Apply for temporary disability insurance: File a claim online at myleavebenefits.nj.gov if you contracted the virus while not at work. Your health care provider will need to report your diagnosis and length of time you would be expected not to be at work.
  3. Did you contract it at work? You may be eligible for workers compensation insurance: If you contract the virus for a work-related reason, like serving someone with the virus at a restaurant, or interacting with a coworker with the virus, you may be eligible for workers’ compensation insurance benefits.

If you have any questions regarding COVID-19 and its effect on your employment, please contact us at mschley@schleylaw.com or at 732-325-0318.