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COVID-19 Relief Law - NJ Employment Law Update


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6/12/2020
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The Department of Labor ("DOL") has issued guidance regarding to the return to work and unemployment benefits. The guidance clarified two key departures from the ordinary rule that individuals are only eligible for unemployment if they became unemployed through no fault of their own and are able, willing, and available to work.

New Jersey state law provides that an individual may be eligible for unemployment when they quit a job with “good cause attributable to the work” or because “working conditions are so unsafe, unhealthful, or dangerous as to constitute good cause attributable to such work.”  N.J.A.C. 12:17-9.1, 9.4.  Traditionally, this is a difficult standard to meet.  
 
The DOL has issued new guidelines about how it will assess unemployment claims made on this basis during the COVID-19 pandemic.  It will consider several factors including:
 
  1. Employer’s efforts to create a safer workplace;
  2. Compliance with Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) guidelines;
  3. Compliance with guidance from the Department of Labor, Department of Health, and State Police;
  4. Compliance with guidance from industry groups and associations; &
  5. Compliance with the Governor’s executive orders.

 

DOL guidance for employers includes:

  1. Infectious disease preparedness and response plan;
  2. Options to work from home;
  3. Extra hand washing stations and break time to use them;
  4. Increase sanitation and cleaning;
  5. Providing personal protective equipment, to limit occupancy, and
  6. Enforcing social distancing guidelines.

 

New Jersey law provides that while ordinarily refusing an offer of “suitable work” will result in a loss of benefits, a determination of whether work is “suitable” considers “the degree of risk involved to health, safety and morals.”  N.J.S.A. 43:21-5(c); N.J.A.C. 12:17-11.2.  A claimant must be able to show the concern is “so compelling so as to prevent the claimant from accepting work.”  N.J.A.C. 12:17-11.2. 

The DOL shall consider the factors listed above in determining whether a claimant may refuse work as “unsuitable” and continue receiving benefits. 
 

For any questions or assistance, please contact the Attorneys at Fazzio Law, we are in your corner!



Category: COVID-19 Relief Law

Labels: 'COVID-19'

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