While the COVID-19 pandemic has certainly put a strain on employers across New Jersey and led to furloughs and layoffs that arise out of business necessity, New Jersey has also stepped up to also provide some protection to employees in the present and in the case of other future outbreaks.
Specifically, Governor Murphy recently signed legislation into law which prohibits employers from taking adverse employment action against employees who request or take time off due to an actual or potential infectious disease diagnosis upon the provision of a written recommendation from a licensed New Jersey medical care provider.
The law also prohibits an employer from refusing to reinstate that employee to their prior position following such a medical leave and therefore requires such reinstatement at the same conditions of employment existing before the leave. Despite the fact that this statute was enacted due to the COVID-19 pandemic, in no way is it limited to this particular pandemic and has no apparent expiration date.
In line with this law, New Jersey also expanded the New Jersey Family Leave Act (“FLA”), which provides employees of Companies of a certain size and qualification unpaid leave time up to 12-weeks with full job protection to care for a family member with a serious medical condition, to specifically provide such unpaid leave in situations involving “an illness caused by an epidemic of a communicable disease, a known or suspected exposure to a communicable disease, or efforts to prevent spread of a communicable disease…”
This protected leave time is thus specifically extended to those individuals who are either caring for a family member who has been infected by a communicable disease such as COVID-19 or who has been recommended or directed to be quarantined or isolated due to actual or potential exposure to the disease.
Therefore, an employee’s job is protected given the above qualifications and they must be reinstated upon the expiration of this period of quarantine or isolation.
As such, while COVID-19 has presented challenges for everyone, including employers, New Jersey is actively extending protections to employees to assist them in maintaining employment during this difficult time.
The above laws are just two important examples of such protections and if you feel that you are being treated unfairly by your employer, including in violation of the laws discussed above, you should contact the lawyers at O’Connor, Parsons, Lane & Noble immediately for a free consultation as to how we can possibly assist you during this trying time.