Need to Miss Work Because of Coronavirus? Your Rights in NJ
Don't feel safe going to work because of coronavirus fears? You may be out of luck.
But you do have some protections should the novel coronavirus hit too close to home and you're forced to put your job on the back burner.
Depending on how long you've been with the same employer, and the size of a company, the federal Family and Medical Leave Act grants workers up to 12 weeks off for certain family and medical reasons, such as a serious health condition.
"Certainly, coronavirus would constitute a serious health condition under that law," said Adam Kleinfeldt, a partner at Deutsch Atkins, P.C.
The Hackensack-based workers' rights attorney noted the federal law applies to workers who've worked at least 1,250 hours over the last 12 months, and employers who have at least 50 workers within a 75-mile radius.
New Jersey's family leave law, meanwhile, does not apply to an employee's personal health problems, but does let workers take time to care for a spouse, child, parent or partner who's suffering. The state's Paid Family Leave Act gives eligible workers up to six weeks of paid (two-thirds of salary) time off.
Your fears of handshakes and sharing desks, though, don't cut it when all your allotted time off has been exhausted and you're itching to stay away from the workplace.
"I drive down Route 80 everyday to get to work, and I'm afraid I'm going to get rear-ended by a tractor trailer. That doesn't give me the excuse not to come to work," Kleinfeldt said.
Marilou Halvorsen, president and CEO of the New Jersey Restaurant & Hospitality Association, said the novel coronavirus has been a "very prevalent discussion" of late in her industry, but employees haven't reached the point they're fearful to show up.
"Restaurants and hotels certainly always have to practice very high standards of sanitation, but now even more so it's critical," Halvorsen said.
Signed in 2005, a New Jersey law does grant job protections to workers who may not actually be carrying the virus but are placed in quarantine to be safe, perhaps due to prior travel or activities. The same law applies to individuals placed in isolation.
"Under New Jersey law, provided the employee within 90 days of being released from isolation or quarantine seeks reemployment, the employee would have to give that person their job back with the same pay, unless the employer can show that the circumstances at work have changed so much as to make it impossible or unreasonable to reinstate the employee," Kleinfeldt said.