Why you shouldn’t hide COVID-19 from your boss, colleagues
Garden State residents who are actually on the job during this public health emergency — at an office or behind a food counter, for example — should let the truth prevail over pride if they become ill with COVID-19, experts and New Jersey rules suggest.
For the safety of everyone else at the workplace, along with customers, and even for your own good, you're strongly advised to let your employer know about your coronavirus diagnosis, and not keep it hidden out of shame.
"The employer has an obligation to keep the identity of the employee confidential," said Adam Kleinfeldt, a workers' rights attorney with Deutsch Atkins in Hackensack. "The employer, however, has an obligation ... to inform employees who have been in contact with the employee."
On top of assurance of privacy, Kleinfeldt said, employees dealing with illness have a host of benefits available to them — some of which did not exist prior to the start of the pandemic.
During this health emergency, New Jersey law prohibits an employer from firing a worker who has or likely has contracted the novel coronavirus and is required to miss work for recovery or isolation purposes.
Compensation during your absence from work, meanwhile, is possible through state and federal programs. Workers can use their accrued Earned Sick Leave, made possible with a 2018 state law, and up to 80 hours of Federal Emergency Paid Sick Leave, according to the state Department of Labor.
Benefits such as unemployment insurance, temporary disability insurance and/or workers' compensation are also possible, depending on the scenario.
"Employment law aside — it is conceptually possible for you to be criminally charged for knowingly or recklessly spreading a deadly disease to another person," Kleinfeldt added.
With an executive order made official in early November, New Jersey employers are required to follow strict protocols in order to prevent the spread of the virus in the workplace. Among them, daily health checks before workers' shifts begin.
If a worker were to lie on this screening, and the employer found out, Kleinfeldt suggested, the worker can be fired and lose out on the various benefits in place to protect people with coronavirus.