FAQ on Time off Benefits During the Coronavirus Pandemic for NJ Members

April 23, 2020

I tested positive for coronavirus or was put on quarantine. What should I do?

1) Notify your organizer right away. The Union’s position is that the Employer should pay for this time out of work, without deducting or using your sick leave/PTO bank. If the Employer will not pay you, ask your Union delegate or organizer to file a grievance with your Employer and demand that you are paid.

2) If your Employer refuses to pay you, file for unemployment right away. Even if you have sick leave or PTO time, the best way to make sure you get money ASAP is to file for unemployment. Being out of work for a few days without pay and/or having your hours reduced due to the pandemic can be considered a “FURLOUGH.” Unemployment insurance (“UI”) should pay you under these circumstances, even if there is no formal layoff from your employer. Your employer may tell you to file for Temporary Disability Insurance (“TDI”). Note that the NJ Department of Labor says on its website that Unemployment Insurance is the “optimal choice” over TDI because of the expanded federal benefits, and you cannot receive both UI and TDI. So, apply for UI.

All claims have a start date of the Sunday of the week in which the worker files the unemployment application. You must file by Saturday at 11:59 in the week in which you stopped working or were furloughed. If you delay, you will not be eligible for those weeks before you applied. If your last day of work is a Friday or Saturday, and you worked the full week, wait to file until after Sunday. Otherwise, you may inadvertently file for a week when you actually worked.

The government recently increased the amount of money that you are eligible for, so it is likely you may not lose any income. (NOTE: It is possible for unemployment claims to be denied at first. You should appeal and then it is likely to get approved.)

Applying online at myunemployment.nj.gov is fastest. If there are glitches in the system, keep trying. Note that you cannot save and return to your application so make sure it is fully submitted when you apply. Write down the confirmation number.

3) If you contract the virus on the job, file a workers’ comp claim. This is really important! Coronavirus can cause lasting, permanent health issues and, in the worst case, death. Workers’ compensation benefits can include: medical care, permanent disability benefits and, in the unfortunate event of death, benefits to your surviving spouse or dependents. Your employer may say you should file for Temporary Disability Insurance because it’s not certain you contracted the virus on the job. You know best whether you got it on the job, and your employer may just be looking to keep their workers compensation insurance costs down. You can obtain the paperwork from your employer, but we also strongly recommend that you hire a lawyer. The Union can provide a list of experienced law firms that do this work and can help you.

I have to take time off work to care for a family member sick with COVID-19. What should I do?

. 1) You are entitled to take time off. File a request with your employer to take Family Leave (FMLA), which provides up to 12 weeks of job-protected leave from work.

 . 2) File for Unemployment Insurance. The government recently increased the amount of money that you are eligible for, so you should not lose any income. (NOTE: While you may also be eligible for NJ Paid Family Leave Insurance, in most cases you will receive more money if you file for unemployment, so that is what we recommend.)

I am facing issues with childcare. What options do I have?

Many childcare centers across the state are still open to serve healthcare workers. The State of New Jersey will pay you up to $450 per week, depending on the age of your children, to cover much of the cost. For more information, visit childcarenj.gov/Emergency.

If you must remain at home to care for a child due to COVID-19 related closure of school or child care provider, you should:

1. File a request for Family Leave (FMLA) with your employer to take up to 12 weeks off. This will protect your job.

 2. File for Unemployment Insurance (UI) with the NJ Department of Labor. Note that we suggest, as does the NJ DOL, that you file for unemployment rather than NJ Paid Family Leave Insurance because the benefits are higher with UI.

What is workers’ compensation, and how do I file a claim?

If you contract coronavirus on the job, you are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. These benefits include:

(1) Medical treatment, with no deductibles or co-pays.

(2) Financial compensation for lost wages of 70% of your pay, up to $945 per week.

(3) Disability benefits if you experience permanent health effects.

(4) Benefits for your family in cases of death.

If you were diagnosed COVID-19 and believe you got it at work, you should notify the union and contact a lawyer immediately. You will need an experienced attorney specializing in Workers Compensation to assist you in filing your claim and advising you about your rights. If you need a referral you can contact the New Jersey State Bar Association or one of the law firms below which provide representation in the specified counties.

• Livingston Dimazario, LLP: Craig Livingston, Esq. or Anthony Brown, Esq.
workplacelawyers.com | (973) 661-4545 or (973)718-5178

(Representing workers in Essex, Union, Hudson, Bergen, Mt. Arlington, Lebanon, Middlesex, Monmouth and Ocean Counties).

• Levinson Axelrod, P.A.: Rich Marcolus, Esq.br /> njlawyers.com | (732) 787-3200 Representing workers in Mercer, Atlantic, Hunterdon, Cape May, Bridgeton, Camden and Mt. Holly Counties

*Note that these law offices are not affiliated with 1199SEIU.