Worker Benefits and Protections during COVID-19January 13, 2022
As the Omicron variant spreads, it is important for you to understand the benefits that are available to you in the event that you or a member of your family gets sick. Here is what you should know about the different benefit programs that exist in New Jersey:
Workers Compensation Insurance
If you contract COVID at work, you may be eligible for workers’ comp. This insurance will cover most of your lost income from being unable to work. It will also cover all of your medical expenses from the illness (now, and in the future if you continue to experience effects of the disease later on). If you need treatment for your COVID, there is a presumption in the NJ Workers’ Compensation law that the treatment should not be paid by you or your personal health insurance. Therefore, you should ask your employer to pay for this treatment. Otherwise, you may be stuck with copayments or other costs.
If you already contracted COVID over the past two years, you are still eligible to file a workers comp claim for that illness (there is a two year statute of limitations). Workers’ Compensation cases for “brain fog,” breathing or orthopedic problems should be filed well before two years from when you tested positive for COVID. However, it may be possible to file even after two years if the symptoms are newly developed.
We recommend using a workers’ comp attorney for handling your case to prevent your employer from improperly denying you benefits. There is typically no up-front fee. A law firm we recommend is Livingston Demarzio, LLC workplacelawyers.com phone: 973-943-4106).
Temporary Disability Insurance (TDI)
If you contract COVID outside of work, and it makes you unable to work, you are eligible to apply for temporary disability insurance. In addition, if your healthcare provider certifies that you are unable to work because you are at high risk for COVID-19 due to an underlying health condition, you may also be eligible for Temporary Disability benefits. This program will cover 85% of your average weekly wage (the maximum benefit rate is $993/week) after the first week of being unable to work, up to a maximum of 26 weeks. (TDI does not cover lost income during the first week of illness.) For more information, visit www.myleavebenefits.nj.gov.
Family Leave Insurance (TDI)
If you have to stop working to care for a sick family member, family leave insurance will cover 85% of your average weekly wage (the maximum benefit rate is $993/week) for up to 12 consec-utive weeks (or 8 weeks of intermittent leave) in a 12 month period. Family members include any blood relative (children, grandchildren, parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, etc.) as well as individuals who are not related to you but whom you consider family. For more infor-mation, visit: www.myleavebenefits.nj.gov.
Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
FMLA is a federal program that provides unpaid leaves of absence of up to 12 weeks in a 12 month period for personal or family medical reasons. This program does not cover lost income but protects your job while you are out. You can apply for FMLA in addition to the programs listed above so that your employer will be legally obligated to return you to your job when you return. For more information, visit www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/fmla.
If you have any questions, please contact your organizer or call the Union office at 732-287-8113.