New Law Lifts Burden of Proof For Worker’s Compensation Benefit Claims
No one has been exposed to the coronavirus more than essential workers such as first responders, nurses or caregivers in nursing homes. Yet, the struggle to clear the path for them to qualify for worker’s compensation benefits continues. A new bill signed by Governor Murphy will remove the burden of proof and will give essential workers the “benefit of the doubt” on claims dated back to March 9, 2020.
Before the law was passed, employees were required to prove they suffered a job-related illness or injury, just like any other workman’s compensation claim. Now, it will be presumed that symptoms reported during the ongoing health crisis are work-related. It now falls upon employers to prove that their employees were not exposed at the workplace.
There is no way that essential workers could have foreseen the conditions they are currently working in. New challenges arise each day, and yet these men and women continue to report to work and do their jobs. By taking on this high of a risk, the motivation must be more than a paycheck. They are putting their lives on the line.
The situation is just as unprecedented for employers. Their concerns are just as valid. This legislation could mean a whole new definition of crisis. An increase in worker’s compensation benefit claims will only add to the pile.
According to Michele Siekerka, president of the New Jersey Business and Industry Association, “there is federal CARES Act money specifically meant to rightfully cover the costs of essential workers who truly do contract COVID-19 on the job. Instead, that money was left on the table and our beleaguered employers are forced to pick up those costs”.
The lingering concern, of course, is that essential workers still live in the same world as the rest of us, and thus, can also contract the virus in social settings. They visit the grocery store, and possibly travel to other states. The bill will allow these individuals to claim they were infected at their workplace.
These are new challenges that small business owners face. Stay tuned, as the law in this area will likely continue to evolve.
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