The Covid-19 Health Crisis –Common Questions and Answers For Employees In New York and New Jersey
By Kara Miller
The health crisis caused by Covid-19 has caused dramatic changes for employees, with more coming on an almost daily basis. Although there is still much uncertainty, below are answers to some common questions and links to additional resources.
What If I Get Sick From Coronavirus And Cannot Work?
If you work in New York City, you may be entitled to paid sick leave. More information about New York City’s Paid Safe and Sick Leave Laws can be found here: https://www.vandallp.com/blogs/sick-from-coronavirus-here-is-what-you-need-to-know-about-new-york-city-paid-safe-and-sick-leave-laws?locale=en
You may be able to apply for temporary disability benefits. If you work in New York, information about these benefits and how to apply can be found here http://www.wcb.ny.gov/content/main/offthejob/db-overview.jsp. If you work in New Jersey, information about these benefits and how to apply can be found here: https://myleavebenefits.nj.gov/worker/tdi/.
You can also apply for leave under the Family Medical Leave Act “FMLA”. FMLA leave is unpaid but provides job protection. Information about FMLA leave and how to apply can be found here: https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/fmla.
The US House of Representatives also passed legislation requiring all employers with more than 50 and fewer than 500 employees, and all federal and state employers, to provide 10 days of paid sick time to employees who need leave for reasons connected to the Covid-19 public health emergency. The US Senate is expected to pass this legislation, but it has not yet become a law at the time this article was written.
What If I Cannot Work Because I Am Taking Care of a Sick Family Member?
The legislation passed by the US House of Representative would include 10 days of paid sick time to care for family members. A family member is defined as an employee’s parent, spouse, child, and an individual with whom the employee is in a “committed relationship.”
If you work in New York, you may be able to apply for New York Paid Family Leave. More information about these benefits and how to apply can be found here: https://paidfamilyleave.ny.gov/
If you work in New Jersey, you may be able to apply for New Jersey Family Leave. More information about these benefits and how to apply can be found here: https://myleavebenefits.nj.gov/worker/fli/
FMLA Leave is also available to take care of immediate family members (see above).
What If My Employer Is Closed Temporarily Or Has No Work For Me Right Now?
You may be eligible for unemployment benefits. If you work in New York, information about unemployment benefits can be found here: https://labor.ny.gov/unemploymentassistance.shtm. New York State has agreed to waive the 7-day waiting period for unemployment benefits. If you work in New Jersey, information about unemployment benefits can be found here: https://myunemployment.nj.gov/.
What if My Employer Still Forces Me To Come To Work During The Health Crises?
This is an area of much uncertainty. Failing to abide by your employer’s orders could result in termination of your job and there is limited recourse in the short term. As more businesses are being temporarily closed or restricted, this issue will hopefully start to become less of a problem for non-emergency personnel. If you are experiencing this issue, it may be helpful to remind your employer about two provisions of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (“OSHA”). The General Duty Clause, Section 5(a)(1), requires employers to furnish to each worker “employment and a place of employment, which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm.” Under this standard, employers must take reasonable steps to protect employees from recognized hazards. Another useful provision may be OSHA’s Personal Protective Equipment standards, which require use of gloves, eye and face protection, and respiratory protection to prevent identified hazards. This standard is frequently cited for healthcare employers such as hospitals.