Working during COVID-19 but think it’s wrong? Your options in NJ
New Jersey advises workers not to apply for benefits such as unemployment if they continue to be paid by their employer during the COVID-19 emergency.
But there are plenty of employees throughout the Garden State who claim they shouldn't be working at this time, at least in the office or in the field, but are still expected to do so.
"Some businesses have gone so far as to deem all of their employees essential, to force them to report to work," Gov. Phil Murphy said during a daily press briefing on the crisis. "Others are simply refusing flat out to follow the order."
Issued over the weekend by Murphy, Executive Order 107 mandates that all businesses and nonprofits, when practicable, must accommodate their workers for telework or work-from-home arrangements. To the extent an entity's employees cannot perform their duties remotely, the order states, the business or nonprofit should do its best to reduce staff on site to ensure essential operations can continue.
In the same order, Murphy shuttered all non-essential retail businesses to the public.
"If employers are cautious, hopefully we flatten the curve sooner rather than later," said Steven Adler, chair of the Labor and Employment Law Practice Group of Mandelbaum Salsburg, based in Roseland.
While the government is doing its best to limit physical interaction in order to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus, Adler said, businesses are also attempting to comply in a way that ensures their operations continue to survive.
"Sometimes employees are getting caught in that back and forth," Adler said.
According to information provided by the state Department of Labor, benefits under New Jersey's Earned Sick Leave Law are available to workers who refuse to work when their employer defies a public order to close, or those who avoid the office in order to protect themselves from the disease.
More help for these individuals, at least those with children, is set to take effect April 2 under federal law, which grants paid leave for parents whose child's has been closed due to COVID-19 concerns, or who cannot access child care due to the disease.