Your workplace’s COVID-19 waiver is useless, attorney says
"Nobody should sign one."
That's according to Alan Hyde, distinguished professor of law at Rutgers Law School in Newark, who says coronavirus liability waivers — which some workers say they've been asked to sign upon returning to their job — are pointless.
Such a waiver purports to establish a place of business can not be found liable should a worker contract COVID-19 on the job.
But employees who get ill on the job are already covered under workers' compensation, the insurance program that provides medical treatment, wage replacement and permanent disability compensation, as well as death benefits to dependents of those who have died as a result of their employment.
"You can't waive that," Hyde said.
However, proving the workplace is to blame for one's infection would likely be a difficult task, unless many employees are dealing with the same situation at once.
Even though one's illness may coincide with a return to work, it still could have been contracted, for instance, while at the supermarket or at a gathering with friends and family.
Under legislation approved by the full New Jersey Senate in late May and referred to the Assembly Labor Committee, COVID-19 cases contracted by essential workers would be presumed as work-related for the purpose of employment benefits such as worker's comp. If it were to become law, the rule would be retroactive to March 9, 2020, one week before Gov. Phil Murphy started ordering that many businesses shut their doors to the public.
Instead of "spending the money on lawyers drafting useless documents" like a COVID-19 waiver, businesses should use the funds to improve cleanliness protocols in the workplace, Hyde said.
"The employer looks uncaring," Hyde said of employees asking for signed waivers. "It sends a terrible message to employees, but as a legal matter it also doesn't accomplish anything."
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