On March 20, 2020, Governor Phil Murphy signed Assembly Bill 3848 (“A3848”) into law, which provides employment protections to employees during the ongoing Public Health Emergency and State of Emergency declared by Governor Murphy regarding the COVID-19 pandemic. Effective immediately, employers are prohibited from terminating or penalizing an employee who requests or takes time off from work based on the recommendation of a medical professional that the employee take that time off because the employee has, or is likely to have, an infectious disease that may be transmitted in the workplace. Further, employers must reinstate an employee who takes such time off to the position he or she held when the leave commenced with no reduction in seniority, status, employment benefits, pay, or other terms and conditions of employment.
According to the new law, employees may file a complaint with the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development or commence an action in court to seek reinstatement of their employment. The consequences an employer may face for violating the new law include being required to reinstate the employee to the position previously held and a fine of $2,500 for each violation.
New Jersey employers should be wary of this new law when considering taking personnel actions against employees and consult with counsel regarding the risks behind laying off employees who requested or took leave at the direction of their healthcare provider for a suspected or diagnosed infectious disease, including COVID-19.