Employment Lawyers Fighting for Workers’ Rights in New Jersey, Pennsylvania & Throughout the United States

COVID-19-Related Benefits and Rights available under Federal, New Jersey and Pennsylvania law.

The COVID-19 pandemic has presented complex issues regarding workers’ rights and protections. On March 27, 2020, Congress enacted the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act Act (CARES Act), which provides $2 trillion in relief related to the ongoing crisis. This act enacts emergency Pandemic Unemployment Benefits and provides for direct cash payments to most Americans. On March 18, 2020, Congress enacted the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which among other benefits, provides 2-weeks of job-protected paid sick leave to certain employees, and up to 3 months of protected paid leave for employees who have to take time off to care for children whose schools or places of care have been closed due to COVID-19 precautions.

Additionally, current protections and benefits such as the FMLA, ADA, and state law are still applicable. Rights and benefits available to New Jersey and Pennsylvania employees are explained below, and include information regarding the following:

If you have a question about your rights, benefits which might be available to you, or concerns about something that is happening in your workplace, please call our firm at 856-685-7420 for a free consultation with an experienced employment law attorney.

Coronavirus Economic Impact Payments

As part of the CARES Act, Congress has authorized direct payments to certain individuals to assist with the disruption caused by COVID-19. Tax filers with adjusted income of up to $75,000 for individuals and $150,000 for married couples will receive $1200 for individuals and $2400 for married couples. For filers with income above those amounts, the payment amount is reduced by $5 for each $100 above the $75,000/$150,000 thresholds. Single filers with income exceeding $99,000 and $198,000 for joint filers with no children are not eligible. Parents will also receive $500 per qualified child.

The IRS will automatically send the checks to individuals based on either their 2019 or (if you have not yet filed your 2019 return) your 2018 tax return. If you receive your IRS refund checks through direct deposit, the IRS will deposit the economic impact payment in that same account. The IRS is also setting up a portal to allow individuals to provide bank information to set up direct deposit in lieu of receiving the check through the mail. Individuals who do not typically file a tax return will have to file a simple return with basic information to receive the payment.

More information is available at https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/economic-impact-payments-what-you-need-to-know.

Expanded Pandemic Unemployment Benefits available for Individuals laid off, temporarily suspended, or with reduced hours due to COVID-19 (including independent contractors)

On March 27, 2020, Congress expanded unemployment benefits to individuals who are not otherwise eligible for statewide unemployment benefits, for instance if you exhausted benefits, did not work at your place of employment for long enough to be eligible for statewide benefits, or worked as an independent contractor or are self-employed, you will be eligible for Pandemic Unemployment Insurance if you experience a termination or reduction in work due to COVID-19. Additionally, all unemployment recipients will be receiving an additional $600 per week on top of their regular benefit. You can apply for this unemployment insurance through your regular state unemployment office.

Pennsylvania employees may apply for such benefits here.

New Jersey employees may apply for such benefits here.

If you are temporarily furloughed or working reduced hours, and you apply for unemployment benefits, your employer cannot retaliate against you for doing so in either Pennsylvania or New Jersey.

Newly Enacted Paid Sick Leave and Emergency Family Leave effective April 1, 2020

Emergency Paid Sick Leave (Effective April 1, 2020) 

On March 18, 2020, Congress enacted the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act as part of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. This act provides for 80 hours of paid sick leave for full-time employees and for two-weeks of paid sick leave for part-time employees based on the average number of hours worked every two weeks. These protections go into effect on April 1, 2020.

This paid sick leave can be used because: (1) the employee is subject to a federal, State, or local quarantine order related to COVID-19; (2) has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine due to concerns related to COVID-19; (3) is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and seeking a medical diagnosis; (4) is caring for an individual subject to a quarantine or self-quarantine order; (5) is caring for a child because the child’s school or place of care has closed due to COVID-19 precautions.

This sick leave is available for immediate use regardless of how long the employee has worked for their employer.

It is unlawful for any employer to discharge, discipline, or retaliate in any other manner who takes this leave or filed a complaint regarding this sick leave with the Department of Labor.

Public Health Emergency Leave (Effective April 1, 2020) 

On March 18, 2020, Congress enacted the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act as part of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. This act provided for up to 12 weeks of paid leave for employees unable to work or telework due to the need to care for their minor child because the child’s school or place of care has been closed or is otherwise unavailable due to a public health emergency. This entitlement to leave will go into effect on April 1, 2020.

This leave will be available to any employee who has been employed for at least 30 days by any employer who employs fewer than 500 employees. The Department of Labor may exclude certain health providers and emergency responders from coverage as an eligible employee, and may also exempt small businesses with less than 50 employees if the paid leave requirement would jeopardize the business’ survival.

Individuals who take such leave will in general be eligible for job restoration at the time their need for this leave ends. Like with Paid Sick Leave, employees cannot be retaliated against for seeking or using this type of leave.

Preexisting Federal Protections for COVID-19 under the FMLA and ADA

Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)  

Under the FMLA, certain employees are eligible for up to 12 weeks of unpaid job-protected leave for serious health conditions or to care for family members with serious health conditions for employees who have worked for larger employers (50 or more employees) for at least one year. You may be eligible for such leave if you have or suspect that you have COVID-19 and/or you have an underlying chronic medical condition which makes you at a higher risk of serious complications from COVID-19 illness. Additional information about the FMLA is available here.

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) 

Under the ADA, if you have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or with chronic medical condition which places you at higher risk upon infection with COVID-19, your employer may be required to offer you reasonable accommodations which may include telecommuting and/or unpaid time off, if such accommodations do not pose an undue burden to your employer. While your employer may not be required to provide any specific accommodation based on their own burdens and circumstances, your employer cannot retaliate against you because you’ve asked for such accommodations. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has provided additional information available here.

Workers Compensation Benefits if you have been exposed to COVID-19 at work. 

If you contracted COVID-19 because you were exposed at your workplace, you may also be eligible for workers compensation time-off and benefits.

New Jersey employees can apply for workers’ compensation benefits here.

Pennsylvania employees can receive information about such benefits here

New Jersey Protections for Time-Off Needed because of COVID-19 

New Jersey Earned Sick Leave Law 

New Jersey state law provides up to 40 hours of paid sick leave through its Earned Sick Leave Law. This Earned Sick Leave can be used (1) because your workplace has closed due to the Governor of New Jersey’s order closing non-essential businesses; (2) because your child’s school or daycare has closed; (3) or because you or a family member you care for has been diagnosed with COVID-19 or have an underlying chronic medical condition which makes you more susceptible to severe complications of COVID-19 illiness. By default, employees accrue one hour of earned sick leave for every 30 hours worked, but some employers provide the full 40 hours of paid sick leave at the beginning of the year. You may also have accrued but unused sick leave that has rolled over from the previous year.

Your employer may not retaliate against you for requesting and using Earned Sick Leave. More information about this benefit is available here.

New Jersey Family Leave Act (NJFLA) 

The New Jersey Family Leave Act will provide up to 12 weeks of leave per 24-month period to care for family members who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or who have underlying chronic medical conditions. Information about the NJFLA is available here. You may also be eligible for compensation for some of this time under New Jersey Family Leave Insurance, which pays cash benefits for up to six weeks for time taken off to care for a sick family member. More information about this benefit is available here.

New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD) 

For your own diagnosis of COVID-19, or for underlying chronic medical conditions which may make you more susceptible to complications from COVID-19, you may be eligible for reasonable accommodations from your employer under the New Jersey Law against Discrimination such as the option to work from home or time off. More information about your rights under the NJLAD are available here.

You may also be eligible for cash benefits from Temporary Disability Insurance if you are unable to work because of a COVID-19 diagnosis or underlying chronic medical conditions. Information about this benefit is available here.

New Jersey Executive Order 107 ordering residents to “stay-at-home” 

On March 21, 2020, Governor Phil Murphy issued Executive Order 107, directing all residents to stay home until further notice, and closing all non-essential businesses. Essential businesses include grocery stores, pharmacies, etc. Additionally, the order mandates that all businesses or non-profits, wherever practicable, must accommodate their workforce for telework or work-from-home arrangements. To the extent a business or non-profit has employees that cannot perform their functions via telework or work-from-home arrangements, the business or non-profit should make best efforts to reduce staff on site to the minimal number necessary to ensure that essential operations can continue. If your employer asks you to work in violation of these mandates, your refusal to do so may be protected by the New Jersey Conscientious Employee Protection Act (NJCEPA).

Pennsylvania Protections for Time-Off Needed because of COVID-19

Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (PHRA) 

Under the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (PHRA), you may be eligible for reasonable accommodations from your employer if you have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or suffer from a chronic underlying medical condition making you more susceptible to severe complications from COVID-19 illness.

Non-Essential Businesses ordered to close in Pennsylvania and/or Philadelphia.  

On March 19, 2020, Governor Wolf ordered all non-life-sustaining businesses to close their physical locations until further notice. A list of which businesses qualify as life-sustaining or not life-sustaining is available here. Governor Wolf has also issued shelter-in-place orders for nearly half the counties in the state through April 30. More information regarding this order is available here.  If your employer requires you to work in violation of this order, and you refuse, you may be protected from discipline or termination.

Philadelphia and Pittsburgh Sick Leave 

Philadelphia and Pittsburgh have mandated sick leave for employees who work at least 40 hours per year in Philadelphia and 35 hours per year in Pittsburgh. Both sick leave entitlements may be used due to work closures or school closures ordered because of COVID-19 precautions. The amount of sick leave available accrues on either a weekly basis, or can be made available in full at the beginning of each year. Philadelphia sick leave must be paid if you work for an employer with at least 10 employees; Pittsburgh sick leave must be paid if you work for an employer with at least 15 employees. Both laws prevent retaliation or discrimination for requesting or using these cities’ sick leave entitlements.

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Most Frequently Asked Question:
Do I Have A Case?

While it is true that every case is different, The law is pretty clear in most cases. The best way to determine if you have a case is contact one of our attorneys. For more information on a just a few scenarios checkout the flip box FAQ below or visit our FAQ Page.

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Our Locations

Cherry Hill Headquarters

1101 Kings Hwy N
Suite 402
Cherry Hill, New Jersey 08034

Phone: (856) 685-7420
Fax: (856) 685-7417

Philadelphia Satellite Office

123 South 22nd Street
Philadelphia, PA 19107

Phone: (215) 995-2733