The COVID-19 pandemic that has engulfed the world has now taken over the United States and New Jersey is one of the hotspots. The state has the second-most cases in the country behind New York. Governor Phil Murphy has issued multiple Executive Orders regarding social distancing, essential travel, and essential businesses. What does it all mean for your business? What does it all mean for you as an employee? Let’s tackle some of the most frequently asked questions surrounding businesses and COVID-19 in today’s post.

Does My Business Have to Close?

This all depends on whether or not Governor Murphy deemed your business essential. The Governor named the following as essential businesses, which permits them to stay open during this crisis:

  • Grocery stores, farmer's markets and farms that sell directly to customers
  • Pharmacies and medical marijuana dispensaries
  • Medical supply stores
  • Gas stations
  • Convenience stores
  • Hardware and home improvement stores
  • Banks and other financial institutions
  • Laundromats and dry-cleaning services
  • Stores that sell supplies for children under five-years-old
  • Pet stores
  • Liquor stores
  • Car dealerships for auto maintenance and repair
  • Printing and office supply shops
  • Mail and delivery stores
  • Bars and restaurants for drive-through, delivery, and takeout only
  • Mobile phone retail and repair shops (added 3/24/20)
  • Bicycle shops, but only to provide service and repair (added 3/24/20)
  • Livestock feed stores (added 3/24/20)
  • Nurseries and garden centers (added 3/24/20)
  • Farming equipment stores (added 3/24/20)
  • Child care centers, but only if they certify by Friday, March 27 that they will only serve children of essential workers starting April 1 (added 3/25/20)
  • Realtors, but only to show houses 1-on-1 (open houses are prohibited) (added 3/30/20)
  • Firearms retailers, by appointment only and during limited hours (added 3/30/20)
  • Microbreweries or brewpubs for home delivery only (added 3/30/20)

If your business is not on this list, it must close to the extent that employees are able to telecommute. If your business has not been deemed essential, and telecommuting is not an option, the business must close until otherwise noted.

I Need to Care for a Child. Will I Get Laid Off?

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) includes the Emergency Family Medical Leave Expansion Act, which expanded family and medical leave for specified reasons stemming from the Covid-19 pandemic. Through December 31, 2020, FMLA is no longer limited to 12 weeks of unpaid leave. Instead, employees are entitled to a total of 12 weeks of leave. The first 10 business days of leave are unpaid under FMLA (though they should be covered under the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act). The following 10 weeks are paid leave at a rate of at least two-thirds of the employee’s regular pay rate, with limitations as to the daily pay ($200 per day) and aggregate ($10,000 total). 

Additionally, these benefits are no longer limited to entities with 50 or more employees but any private employer with fewer than 500 employees, though certain small businesses (those with fewer than 50 employees) may seek exemption from the requirement to seek leave. It’s important to note that these benefits under the expanded FMLA may not apply to healthcare providers and emergency responders, who may elect to exclude employees. 

My Employer Closed; How do I Get Paid?

If your employer was forced to close, or voluntarily closed during the COVID-19 crisis, you are eligible to apply for and receive unemployment insurance. If your employer was forced to close, you are eligible for unemployment insurance and earned sick leave.

I Was Told to Quarantine; How Do I Get Paid?

In the event you are unable to work, you are eligible for unemployment insurance, federal paid sick leave, earned sick leave in New Jersey, and temporary disability insurance after the other options expire.

I Am a Healthcare Worker or First Responder Exposed to COVID-19; What Are My Options?

You are eligible for earned sick leave in New Jersey and unemployment insurance. When those expire, you are eligible to file for temporary disability coverage. You are encouraged to apply for federal paid sick leave as each case is handled individually.

I Own a Small Business; is There Relief Available?

President Trump signed the CARES Act into law at the end of March. Aside from direct payment to individuals based on 2018 and 2019 tax returns, the CARES Act also provides $375 billion in relief for small businesses in New Jersey and the rest of the country. This relief includes $349 billion for forgivable and low-interest loans to small businesses so they can keep their employees on their payrolls as well as various other tax credits that can benefit those employers who retain their employees during the pandemic. 

Contact a Rochelle Park Workers’ Compensation Lawyer to Discuss Your New Jersey Workplace Injury Case

A workplace injury can be devastating, particularly if it prevents you from returning to work for an extended period of time. Although New Jersey Workers’ Compensation laws are supposed to provide you with reimbursement for medical expenses and replacement pay for missed time at work, it is not always easy to get the Workers’ Comp benefits you deserve. That is why you should speak with a knowledgeable Workers’ Compensation lawyer about your situation and get guidance throughout the claims process. The experienced Workers’ Compensation attorneys at the Epstein Law Firm, P.A. represent clients in Hackensack, Rochelle Park, and all across New Jersey. Call 201-918-3560 or fill out our online contact form today to schedule a consultation about your work injury case. Our main office is located at 340 West Passaic Street in Rochelle Park, NJ 07662.

The articles on this blog are for informative purposes only and are no substitute for legal advice or an attorney-client relationship. If you are seeking legal advice, please contact our law firm directly.