A Capehart Scatchard Blog

Update On Essential Workers And Hand And Foot Bills

By on September 11, 2020 in Legislation with 0 Comments

Many readers have asked about the status of two very significant bills affecting New Jersey workers’ compensation practice.  They are S2380 and A4134.

S2380 – The Essential Employees Bill

We are down to the wire on S2380.  The Governor has until September 13, 2020 either to sign this bill or veto it; otherwise, S2380 will become law automatically.  This bill creates a rebuttable presumption for essential employees that their contraction of the coronavirus is work related.  The employer can rebut the presumption by a preponderance of the evidence (more than 50%) by showing that the worker was not exposed to the disease while working in the place of employment.  Essential workers are defined as:

  1. Public safety workers or first responders;
  2. Those involved in providing medical and other healthcare services, emergency transportation, social services, and other care services, including services provided in health care facilities, residential facilities or homes;
  3. Those who perform functions which involve physical proximity to members of the public and are essential to the public’s health, safety, and welfare, including transportation services, hotel and other residential services, financial services, and the production, preparation, storage, sale and distribution of essential goods such as food, beverages, medicine, fuel, and supplies for conducting essential business and work at home, or;
  4. Anyone deemed an essential employee by the public authority declaring the state of emergency.

A4134 – Clarification of Hand And Foot Bill On Retroactivity

This Assembly bill has attracted less attention than S2380, but it is important.  It clarifies whether the legislation that became law on January 21, 2020 had secondary retroactive effect.  The bill created enhanced compensation for hand, foot and finger injuries. However, the bill contained no clear language on which cases it applied to.  Questions arose immediately among judges, claimants, practitioners, employers, carriers, and third party administrators regarding the application of the law to claim petitions pending in the Division of Workers’ Compensation as of January 21, 2020 but filed before the effective date of the law.

This bill clearly states that the enhanced compensation for hand, foot and finger injuries applies to all cases pending but not yet settled or filed on or after the date of enactment  –  January 21, 2020.  However, the bill states that the law will not be applicable to cases which have been reopened.  The law obviously would not apply to cases that were settled before January 21, 2020.

This bill is limited to the issue of secondary retroactivity and was passed by the Assembly on August 27, 2020.  It will be scheduled next for a hearing before the Senate.  Readers should be aware that another aspect of this bill raises the cost of burial expenses in cases of compensable accident or occupational disease from $3,500 to $5,000, and that provision too would be applicable to claim petitions pending in the Division of Workers’ Compensation as of January 21, 2020.

Readers who are interested in the method used to compute the enhanced compensation for hand, foot and finger injuries can view the January 23, 2020 blog addressing this subject.

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John H. Geaney

About the Author

About the Author:

John H. Geaney, a shareholder and co-chair of Capehart Scatchard's Workers' Compensation department, began an email newsletter entitled Currents in Workers’ Compensation, ADA and FMLA in 2001 in order to keep clients and readers informed on leading developments in these three areas of law. Since that time he has written over 500 newsletter updates.

Mr. Geaney is the author of Geaney’s New Jersey Workers’ Compensation Manual for Practitioners, Adjusters & Employers. The manual is distributed by the New Jersey Institute for Continuing Legal Education (NJICLE). He also authored an ADA and FMLA manual as distributed by NJICLE. If you are interested in purchasing the manual, please contact NJICLE at 732-214-8500 or visit their website at www.njicle.com.

Mr. Geaney represents employers in the defense of workers’ compensation, ADA and FMLA matters. He is a Fellow of the College of Workers’ Compensation Lawyers of the American Bar Association and is certified by the Supreme Court of New Jersey as a workers’ compensation law attorney. He is one of two firm representatives to the National Workers’ Compensation Defense Network. He has served on the Executive Committee of Capehart Scatchard for over ten (10) years.

A graduate of Holy Cross College summa cum laude, Mr. Geaney obtained his law degree from Boston College Law School. He has been named a “Super Lawyer” by his peers and Law and Politics. He serves as Vice President of the Friends of MEND, the fundraising arm of a local charitable organization devoted to promoting affordable housing.

Capehart Scatchard is a full service law firm with offices in Mt. Laurel and Trenton, New Jersey. The firm represents employers and businesses in a wide variety of areas, including workers’ compensation, civil litigation, labor, environmental, business, estates and governmental affairs.

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