“Already a handful of employers has been hit with litigation in connection with employees who became sick and who claim safety precautions were missing from the workplace. But major hurdles face such suits, from causation to the standard of proof under the workers' compensation law…”
Mr. Freier comments that “suits seeking to hold employers responsible for an employee’s coronavirus infection have been rare because would-be claimants are taking an easier route” as a result of “a law signed by Gov. Phil Murphy on Sept. 14” which “makes it easier for any employee who contacts COVID-19 to qualify for workers’ compensation benefits.” That law creates a “rebuttable presumption” that for essential employees working during the pandemic who contract COVID-19 the infection is work-related. As a result, the employer seeking to oppose the award of benefits bears the burden of proving the transmission did not take place on the job.” Mr. Freier also explained that Plaintiffs’ lawyers have increasingly turned to Conscientious Employee Protection Act (“CEPA”) and New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (“NJLAD”) claims in Coivd-19 employment litigations due to the ease and high potential damages explaining: ““Plaintiffs’ lawyers are big fans of CEPA and N.J. LAD [claims] because they get attorneys’ fees if they are the prevailing party, and [potentially] punitive damages,” and Mr. Freier continued, “the proofs are pretty easy, both for CEPA and the LAD, to make a prima facie,” leading to the many Covid-19 employment litigations in New Jersey to focus on those two statutes.
To read Mr. Freier’s additional input on whistleblower cases that workers infected with COVID-19 are bringing under the Conscientious Employee Protection Act and the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination, and to access the full article, please click here.