The United States has been subject to multiple declared States of Emergency (SOEs) and Public Health Emergencies (PHE) since March 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic was just beginning at that point, and it continued to be a major concern well into 2021 and 2022. As of May 2023, the federal government and the State of New Jersey have ended some or all of their emergency declarations. The New Jersey governor officially ended the state’s PHE more than a year ago, in March 2022, while the state’s SOE remains in place. Most recently, the federal PHE ended on May 11, 2023. The state and federal emergencies have had a major impact on how New Jersey employment laws protect workers. The end of those declarations could also impact New Jersey workers.
What Was the Public Health Emergency?
The federal government issued emergency declarations in early 2020. The New Jersey governor issued Executive Order (EO) 103, which declared both a SOE and a PHE, on March 9, 2020.
Emergency declarations give various extra powers, mostly related to healthcare, to local, state, and federal governments. This often includes mandates affecting employers. EO 292, issued in March 2022, ended the New Jersey PHE but left the SOE in place. The national SOE ended on April 10, 2023, followed by the PHE on May 11.
What Will Change for New Jersey Employees After the Public Health Emergency?
Some of New Jersey’s COVID-19 EOs applied to most or all public and private employers. Others specifically applied to “covered settings,” defined to include healthcare facilities, schools and childcare centers, and “high-risk congregate settings.” Many of the EOs directed at covered settings remain in effect.
Several EOs issued in 2021 require certain New Jersey employers to mandate routine COVID testing for employees who refuse the vaccination. Despite the end of New Jersey’s PHE, this mandate remains in effect for “covered settings” like healthcare facilities, childcare facilities, and state contractors and subcontractors. State employees are also still subject to this requirement.
The end of the federal emergencies means that the COVID vaccine is no longer free but will be covered by insurance. The New Jersey employers described as “covered settings” above are still required to mandate vaccinations or regular testing for their employees. The federal vaccine requirements for government employees, government contractors, school employees, and healthcare workers ended on May 11, 2023. Other private employers may be able to require COVID vaccinations, subject to laws addressing matters like workplace safety and disability discrimination.
Congress passed several laws in 2020 and 2021 that affected how employees may choose COBRA health insurance coverage if they leave their employment during the pandemic. A person could receive COBRA coverage without paying premiums until the earlier of:
– 1 year after the date they would have ordinarily had to start paying; or
– 60 days after the end of the national SOE.
The president signed a bill ending the national SOE as of April 10, 2023. This means the extended option for COBRA coverage will end on June 9.
If your employer has engaged in unlawful workplace practices, including disability discrimination, you need an experienced and knowledgeable legal advocate who can help you assert your rights. The employment attorneys at the Resnick Law Group help workers in New Jersey and New York recover damages in federal and state claims. Please contact us online, at 973-781-1204, or at 646-867-7997 today to schedule a confidential consultation with a member of our team.