The impact of the coronavirus pandemic is clearly enormous -- hundreds of thousands of deaths, millions of illnesses as well as months of uncertainty, anxiety, and worry for most. Social distancing, proper mask use, and good hygiene are all crucial steps to slow the deadly virus’s spread. But what happens when you encounter a business that is ignoring COVID-19 protocols -- or, even worse, what if this business is your place of employment?
Businesses and employers have an important responsibility to prevent and slow the spread of COVID-19. But not all businesses are complying, which can have fatal consequences for their workers and customers.
What to Do if You’re in a Business Violating COVID-19 Guidelines
Customers or others in a store or business are not required to report COVID-19 guideline violations to business management or any government authority. However, many people feel obliged to do something to rectify the situation. Your first step may be to let someone at the business know about the situation. It could be an honest mistake or the business may not have been aware of the situation. COVID-19 guidelines vary by state and jurisdiction, so be sure you understand the guidelines in your area first.
If the business refuses to comply or doesn’t rectify the situation, you can get in contact with the appropriate state agency in order to ensure that they are investigated. For instance, in New Jersey, you can fill out an Executive Order Violation Reporting Form. Make sure you document as much information about the incident as possible and take pictures if it's safe to do so. Keep in mind, it's not worth getting into an altercation with the business owner or others, let the authorities handle the situation.
What to Do if Your Employer Ignores COVID-19 Guidelines
First, you should know that New Jersey allows essential employees to claim workers compensation benefits if they contract COVID-19, without having to prove where he or she contracted the virus. For most types of workers compensation claims, the worker must prove that the injury or illness was directly related to the job. This generally hasn’t applied to widespread illnesses like the cold or flu, but COVID-19 is clearly different. States are taking action to extend workers’ compensation coverage to include first responders and health care workers impacted by COVID-19. New Jersey’s law presumes the essential employee’s COVID-19 illness is related to work. The employer would need to prove, with a preponderance of evidence, that the employee did NOT contract the virus at work.
Many workers may feel their employers put them at an increased risk of exposure to the coronavirus by failing to provide adequate masks or other appropriate PPE, not understanding the CDC guidelines in relation to quarantine and forcing employees back to work too soon, or failing to notify other employees of a positive case and then closing for sanitization. Similar to the ideas mentioned above, if you believe your employer is ignoring COVID-19 guidelines you can first start by bringing it to the attention of management. Further, you can also report your employer by filling out an Executive Order Violation Reporting Form or similar mechanism in your state.
If these options do not remedy the situation and you contract the coronavirus, you may be eligible for workers compensation. It’s also possible that you could file a lawsuit against your employer if you can prove intentional harm. These laws are complex and haven’t yet been tested in the courts for COVID-19 but, if you believe you have a case, you should contact a personal injury lawyer.
Brandon J. Broderick, Attorney at Law, Can Help with Your COVID Workers Compensation Claim
Workers compensation benefits cover lost wages, medical bills, and other expenses. At Brandon J Broderick, Attorney at Law, we focus on client care and helping our clients get back on their feet after an illness. One of our trusted team members will listen to your story, learn about your case, and can advise you next steps. Many of our clients feel a sense of relief once they make that first phone call. Get in touch today or call us at 201-514-6351.