New Jersey COVID-19 FAQs
As New Jersey aims to recover and businesses restore or start planning to restore operations, we at Paychex remain dedicated to serving you, your employees, and your business. Please see below for guidance and best practices around some common questions related to these new challenges for New Jersey.
What are the eligibility requirements for Unemployment Insurance (UI) in New Jersey?
Although specific eligibility requirements may vary by state, employees in New Jersey generally qualify if they:
- Are totally or partially unemployed (which may include layoffs and reductions in hours/wages);
- Lost their job through no fault of their own (e.g. did not quit or were not terminated without just cause as defined by NJ law);
- Have worked at least 20 weeks in covered employment in a “base period.” A “base period” is a minimum amount of wages in the first four of the last five completed calendar quarters before benefit account begins;
- At the time of application, are physically and mentally able and available to work and is actively seeking suitable work, unless otherwise exempt from this requirement.
For more information on eligibility requirements, how to apply for, and how to file a claim for Unemployment Insurance, please visit the New Jersey Division of Unemployment Insurance website, explore their general FAQs, and review their COVID-19 FAQs.
Employee Safety & General Concerns
Who is required to wear a mask/face covering in New Jersey? When and where are masks/face coverings required to be worn?
On April 8, 2020, Governor Phil Murphy signed Executive Order No. 122, which required all essential retail, warehousing, manufacturing, and construction business employees and customers to wear face masks/coverings while on the businesses premises with exceptions for individuals under two years of age, and for situations where the wearing of a face mask/covering would impede an individual’s health. Employees of these businesses, as described above, were also required to wear gloves when interacting with customers and/or goods.
This Order also put an end to all non-essential construction projects and postponed them until further notice and provided some additional guidance and safety/cleaning regulations for essential businesses that were able to continue to operate, as defined under Executive Order No. 107. For a full breakdown of Executive Order No. 122, click here.
Additionally, on July 8, 2020, Governor Murphy signed Executive Order No. 163 into law, which requires people to wear face masks/coverings when in outdoor public spaces when they cannot properly socially distance. Exceptions to this include immediate family/household members, caretakers, and/or romantic partners, as well as individuals under two years of age, in situations where individuals cannot feasibly wear such coverings, such as when eating and/or drinking at dining areas located outside, and in situations where the wearing of a face mask/covering would impede an individual’s health.
This Order also reiterates New Jersey's current policy that requires face masks/coverings to be worn in publicly accessible indoor spaces such as retail stores, entertainment and recreational businesses, mass transit locations and vehicles, etc. For a full breakdown of Executive Order No. 163, click here.
For more information, please visit the New Jersey COVID-19 Information Hub and explore their corresponding FAQs outlined below:
- FAQs for the General Public
- FAQs for Businesses + Organizations
- “Should I wear a mask to stop the spread of COVID-19” FAQ
Are face masks/coverings considered Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)? As an employer, do I need to provide face masks/coverings and/or additional PPE for my employees? If so, how to do I maintain, store, and clean this equipment?
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), PPE is equipment that individuals can wear to help minimize their exposure to hazards in the workplace that can result in serious injury and/or illness. Currently, OSHA does not consider cloth face coverings to be PPE, however, both OSHA and the CDC still highly recommend that face masks and/or cloth coverings be worn in public to potentially help protect individuals from COVID-19 and to help prevent further transmission. For more information on the differences between cloth face coverings, face masks, and respirators, please explore the OSHA Cloth Face Coverings FAQs.
For OSHA guidance on how to properly maintain, store, and clean PPE, click here.
As part of Executive Order No. 122, employees and customers of reopened businesses are required to wear face masks/coverings when in the physical business location and employers are required to provide the necessary face masks/coverings and gloves to their employees at their own expense.
As mentioned above, if either state/local law or an employer requires employees to wear any safety equipment or other PPE in the workplace, such as face masks, the employer is responsible for paying for and providing this equipment. Additional safety requirements may also apply if your business is already subject to the OSHA Bloodborne Pathogens standards, OSHA regulations generally, or other federal, state, or local industry-specific requirements.
If some individuals cannot wear masks/face coverings due to medical conditions and/or religious accommodations, employers should have discussions with these individuals about further accommodations that can be explored.
Employers can also require employees to wear additional safety equipment like face/eye protection, gowns, gloves, or other equipment suggested by OSHA, and should review the guidance published on OSHA’s website for recommended practices.
For county-specific regulations for the use of additional PPE in public, or for general guidelines regarding symptom screening in the workplace, please visit your applicable county’s website.
As an employer, what conversations, steps, and/or actions can I take if an employee refuses to return to work? What if their refusal is due to a fear of contracting COVID-19?
An employee’s reason(s) for not returning to work may make them eligible for leave required by federal, state, or local law, so it is important to engage with your employees to understand why they are refusing to return before taking any action. For example, an employee concerned about their own health condition may be entitled to a reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), state law, and/or local law, or an employee caring for a child because their child’s school or child care provider is still closed may be entitled to leave under the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act (EPSLA) and/or Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act (EFMLEA) under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA).
If your employees are raising reasonable COVID-19 safety concerns, those concerns should be addressed in light of CDC and OSHA guidance, as well as any state and/or local requirements. Employee complaints, or even their refusal to work, may be protected under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), even if your workplace is not unionized. For more information, please read the NLRA overview, explore the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) FAQs, and review the Employees Rights covered under the NLRA.
Additionally, if an employee refuses a job offer for rehire that fits their previous occupational experience without good cause, or simply because they’re making more money on Unemployment Insurance, they may be disqualified from receiving UI benefits, and employers should consider documenting such refusals on their UI claims received from the state. Note: Employers may be negatively affected if they do not report fraudulent cases.
Employers who qualified for Small Business Administration (SBA) loans should ensure that they have made a good faith, written offer of rehire (for the same salary/wages and same number of hours), and the employee’s rejection of that offer must be documented by the borrower to qualify for an exception to a potential reduction of their forgiveness amount based on Full Time Equivalent (FTE) employees. Employees and employers should be aware that employees who reject offers of re-employment may forfeit eligibility for continued unemployment insurance compensation.
Employers should always consult with an HR professional and/or legal counsel before making personnel or business decisions, such as terminations or imposing any other discipline based upon an employee’s actions, to ensure compliance with federal, state, and/or local law.
For more information, please watch our prerecorded Refusals to Return to Work: Childcare, Vulnerable Populations, and Other Employee Challenges webinar, review our WORX article, and visit the Paychex COVID-19 Help Center.
How do I properly conduct COVID-19 temperature testing in the workplace for my employees?
Temperature testing/screening can be conducted on-site at businesses to determine if an individual has a fever. Based on CDC guidance, a fever is just one of many symptoms of COVID-19 and conducting temperature screenings may be a way to potentially protect your employees and business. However, a fever does not always indicate COVID-19 and some with COVID-19 never experience a fever. Therefore, it is one method to consider, but alone may not necessarily be the most effective way to protect a work environment. Temperature testing/screening may also put the employee(s)/individual(s) assigned to take temperatures at a higher risk of exposure, which can create additional concern(s). Other safety methods to consider may include more consistent deep cleaning of the workplace, the reorganizing of work spaces to ensure individuals are spaced six or more feet apart, implementing or continuing remote work capabilities, if applicable, and/or staggering your staff to work on specified days. CDC guidelines also allow for virtual health screenings to be conducted rather than in-person health checks. For more information on this, please review the CDC’s Resuming Business Toolkit, General Business FAQs, or visit their COVID-19 website.
The EEOC generally considers temperature testing/screening to be a “medical examination” and the agency’s guidance generally permits employers to measure employees’ body temperatures as a result of the CDC and state/local authorities acknowledging that COVID-19 is community spread. However, the EEOC does not permit antibody testing, and continues to caution employers against such screenings as they are impermissible. It is possible the EEOC may revise this guidance in the future, so check with the EEOC for the latest updates.
Before conducting temperature testing/screening, consider consulting with an HR professional and/or your legal counsel to help you to ensure compliance with state and/or local law.
If an employer plans to implement in-person temperature screenings at their business after discussing their options with an HR professional or legal counsel, they should consider:
- Who will take temperatures and how that person will be protected from exposure,
- Where temperatures will be taken,
- When temperatures will be taken,
- How temperatures will be taken,
- How the temperature screening equipment will be sanitized,
- Where the information/readings will be recorded,
- If recording this information, how will it be recorded and confidentially maintained separate from the employees’ personnel files,
- What steps to take for a high temperature,
- What safety protocols will be put in place and how they will be communicated to the screener(s) and employees,
- Ensuring the time waiting for and undergoing the screening process is considered compensable time.
All temperature screenings should be administered based on legitimate and nondiscriminatory business needs and should be as non-invasive as possible. Employers should also consider whether a third-party vendor will be used to conduct such screenings. Employee results of such testing are considered medical information and should be kept in a confidential file and separated from an employee’s personnel file.
Any employee showing symptoms of COVID-19 should be sent home immediately and encouraged to seek appropriate medical attention. If an employee has a confirmed case of COVID-19, employers should advise other employees who could potentially have had contact with the infected employee about possible exposure to COVID-19. Employers may not, however, disclose the name of the affected employee and should take all possible steps to maintain confidentiality.
In addition, employers may:
- Ask employees if they are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19.
- Request that employees notify them if they or a close family member tests positive for COVID-19.
- Inquire if employees have come into close contact with anyone that is known or suspected to have COVID-19.
- Inquire about employees’ personal travel plans, whether to other countries or within the U.S. (particularly regarding current “hot spots”).
An employer may not ask non-COVID-19-related medical questions, as these may impact an employee’s rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Employers must maintain confidentiality as required by the ADA and applicable state laws with respect to employee medical information.
Be sure to always consult with an HR professional and/or legal counsel before asking employees’ specific medically-related questions to help you to ensure compliance with federal, state, or local law.
For more information, please visit the New Jersey COVID-19 Information Hub and the New Jersey Department of Health Communicable Service Page, watch our prerecorded COVID-19 Screening for Employers webinar, read our WORX article, and follow all safety guidance provided by OSHA, the CDC, and your state and/or local agencies.
If COVID-19 is contracted after returning to work, is this covered by Workers’ Compensation insurance?
Workers' Compensation insurance protects employees from on-the-job injuries and illnesses, however, it doesn't usually cover diseases that are unrelated to employment. If an employee contracts COVID-19 because of the nature of their work, such as if they’re a healthcare worker or emergency responder, then they may be provided coverage. Some states have also proposed changes that would broaden these rules and/or provide additional coverage. Be sure to consult with an HR and/or insurance professional for more information or visit the New Jersey Workers’ Compensation website.
Where can I find additional “reopening” resources for New Jersey?
For more information, visit the Reopening New Jersey: The Road Back Resource Page and explore the resources outlined below:
- The Road Back: Restoring Economic Health through Public Health
- The Road Back: Six Key Principles
- When and how is New Jersey lifting restrictions? What does a responsible and strategic restart of New Jersey’s economy look like?
- What businesses are open? What rules or safety guidelines must they follow?
- What are the reopening rules for bars and restaurants? What precautions or policies must they take?
What is the protocol for those who travel for work or have chosen to do so in their personal time and plan to return to work?
Employers can encourage their employees to limit any nonessential personal travel, especially to high-impact areas, however, they cannot prevent them from traveling outright.
Employers should also educate their employees on the current COVID-19-related risks that are associated with traveling. Some of these travel risks can include but are not limited to potential/greater risk of exposure to coronavirus, becoming stranded due to federal, state, and/or local travel restrictions or closures, and/or having to comply with potential mandatory quarantine protocols for individuals who have recently traveled to and/or returned from a high-risk location. Employers should also advocate that their employees follow all safety, hygiene, and social distancing guidance provided by the CDC.
Employers can require an employee to work from home and to monitor their health for symptoms of COVID-19 for a 14-day period if the employee has:
- Recently traveled to an international location on the current CDC widespread transmission list;
- Recently been on a cruise ship or traveled domestically by air to an area with widespread transmission;
- Recently traveled to a high-risk location within the US under a CDC, state-wide, or local travel advisory;
- Recently been in contact with an individual with a known diagnosis of COVID-19;
- Or is a resident covered by a state or local ordinance requiring physical office closures.
If an employee who has recently returned from international travel displays symptoms of COVID-19, then employers can and should enforce any federal and/or state-mandated quarantine measures, regardless of whether their travel was for personal or business reasons. The same would apply for those who may have traveled to high-risk areas within the U.S. Employers can also use the CDC’s Risk Assessment tool to help determine which individuals may be pose a risk to the workplace.
Employers should consider a policy about the above and communicate it to all employees in order to ensure awareness of the potential impact travel may have on their ability to return to the workplace. Before making business decisions that may alter your workplace, consider consulting with an HR professional and/or your legal counsel to help you ensure compliance with federal, state, and/or local law, and for the latest updates, refer to your state and/or local authorities.
For more information, visit the New Jersey COVID-19 Information Hub and their travel advisory/restriction page, review the Self-Quarantine for Travelers FAQs, and explore the Paychex COVID-19 Help Center.
Remote Work vs. Returning to Work
If working remotely is still possible, do my employees need to continue to do so, or can they come back into the office?
Governor Murphy’s Executive Order No. 107 required all employers to consider establishing telework or work-from-home arrangements, if applicable, and highly encouraged those able to do so. Although remote work is still highly encouraged, it is not required by New Jersey law.
In accordance with the phased Reopening New Jersey Plan, certain employees can return to their employer’s physical work location, however, they’re still required to wear a face mask/covering while working, if they’re unable to practice social distancing.
Where can I find additional return to work guidance and policy information?
For more information regarding the Reopening New Jersey Plan and returning to work, please explore the following resources:
- New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development (NJDOL) Updated Information for Employers & Businesses Resource Page
- NJDOL Returning to Work Amid COVID-19 Resource Page
- New Jersey Department of Health COVID-19: Information for Businesses
- New Jersey COVID-19 Information Hub
- CDC COVID-19 Businesses and Workplaces Resource Page
- OSHA Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19
Where can I find return to work information, safety guidelines, and regulatory updates?
As multiple states begin resuming business operations, Paychex remains dedicated to serving you, your employees, and your business. That’s why we’ve developed several online resources to help you remain up to date on your state's ever-evolving policies and executive orders related to the COVID-19 pandemic and return to work protocols.
Paychex Return to Work Resources:
- Paychex Return to Work Resource Page
- Return to Work Checklist
Paychex Safety/Legal Resources:
- Coronavirus (COVID-19) Help Center
- COVID-19 Workplace Safety and Health Checklist
- Business Preparedness After COVID-19
- After the Pandemic: What’s Next for Your Employees WORX article
- Infectious Disease Outbreak Plan: Considerations for Employers WORX article
- White House Guidelines for Opening Up America Again during COVID-19 Pandemic WORX article
- Coronavirus at Work: Frequently Asked Questions WORX article
- Business Continuity Plan: How to Prepare for Business Interruptions WORX article
- Preventing and Managing Illness in the Workplace WORX article
Paychex Pre-Recorded Webinars:
- Navigating the New Jersey Workplace During the COVID-19 Re-opening
- COVID-19 Screening for Employers
- Refusals to Return to Work: Childcare, Vulnerable Populations, and Other Employee Challenges
- Returning to Work: Maintaining Workplace Health and Safety
- The Return to Work: Preparing for Week 1
- Navigating COVID-19: Understanding New HR Regulations and Best Practices
- The Family First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA)
- COVID-19 Preparedness: Practical Ways to Protect Your Employees and Business
New Jersey Resources:
- New Jersey COVID-19 Information Hub
- New Jersey Department of Health Communicable Disease Service Page
- New Jersey Executive Orders
- New Jersey Division of Unemployment Insurance Website
- Visit New Jersey COVID-19 Information and Resources Page
- New Jersey League of Municipalities (NJLM) COVID-19 Resource Page