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State Unveils ‘Right To Refuse Work’ Guidance Related To Job Safety Concerns

Jun 19, 2020

The New Jersey Department of Labor (NJDOL) recently announced New Guidance so employers and employees understand their responsibilities to continue mitigating the spread of the COVID-19 virus as the State continues loosening restrictions on business activity. The guidance clarifies that individuals who quit their jobs or refuse to return to work because “conditions are unsafe, unhealthful, or dangerous,” may still be eligible for unemployment benefits. The NJDOL has also posted a Returning to Work Amid COVID-19 FAQ on unemployment.

According to the Labor Department’s own guidance on unemployment compensation, claimants are traditionally entitled to receive benefits “only so long as they are unemployed through no fault of their own, and while they are unemployed they must be looking for work.” The guidance addresses what factors the NJDOL will consider if an individual quits a job or refuses to return to work because of “unsafe, unhealthful, or dangerous” working conditions related to COVID-19.

The State has spelled out, in Executive Order 122, what businesses must do to continue operating.  Dealerships have been demonstrating for months that they are able to safely operate and have adopted the recommended safety and sanitization requirements, such as maintaining social distancing, wearing masks, frequently cleaning high-touch areas and much more.

These responsibilities are echoed in One Jersey Pledge, recently launched by Governor Murphy. The Pledge, likewise, is substantially similar to the proposal NJ CAR sent to the Governor’s office in mid-April. That proposal aimed to demonstrate that dealerships could safely reopen their retail showrooms to serve customers and helped persuade the Governor to allow showrooms to reopen by appointment only and, as of a few days ago, operate without the by-appointment restriction.