Assemblyman Benjie E. Wimberly (D-Bergen, Passaic) recently introduced legislation to prohibit certain actions taken by employers against employees who follow roadway restrictions during a state of emergency that can only be pronounced by the Governor.
“A state of emergency is an unexpected but necessary occurrence at times,” said Wimberly. “Some employees are being required to use personal or leave days if they are unable to come in during these days. No one is allowed on the roads during a state of emergency so it is unfair to any employee to hold them accountable for following the rules.”
Under the bill (A-3958), an employer is prohibited from taking any adverse employment actions against an employee who is unable to actively work or perform regular duties at the employer’s place of business due to a declared state of emergency. In addition, the bill would prohibit an employer from requiring an employee to use any sick, personal, or other leave, paid or unpaid, for an absence from work due to a state emergency. The bill defines state of emergencies as a natural or manmade disaster or other emergency for which a state of emergency has been declared by the Governor.
Wimberly recognizes that there may be exceptions such as emergency personnel are precluded from state of emergency restrictions.
“We will continue discussions with the business community and all affected to ensure this legislation helps protect employees. If there are additional exceptions to made, we’ll make sure the bill addresses them as well.”
The bill also prohibits an employer from discharging from employment or taking any other adverse action against an employee with respect to compensation, terms, conditions, or other privileges of employment because the employee does not actively work and perform all regular duties at the employer’s place of business due to a state of emergency during the time in which one is in effect and applies to the areas where the employee lives or works and emergency management officials have advised individuals in those areas to evacuate or to not travel. The bill does not require an employer to pay any employee who is not actively working.
“Workers should not have to choose between following state emergency advisories or losing days or even their job,” added Wimberly. “State of emergency’ restrictions are put in place for a reason and should be adhered to by all residents.”
Lastly, the bill requires an employee who is unable to work due to a state of emergency to make every possible effort to notify the employer of the absence and return to work as soon as possible, but not later than the first shift or regularly scheduled work hours occurring after the declaration of the estate of emergency is rescinded, or after an emergency management official has deemed the situation to he safe, whichever occurs first.
The bill has been referred to the Assembly Labor Committee.