Client Alert – New Jersey Governor Signs 16 Bills Into Law Related to Coronavirus/COVID-19 Emergency

March 20, 2020 in Client Alerts, COVID-19 Alerts

On March 20, 2020, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed a suite of 16 bills into law aimed at assisting New Jersey in dealing with the Coronavirus/COVID-19 health emergency.  The new laws include a prohibition on terminating or refusing to reinstate an employee who has, or is likely to have, an infectious disease which requires the employee to miss time at work; authorization for health care practitioners to provide telemedicine and telehealth services; authorization for the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA) to make business grants during a state of emergency or a public health emergency declared by the governor; modification of deadlines by which public agencies are required to respond to request for government record during period of emergency; and permitting corporations to hold shareholders’ meetings in part or solely by means of remote communication during a state of emergency.  These new laws take effect immediately.

Employers Prohibited From Terminating Or Refusing To Reinstate An Employee Missing Work Due To Infectious Disease

During the Public Health Emergency and State of Emergency declared by the Governor concerning the Coronavirus / COVID-19 emergency, employers are prohibited from terminating or refusing to reinstate an employee who requests or takes time off from work, based on the recommendation of a medical professional, if the employee is likely to infect others in the workplace.  If an employer is found to be in violation, “the [Commissioner of Labor and Workforce Development] or the court is required to order the reinstatement the employee and fine the employer $2,500 for each violation.”  As the bill’s primary sponsor, Assemblywoman Yvonne Lopez stated: “There’s no getting around it.  When someone is diagnosed with coronavirus, they will need to be quarantined and off from work for at least 14 days.”

New Jersey Economic Development Authority Authorized to Provide Grants and Extend Documentation Submission Deadline During Period of Emergency

The New Jersey Economic Development Authority is authorized to provide grants during period of emergency and for the duration of economic disruptions due to an emergency.  The EDA will be able to offer grants for the “planning, designing, financing, construction, reconstruction, improvement, equipping, [and] furnishing” of a project, including grants for working capital and meeting payroll requirements.  The legislation further permits the EDA to extend business document submission deadlines during a period of emergency.

Corporations Permitted To Hold Shareholders’ Meetings By Means Of Remote Communication During State Of Emergency

Legislation was signed by the Governor concerning corporations and remote shareholders’ meetings to give corporations increased flexibility in how they conduct meetings.  Under this legislation, during a state of emergency declared by the Governor, “a meeting of shareholders may be held by means of remote communication to the extent the board authorizes and adopts guidelines and procedures governing such a meeting.”  In addition, shareholders participating in meeting of shareholders via remote communication are considered to be present in person and are entitled to vote at the meeting.

Deadlines to Provide Government Records and Meetings of Public Bodies

Under current law, a custodian of a government record for a public agency is mandated to grant access to a government record or deny a request for access to a government record as soon as possible, but not later than seven business days.  Further, access to certain records, such as budgets, bills, vouchers, contracts, and public employee salary information, must be granted immediately.  The new legislation modifies these deadlines during a public health emergency to require a records custodian to make “a reasonable effort, as the circumstances permit, to respond to a request for access to a government record within seven business days or as soon as possible thereafter.”  In addition, new legislation allows public bodies to conduct meetings, and provide notice, by electronic means during periods of emergency.

For more information about the Governor’s newest legislation, please contact Hector D. Ruiz at hruiz@walsh.law or (973)757-1100.