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New Jersey employees are entitled to temporary disability payments for nonwork-related injuries. The program is compulsory for all employers covered by the state’s unemployment compensation law.

The New Jersey Temporary Disability Benefits Law provides cash benefits to employees who, because of a The program is compulsory for all employers covered by the state’s unemployment compensation law.serious illness or injury, can’t perform their regular jobs and are under professional medical care. The New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development administers the program through its Division of Temporary Disability Insurance (www.nj.gov/labor/tdi/tdiindex.html).

The program is funded by contributions from both employers and employees. In 2007, employees pay 0.5 percent on the first $26,600 of earnings, or no more than $133 per year; employers pay between 0.10 percent and 0.75 percent on the first $26,600 of earnings, or between $26.60 and $199.50 per employee. (Injured workers receive a maximum of $502 per week in 2007.)

Employers can opt out of the state-sponsored plan and enroll in a private plan. If employers choose that option, the private plan must provide benefits at least comparable to those in the state plan. Employers in private plans aren’t required to contribute to the state plan, but they can’t ask employees to contribute more toward the premium than they would under the state plan (in 2007, no more than $133 yearly).

To qualify for benefits, employees must have worked at least 20 weeks, earning a minimum $143 each week or more than $7,200 during the 52 weeks immediately before becoming temporarily disabled (provided they meet the definition of temporary disability and can’t perform their regular jobs). Benefits start after the first seven days of disability, so illnesses or injuries that resolve within one week aren’t covered.

Benefits are paid for up to 26 weeks provided the employee is under the care of a licensed physician, dentist, optometrist, podiatrist, practicing psychologist, advanced practice nurse or chiropractor.

Common scenarios

Here are some common temporary disabilities that may or may not make employees eligible for temporary disability benefits.

Pregnancy. Pregnancy is treated as any other temporary disability. For a normal pregnancy, benefits are usually payable for up to four weeks before the expected delivery date and up to six weeks afterward. A doctor must complete a disability certification form and may certify a longer disability period for:

  • Pregnancy-related complications
  • A Caesarean birth
  • A non-pregnancy disability that also arises (for example, an underlying medical condition that worsens following pregnancy or disability)

Self-inflicted injury. Employees who attempt to harm themselves by, say, attempting suicide aren’t eligible for benefits. The same holds true for employees injured while committing a serious crime. For example, an individual involved in a car accident while driving under the influence of alcohol may be ineligible for benefits.

Alcoholism. Employees with alcohol problems severe enough to interfere with their ability to perform their regular jobs are eligible for disability benefits if they’re under a doctor’s care. They may also be covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Drug addiction. Employees addicted to illegal drugs are eligible for benefits provided they’re no longer using them and are undergoing substance-abuse treatment.

Caution: Make sure you don’t discriminate against employees who may fall under the ADA and/or FMLA. For example, the New Jersey Temporary Disability Benefits Law doesn’t require employers to re-hire employees who were temporarily disabled and received state or private benefits. But if they’re covered by the FMLA, they have the right to return to the same or equivalent jobs. Others may be disabled under the ADA and thus entitled to temporary benefits and reinstatement, perhaps even with a reasonable accommodation. 

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Excerpted from New Jersey’s 10 Most Critical Employment Laws, a special bonus report available to subscribers of HR Specialist: New Jersey Employment Law.

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