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​​​​​​​​Welcome to the LSNJLAWSM website, provided by Legal Services of New Jersey (LSNJ). LSNJ is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit offering free legal advice to low-income people in New Jersey. Find legal information by clicking on a legal topic or typing a few words into the search box. ​

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Jobs and Employment
Worker Rights to Compensation for Injuries, Wages, and Fair Treatment

If you are hurt at work, you have the right to assistance through workers compensation. Employers are required to provide workers compensation to employees who have job-related injuries or illnesses. If you are injured on the job, or have an illness that results from the job, you may be eligible for certain benefits, such as medical assistance, temporary disability, and permanent disability.

What should I do if I’m hurt on the job?

If you are hurt on the job, tell your supervisor or employer as soon as possible. If you need medical attention, tell your employer as soon as possible. If you do not ask your employer for medical treatment, treatment may not be covered. Under New Jersey law, the employer can select the medical provider for you.

If your employer refuses to provide medical treatment, go ahead and get treatment, and find an attorney for help with your claim. Attorneys in this type of case generally get their fee through an award at the end of the case. It is important to know that it is unlawful for an employer to retaliate against an employee for filing or attempting to file a workers compensation claim.

What benefits does workers compensation cover?

Benefits available through workers compensation include the reasonable costs of medical treatment, temporary disability income to make up for lost wages during the period of lost work, permanent disability income, and death benefits for the family.

Compensation for lost wages is paid at a rate of 70% of your average weekly wage, up to a limit set by the state. To be eligible for temporary disability income, you must be unable to work for at least seven days (which do not have to be consecutive and includes weekends and holidays), and then the benefits are retroactive to the first day. You must also be under active medical care to receive temporary disability benefits. However, medical attention and permanent disability benefits begin immediately.

What if my employer doesn’t provide benefits?

If your employer or the employer’s insurance company fails to provide benefits, you can file a claim with the New Jersey Division of Workers’ Compensation.

In many cases, you can get a private attorney to help with your claim. In fact, given the complicated nature of substantial workers compensation claims, it is often useful to find an attorney to represent you throughout the claims process. Attorneys are prohibited from charging a fee to represent you in a workers compensation claim, and any attorney fee will be set by the judge if you are awarded compensation. You can contact your local Legal Services office or County Bar Association Lawyer Referral Service for help finding a private attorney.

What kind of workers are covered?

Most workers, including domestic workers and farm workers, are eligible for workers compensation. However, independent contractors are not covered.

Are undocumented workers eligible for workers compensation?

Documented and undocumented workers in New Jersey are eligible for workers compensation benefits. In fact, undocumented workers have the right to most employment protections provided in the workplace. For example, increasingly, some contractors and employers are failing to pay workers because of a problem with a Social Security number or other documentation. However, such nonpayment of wages is unlawful—workers have the right to wages for the hours that they have worked, and time and a half for time worked over 40 hours in most types of work.

How long do I have to file a workers compensation claim?

Workers compensation claims can be filed up to two years after an injury or illness. This can be particularly helpful with longer-term problems, such as hearing loss or developing back problems.

What can I do if I think my employer retaliated against me for filing a workers compensation claim?

New Jersey’s Workers’ Compensation Law prohibits employers for terminating or otherwise discriminating against an employee for claiming or attempting to claim workers’ compensation benefits. If you want to file a discrimination complaint, you can get a copy of the filing form and ask questions about filing discrimination complaints by calling the Office of Special Compensation Funds, Discrimination Complaint at 609-292-6022. You can also download the form here.

What is the purpose of applying for an informal hearing?

If there is a dispute regarding your claim, such as amount of temporary benefits or regarding medical treatment, you may file an application for an informal hearing before a judge of compensation. The informal hearing gives you and your employer or employer’s insurance carrier the opportunity to discuss a settlement of your claim without going into the complexities of litigation. The judge will make non-binding suggestions.

You still always have the right to file a formal claim petition within the two-year limit. You can find more information about informal claims here.

Am I eligible for Temporary Disability Insurance benefits if I’m injured on the job?

No. New Jersey Temporary Disability Insurance covers workers who become disabled due to an injury or illness that is not job-related.

However, you may apply for temporary disability benefits through the New Jersey Department of Labor’s Division of Temporary Disability Insurance while your formal workers compensation claim is pending because the employer’s insurance carrier is contesting the claim.

Other laws may help you with on-the-job injuries

It’s important to remember that there are also other laws that may help you in circumstances involving injuries. If an employer discriminates against you because of your disability, you may have rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Such rights include providing a disabled worker with a reasonable accommodation in order to permit continued employment. An example of a reasonable accommodation is allowing rest breaks on the job to accommodate your back injury, enabling you to continue working. Reasonable accommodations may include making the work site readily accessible to employees with disabilities, modifying work schedules, restructuring a job, or reassigning a current employee to a vacant position for which the individual is qualified.

In addition, if an employer discriminates against you because of time off for a serious health condition experienced by you or a close family member, you may have rights under the state and federal Family and Medical Leave Acts. Under federal law, for example, employers with 50 or more employees are required to give 12 weeks of unpaid family and medical leave to employees leastwho have worked at least 12 months. Federal FMLA leave can be used for your own serious health condition, such as joba job-related injury. The leave can also be used to care for a close family member (spouse, child, or parent) or for the birth and care of your child.  

Here is a basic timeline of a workers compensation claim:

  • You are injured on the job or become ill because of your job.
  • Notify your employer of your injury/illness and request medical treatment as soon as possible.
  • Employer notifies its workers compensation insurance carrier.
  • Insurance carrier evaluates the claim and makes a determination.
  • If the claim is accepted, you will be directed to an authorized medical provider for treatment and receive temporary disability benefits after seven days out of work, and if applicable, permanent disability benefits.
  • If the claim is not accepted or your employer denies you medical treatment, you may file a formal claim petition or apply for an informal hearing with the Division of Workers' Compensation.

For more information about Workers Compensation:

Visit the NJ Division of Workers' Compensation website; or call the Division’s general Workers' Compensation Information Hotline, 609-292-2515.

Currently, LSNJ attorneys do not represent clients in workers compensation cases. However, we can answer general questions regarding the law and provide basic advice over the phone on workers compensation claims.

If you are injured, or have your rights violated, you should take action to get assistance!

 

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2/4/2020