As COVID-19 cases rapidly rise outside New Jersey, Gov. Phil Murphy issued a travel advisory on June 24, 2020. It requires individuals traveling to or returning to New Jersey from states with increasing rates of COVID-19 to self-quarantine for 14 days. This includes travel by train, bus, car, plane and any other method of transportation.
New York and Connecticut have issued similar advisories requiring a 14-day quarantine for all individuals traveling from an “impacted” state. Notably, New York is the only state that has imposed a civil penalty for violating the order. Individuals are subject to a $2,000 for the first violation, $5,000 for a second violation, and up to $10,000 if an individual causes harm.
New Jersey’s 14-day Quarantine Travel Advisory
New Jersey’s 14-day quarantine travel advisory applies to travel from certain states identified as those that have a positive COVID-19 test rate higher than 10 per 100,000 residents or have a 10% or higher positivity rate over a seven-day rolling average. As of June 30, there are currently 16 states that meet the criteria stated above:
- North Carolina
- South Carolina
Travel Advisory’s Exemption for Business Travel
The travel advisory contains exemptions for business-related travel. Individuals who are traveling to New Jersey from impacted states for business are specifically exempted from the application of the travel advisory, including truckers driving from an impacted state, and any state, local and federal officials and employees traveling in their official capacities.
In an FAQ regarding self-quarantine for travelers, the New Jersey Department of Public Health (NJDOH) advised that individuals traveling for business should still consider postponing travel to the extent possible. “Individuals are encouraged to self-monitor for symptoms upon return from any travel to an impacted state, and employers should consider screening employees for symptoms before permitting them to return to work,” the NJDOH guidance states.
Availability of Leave When Employees Must Self-Quarantine
While the self-quarantine is voluntary, compliance is expected. Accordingly, employers may be obligated to keep workers out of the workplace for up to 14 days, regardless of whether travel to an affected state was for business or pleasure.
In some cases, employees may be eligible for leave when they or a family member are required to self-quarantine. Under the Jersey Earned Sick Leave Law, eligible employees who have worked for their employer for at least 120 days can use earned sick leave that they have accrued under the law when the employee undergoes isolation or quarantine. The New Jersey Family Leave Act authorizes an eligible employee can also take job-protected leave from work when a health care provider or public health authority recommends that a family member in need of care by the employee voluntarily undergo self-quarantine.
New York has taken a stricter approach to implementation. Governor Andrew Cuomo issued Executive Order 202.45, which makes New York employees who voluntarily travel to high-risk states after June 25 ineligible for COVID-19 paid sick leave. Specifically, the executive order provides that employees will forgo their paid sick leave benefits from New York's COVID-19 paid sick leave law if they engage in non-essential travel to any state that has a positive test rate higher than 10 per 100,000 residents, or higher than a 10 percent test positivity rate over a seven-day rolling average. The provision does not apply if the employee travels for work or at the employer's request.
Impact on NJ Employers
New Jersey’s new travel advisory leaves a lot of unanswered questions for employers, particularly because the quarantine is not mandatory. Unlike New York, New Jersey also has not yet specifically addressed employers’ obligations to provide leave when the quarantine results from personal travel to an impacted state. Therefore, before making any changes to your company’s leave or travel policies, we encourage you to contact experienced counsel.
If you have questions, please contact us
If you have any questions or if you would like to discuss the matter further, please contact me,, or the Scarinci Hollenbeck attorney with whom you work, at 201-896-4100.