Hiring Preference Bill Approved by New Jersey Assembly Committee as Part of New Jersey Workers’ Compensation Act

Submitted by New Jersey Workers’ Compensation Lawyer, Jeffrey Hark.

The NJ Assembly Labor Committee recently passed bill A-2617 sponsored by Assembly members Murphy, Benson, and Reynolds-Jackson. This bill requires an employer with at least 50 employees to provide a hiring preference to an employee who was injured in a work-related injury, has reached maximum medical improvement, and cannot return to the employee’s former position with that employer. The employer is only required to provide the hiring preference if the employee can perform the essential duties of an existing, unfilled position. The bill does not require an employer to create a new position for the injured employee, nor does it require the employer to remove another employee from an existing but filled position to accommodate the injured employee.

This bill is problematic for employers because it attempts to turn a statutory benefits law, the New Jersey Workers’ Compensation Act, into an employment protection statute. Another reason why this bill is problematic is because there are already labor laws in New Jersey that protect employees, such as the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination and the ADA. Lastly, the bill is problematic because there is no explanation of the circumstances in which employers can reject the preference or prove it should not apply. There is no mention that the employer has any right whatsoever not to provide a job to someone who fits the criteria noted above. This proposed bill also fails to mention anything at all about requests for reasonable accommodation, the need for an interactive dialogue or defenses of the employer such as undue hardship. In essence, this proposed bill seems to override existing disability discrimination laws.

To illustrate how this bill will be challenging to implement in practice, suppose the injured employee is less qualified than another applicant for the open position. Does the injured worker’s status as one who has reached maximal medical improvement trump the more qualified applicant’s credentials? Suppose the outside applicant also has a disability and is more qualified for the job? Further, in what court would the law be enforced? New Jersey workers’ compensation judges do not have the power to enforce employment laws so claimants cannot prosecute failure to rehire claims in workers’ compensation court.

At Hark & Hark, we represent clients for Workers’ Compensation issues pertaining to the recent Hiring Preference Bill noted above. We work hard to ensure that our clients receive exceptional representation so that they receive the most favorable outcome as a result.

Like always and especially during these uncertain times, we offer payment plan options to clients financially incapable of providing full payment upfront. If you are facing a workers’ compensation issue similar to what was discussed in bill A-2617, please call us to discuss the matter. At Hark & Hark, we represent clients for any case in any county in New Jersey including Atlantic, Burlington, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland, Essex, Gloucester, Mercer, Ocean, and Salem counties.


Criminal Civil Lawyer

Jeffrey Hark is a New Jersey Civil and Criminal Lawyer.

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