TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senator Linda R. Greenstein that would prohibit the termination of a law enforcement officer or firefighter pending retirement if he or she is physically unable to perform his or her duties as a result of an injury sustained on the job was signed into law this week.
Under the law, S-879, a State, county or municipal law enforcement officer or a firefighter who has been injured in the line of duty cannot be discharged from employment as a result of a determination that he or she is physically incapacitated from performing his or her usual duties and of any other available duties in the department due to the injuries. This will only apply when the officer or firefighter has filed an application for retirement with the Police and Firemen’s Retirement System, the State Police Retirement System, or the Public Employees’ Retirement System and the officer has sick leave or workmen’s compensation time available.
“If an officer or firefighter, who is waiting to finalize his or her retirement, is injured on the job, it only makes matters worse when they are then terminated because they can’t perform their job due to the injury,” said Senator Greenstein (D-Mercer, Middlesex), chair of the Senate Law & Public Safety Committee. “I am pleased that the Governor agreed that our law enforcement officers and firefighters deserve dignity and respect and signed this law which affords them the opportunity to retire with both.”
Current regulations under the Americans with Disabilities Act allow for individuals injured while on duty to be terminated if they cannot perform current duties and other assignments are not available.
Under the law, the employer would also be required to maintain health insurance for the officer or firefighter at the same level that coverage was provided prior to the injury, pending retirement.
“To terminate and then strip officers or firefighters of their health and pension benefits as a result of their incapacity due to an injury sustained on the job is inherently unfair and only serves to double-punish the victim,” said Senator Greenstein. “This legislation allows our retiring law enforcement officers and firefighters to complete their career without adding insult to their injury.”
The law applies to both civil service and non-civil service jurisdictions. It takes effect immediately.