Recently, two New Jersey Lottery employees filed worker’s compensation claims alleging to have been sickened by moldy lottery tickets damaged by Hurricane Sandy. The employees’ workers’ compensation claim states that they were exposed to over 400,000 moldy lottery tickets for a period of six months at the New Jersey state lottery headquarters in Lawrence and were sickened after they were asked to audit the tickets by their supervisor.
Specifically, the workers complained of headaches and respiratory problems. The workers’ union contacted the lottery about the moldy tickets three times before the tickets were destroyed. The Sandy-damaged tickets were tested and showed high levels of molds known to cause asthma, allergic reactions and pneumonitis.
This case demonstrates the high risk of workplace illnesses caused by natural disasters. Often, natural disasters, such as Hurricane Sandy, have enormous public health consequences for workers in the affected area, even if they are not involved in the actual cleanup.
Workers’ compensation benefits, which are awarded to sick workers to provide them with income while they are unable to work, are considered an alternative to a negligence suit. They are given to the worker regardless of whether or not the employer was at fault for the illness. Often, exposure to chemicals or to contaminated items will cause a workplace illness. Public health and utilities workers are particularly at risk, but private sector workers, such as the New Jersey lottery workers in this case, can be affected as well.
Anyone impacted by a workplace illness is entitled to workers’ compensation benefits to cover things such as lost wages, medical bills and any temporary or permanent disability. The benefits allow them to support themselves while they are unable to work due to the illness. All workers impacted by an illness caused by their occupation have the legal right to seek financial compensation through workers’ compensation benefits.
Source: The Trentonian, “Moldy Sandy-damaged NJ lottery tickets leads to workers’ comp claims,” David Foster, July 1, 2013