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The New Jersey Paid Sick Leave Act

November 8th, 2018

By: Alaine S. Williams

One of the first pieces of legislation signed into law by Governor Murphy of New Jersey in 2018 is a law requiring employers to provide both full-time and part-time employees 40 hours of paid sick leave each benefit year. The New Jersey Paid Sick Leave Act (Act), which went into effect just last week, means that more than one million New Jersey workers who previously had no paid sick leave will now have paid sick leave available for their own illness or, if needed, to care for a family member. The Act allows an employee to use earned sick leave to take time off from work for the following acceptable reasons:

  1. An employee needs diagnosis, care, treatment, or recovery for a mental or physical illness, injury, or health condition, or the employee needs preventive care.
  2. An employee needs to care for a family member during diagnosis, care, treatment, or recovery for a mental or physical illness, injury, or health condition, or the employee’s family member needs preventive care.
  3. An employee or a family member has been the victim of domestic violence or sexual violence and need time for treatment, counseling, or to prepare for legal proceedings.
  4. An employee needs to attend school-related conferences, meetings, or events regarding their child’s health.
  5. An employer’s business closes due to a public emergency or an employee is needed to care for a child whose school or child care provider closes due to a public health emergency.

The term “family member” is defined to include child, grandchild, sibling, spouse, domestic partner or civil union partner, parent, grandparent, spouse, domestic partner or civil union partner of any employee’s parent or grandparent, sibling of an employee’s spouse, domestic partner or civil union partner, any other individual related by blood to the employee, and any individual whose close association with the employee is the equivalent of family.

Significantly, there is no small business exception: the law applies to any person or entity that employs workers in New Jersey. Additionally, there is no hours worked requirement. That is, the law applies the same to an individual who works 15 hours per week as it does to one who works 40 hours per week. There are only three exceptions to coverage:

  1. Employees performing services in the construction industry under contract pursuant to a collective bargaining agreement.
  2. Per-diem healthcare workers.
  3. Public employees receiving paid sick leave pursuant to another New Jersey law, rule or regulation.

There are two potential methods an employer can use to calculate an employee’s accrual of earned paid sick leave. The worker can accrue earned sick leave at the rate of one hour for every 30 hours worked, up to a maximum of 40 hours of leave per benefit year. Alternatively, an employer can provide an employee with 40 hours of earned sick leave up front. New Jersey employers are required to notify all employees of when a benefit year begins and ends. Workers started to accrue earned sick leave on October 29, 2018, or their first day of employment, whichever is later. An employee can begin to use earned sick leave accrued under the Act 120 days after she or he begins employment.

On October 3, 2018, the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development released on its website the required notice that must be posted and made available to all New Jersey employees. A copy of the notice is available here.

The New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development has also proposed rules to implement the Act which are available on the department website.  A hearing on the rules is scheduled for November 13, 2018 and written comments on the rules may be submitted by December 14, 2018.

Violations of the Act can be reported to the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development. Additionally, aggrieved employees may also pursue a civil action against an infringing employer and could recover the monetary value of the unpaid leave, plus costs and attorneys’ fees.

Ten states and the District of Columbia have enacted laws providing for guaranteed sick leave.   In some states the leave is unpaid, but in most it is paid if the employer is of a certain size.  Prior to the New Jersey Paid Sick Leave Act being signed into law, there were eight municipalities in New Jersey that had enacted ordinances requiring paid sick leave. Those municipalities include: Bloomfield, East Orange, Irvington, Montclair, Newark, Passaic, Trenton, and Jersey City. Under the new Act, municipalities will no longer be allowed to enact ordinances on this issue as the state law now controls.

Paid sick leave ordinances have been enacted in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. The Pittsburgh ordinance was immediately challenged and the lower court and the Commonwealth Court both ruled the ordinance unlawful, as exceeding the powers of the local governmental body. The case is currently pending in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. While the litigation is ongoing, the ordinance has not been in effect. The Philadelphia ordinance is in effect, however, and information about the Philadelphia ordinance is available here. There have been reports that the Pennsylvania Legislature is contemplating a bill to prohibit any local governmental entity from enacting ordinances that require employers to offer guaranteed or paid sick leave to employees.

If you have any questions about the New Jersey Paid Sick Leave Act, the Pittsburgh ordinance, or the Philadelphia ordinance, please contact the attorneys of Willig, Williams & Davidson at (215) 656-3600.

 

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