(This blog post was updated 5/2/2018 to reflect changes in the law that was enacted.)
On March 26th, the New Jersey Assembly passed legislation that requires employers in New Jersey to provide earned sick leave to their employees. The legislation was then passed by the New Jersey Senate on April 12th, and Governor Phil Murphy signed it into law on May 2, 2018. He tweeted out that he believes that enacting the law will “support working families and strengthen our economy.”
What is the New Law?
The new Paid Sick Leave law allows New Jersey workers to accrue paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked. The number of hours of leave that can be accrued per year is capped at 40 hours. There is no minimum amount of time an employee must be employed before they are able to start accruing paid sick leave. Employers are required to give employees the same pay rate and benefits for earned sick leave that the employees would regularly receive for working hours. Employers may offer to pay workers for their unused earned sick leave in the final month of the year. The sick leave can be used for physical and mental illness, to care for an ill or injured family member, to attend a school-related event for a child, to obtain services if the employee or a family member is a victim of domestic or sexual abuse, or circumstances arising from a public health emergency. Employers are prohibited from retaliating or discriminating against an employee for using their paid sick leave. Employers also must not discipline, discharge, demote, suspend, or take any other adverse action against employees who are using their sick leave.
Why was this Law Enacted?
The intent of the new law is to ensure an employee does not have to choose between a paycheck and going to work sick. Governor Murphy tweeted “No one should lose a day’s pay due to sickness or because a loved one has fallen ill.” When signing the bill he stated, “There is no reasons anyone should have to choose between economic security and their health. After today, New Jerseyans will no longer have to face such a choice. I am proud to sign into law one of the strongest earned leave protections in the country for every hardworking employee who deserves the basic right of a paid sick day.”
Who has to Comply?
The new law preempts all existing municipal and county sick leave laws. However, if an employer is already offering full paid leave that is accrued at a rate equal to or greater than that in the new policy, they will be in full compliance with the new law. Employers are permitted to create more generous policies that provide additional leave time.
- Small businesses: Even small businesses must comply with the new legislation. There is no exception for small employers, regardless of number of workers employed. A motion was made by Assemblyman Robert Auth (R-Passaic) before the Assembly to exempt employers with less than 10 employees from the new legislation, but that motion was tabled.
- Exempt workers: The new legislation does not cover per diem health care workers, construction workers covered by a collective bargaining agreement, or public employees who are already provided with sick leave with full pay.
When Will the Law Go into Effect?
The law will go into effect 180 days after it was signed by Governor Murphy, October 29, 2018.