NJ Earned Sick Leave Law Effective Oct 29, 2018
When will the law take effect?
A: The New Jersey Earned Sick Leave law signed by Governor Murphy on May 2, 2018, will go into effect in October, 180 days after enactment. At that time, employees will begin to accrue leave. The accrual rate is one hour per 30 worked, up to a maximum of 40 hours in one year. Employees will be eligible to use the accrued leave 120 days later. For employees hired after the effective date of the law, benefits will begin to accrue immediately and they will be eligible to use the leave after 120 days. However, employers may agree to an earlier date.
Under what circumstances may I take a sick day?
A: Employees may use earned sick days for:
- Their own health needs or that of a family member, defined in the law as a “child, grandchild, sibling, spouse, domestic partner, civil union partner, parent, or grandparent or any other individual related by blood to the employee or whose close association with the employee is the equivalent of a family relationship”;
- Issues resulting from an employee (or family member of employee) being a victim of domestic or sexual violence, including medical attention necessary for physical or physical or psychological injury; obtaining services from a designated domestic violence agency or other victim services organization; relocation; or legal services, including participation in any related legal proceeding;
- Closure of the employee’s workplace, school, or childcare due to a public health emergency;
- A child’s school-related conference, meeting, function, or other events.
Do I have to show a doctor’s note?
A: Employers may require “reasonable documentation” for absences of three or more days. Documentation depends on the type of absence and is spelled out in the law.
Is every worker entitled to sick pay?
A: There are a few categories of workers not covered by the law. It does not include employees in a collective bargaining agreement in the construction industry, per diem healthcare workers, or public employees provided sick leave pursuant to any other law, rule, or regulation in New Jersey.
If I do not use my sick time one year, does it carry over into the next year?
A: The new law provides that employee sick leave does not accumulate beyond 40 hours in any one‐year period. The law provides that you may carry forward unused time from one year to the next as long as your accrued time does not exceed 40 hours. The New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development, which has oversight and responsibility for implementation and enforcement of the new law, will develop regulations that spell out how this will be implemented and enforced.
What happens if my employer does not comply?
A: There are strong provisions in the law to address employer non‐compliance. The process by which an employee can use these provisions to report non‐compliance will be outlined in the forthcoming regulations.
I live in New Jersey but work in a neighboring state. Does this apply to me?
A: The law applies only to people who work in New Jersey. If you work in a neighboring state, you should look at their laws regarding paid leave.
Employers say they cannot afford this. Is there an estimate on how much this would cost?
A: There has been much research on this subject. While there will be some cost to employers, research shows that the benefits of paid sick leave laws far outweigh the costs. Benefits include reduced employee turnover (and the subsequently reduced cost of hiring and training new employees), higher productivity and morale, and better public health.
Will the law’s passage lead to layoffs or a slow‐down in hiring?
A: We can only look at existing states and municipalities where laws are in place to identify the impact we think the new law will have on employment in New Jersey. According to a recent report by the Center for American Progress, paid leave laws have not been job killers and they have not led to higher unemployment.
How does New Jersey’s law compare to ones in other states?
A: New Jersey’s law is consistent with – and in some instances stronger than – paid sick leave laws in other states. The National Partnership for Women and Families has put together a comprehensive spreadsheet comparing state and municipal laws.
What About PTO?
A: Employers having existing paid time off (PTO) policies that satisfy the Act’s minimum requirements and includes personal days, vacation days, and sick days, will comply with the Act so long as:
- Employees may use paid time off for the reasons enumerated in the Act; and,
- The PTO is accrued at a rate equal to or greater than the rate required by the Act.
Must Earned Sick Leave Be Paid at Separation?
A: Unless otherwise required by company policy, employment contract, or collective bargaining agreement, the Act does not require that unused accrued sick leave be paid to an employee at separation.
What Are the Penalties?
A: Employers should fear enforcement under the Act. Employers can be prosecuted in different ways and for different reasons. This includes but is not limited to private rights of action by employees for discrimination, retaliation and violations of the Act, and for record-keeping violations.
An employer that violates the Act will be subject to the penalties and remedies afforded to employees under the New Jersey Wage and Hour Law, which includes monetary damages and attorneys’ fees and costs, plus liquidated damages in an amount equal to the unpaid leave.
Furthermore, the Act prohibits an employer from taking discriminatory or retaliatory action against an employee who exercises their rights under the Act. Importantly, the Act creates a rebuttal presumption of retaliation when an employer takes adverse employment action against an employee within ninety (90) days of when that employee engaged in certain protected conduct as provided in Section 4(b) of the Act. Additionally, the protections against retaliation apply to any employee who “mistakenly but in good faith alleges violations of this act.”
How Should Employers Prepare for Paid Sick Leave?
A: This summary of the Act is merely the tip of the iceberg. Given the potential exposure to liability and other consequences arising from violations and lack of compliance, employers should revisit their employee handbooks and review their employee PTO, attendance, leave, and disciplinary policies.
Employers also should reevaluate their record-keeping requirements to confirm compliance with the Act and should advise their managers and supervisors of the change in the law and train/educate them accordingly. Employers also have several decisions to make, including whether to implement an accrual or annual method of earning sick leave, the applicable benefit year, and the increments in which employee leave may be taken. Additionally, employers should also prepare to post the appropriate notice in the workplace and deliver the appropriate disclosures to their employees.
Displayed below is the NJ Dept of Labor & Workforce Development poster.