Following the recent passing of A1827 by the New Jersey Senate, the state is poised to become the 10th in the nation to enact a paid sick leave law. Known for being a worker-friendly state, it's not surprising that New Jersey's lawmakers have rallied behind this new bill.
The new law is designed to create a stronger and healthier workforce where individuals are free to take care of themselves and their families without fear of financial penalties. Employers in New Jersey must familiarize themselves with the details of the bill prior to its enactment. Employers across the United States should pay attention, as there's a good chance more states will continue to follow suit. Here's what you need to know.
Accrual of Paid Sick-Leave Time
Under the new law, employees who have met the 120-day qualification period must be provided with one hour of sick-leave time for every 30 hours that they work. These hours must be paid at the same rate as the employee's regular hourly pay and the same benefits must apply. Employees working for a temporary employment agency qualify for benefits based on the amount of time they work for the agency, rather than the time they've spent working at each individual job.
Employees of small companies, defined as those employing fewer than 10 employees, may accrue up to a maximum of 40 hours per year. Employees of larger employers may accrue up to 72 hours per year.
Some employees are not covered under the bill, including per diem healthcare employees, certain construction workers, and public employees who already have sick-leave benefits.
Circumstances Where Sick-Leave Pay Applies
The bill gives quite a bit of leeway for the circumstances under which employees are entitled to use their paid sick-leave. Both physical and mental illnesses are covered, allowing an employee to take time away from work to care for either themselves of their family members. This time may be used for diagnosis, ongoing treatment, and recovery. It also covers time needed for the employee's preventative care appointments.
Sick-leave pay may also be used to attend a child's school conferences or to stay home with the child on days the school is closed.
Finally, the bill provides for paid leave under circumstances of domestic violence affecting the employee or an employee's family member. This includes the ability to take paid leave for the treatment of physical or psychological injury resulting from the abuse and for appointments related to legal counsel or relocation services.
Retaliation or discrimination against employees who choose to enact their rights under this new bill is strictly prohibited. This includes:
Reduction in work hours
Demotion or refusal to promote
Reporting or threatening to report an employee or family members to immigration services is also a violation. Employers found guilty of violations will be punished under the New Jersey Wage and Hour Laws and will also be liable for costs and attorney's fees.
As with all labor issues, it's almost always better to err on the side of caution. Allowing your employees the time they need to take care of themselves and their families is no longer just the right thing to do, it can also keep you and your business out of hot water.