The New York Times

New Jersey Assembly Approves Paid Leave To Care For Baby Or Ailing Kin

The New York Times — Friday, March 14, 2008


TRENTON — Despite strong objections from Republicans, New Jersey moved closer on Thursday to becoming the third state in the country to give employees the right to paid leave to care for a sick relative or a newborn.

By a 46-to-30 vote that hewed mostly to party lines, the Democratic-controlled Assembly endorsed offering people six weeks of paid leave at two-thirds of their salary, up to $524 a week. The measure would be financed by employee payroll deductions that would cost every worker in New Jersey a maximum of 64 cents a week, or $33 a year.

If the law is enacted, an estimated 38,000 people could take advantage of it each year, at a cost to employees of $98 million in the first full year. The bill would require that companies with more than 50 employees offer workers their jobs back when they complete their leave. It would not require this of smaller companies.

The bill now goes back to the Senate on Monday, and the vote is expected to be close. Two weeks ago, the Democratic-controlled Senate narrowly approved an earlier version of the bill. The new version includes language recommended by Attorney General Anne Milgram that is intended to protect small businesses from lawsuits.

If the new bill survives on Monday, it will go to Gov. Jon S. Corzine, a Democrat, who has said that he will sign it, following the lead of California and Washington. The bill would take effect on Jan. 1, 2009.

But on Thursday, it was the lower house's turn to debate the legislation. And after two hours in which almost one-third of the legislators took the floor, the measure won the support of 44 Democrats and 2 Republicans, while one Democrat joined 29 Republicans in voting no. Two legislators abstained, and two were absent.

A few supporters, visibly choking up, stated that the bill would greatly benefit working families by giving them the flexibility to care for a relative.

"This piece of legislation is for everyone that is out in the working world, trying to make a living, trying to provide for their families," said Assemblyman Nelson T. Albano, the bill's main sponsor.

A few opponents, meanwhile, said that the bill would hurt small businesses and would slap another tax on overburdened residents. Others said that the bill would lead to employment discrimination against young women thinking of having children.

"We're about to create a new glass ceiling," said Assemblywoman Marcia A. Karrow, a Republican from Hunterdon County.

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