Jersey Journal

Jersey City's Paid Sick Leave Law Now In Effect: What You Need To Know

The Jersey Journal — Monday, January 27, 2014

By Terrence T. McDonald / The Jersey Journal

When Jersey City became the first New Jersey municipality to mandate that most private businesses provide paid sick leave for its workers in September 2013, Mayor Steve Fulop predicted a legal fight.

Four months later, and no lawsuit filed, the measure became law on Friday.

Fulop called it "very exciting."

"I think it's going to help tens of thousands of working families in Jersey City," he said at an event at Saint Peter's University.

Jersey City is the sixth city in the nation to force private businesses to provide paid sick time. The law affects employers with 10 or more workers, and was opposed by state and countywide business groups.

Paid sick time laws have become a favored cause of liberals and labor unions. Both groups hailed Jersey City when Fulop first proposed the measure last year, and they extolled the city again on Friday.

"This law respects the dignity of workers, protects the public health and will mean savings for businesses big and small. When workers can earn sick days, everybody wins," said Phyllis Salowe-Kaye, executive director of the New Jersey Citizen Action and spokesperson for the New Jersey Time to Care Coalition.

Other cities that have implemented similar mandates include Washington, D.C., San Francisco and Seattle. New York City, which passed a similar law last year, is set to strengthen it under its new, more liberal mayor.

Business groups have opposed the mandate wherever it's been implemented. But in San Francisco, which in 2006 became the first in the nation to require paid sick leave thanks to a voter referendum, some who opposed the requirement subsequently said it hadn't affected businesses much, if at all.

An audit in Washington, D.C. found the law had not led to fewer businesses opening, though local businesses owners said they had cut back on hours.

Michael Egenton, a senior vice president at the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce, fears that paid sick leave, together with new health care regulations and the state's new minimum wage increase, could convince businesses to relocate.

Egenton also expressed concern about local governments implementing these types of regulations.

"Whatever happened to the freedom of enterprise?" he said, adding that he believes business owners will reward employees with benefits like paid sick time even if the government doesn't force them to.

"If you're a good worker, your boss will give you sick time," Egenton said.

FOR WORKERS

Who is eligible?

Full-time, part-time and seasonal workers in companies that employ 10 or more employees. Not freelancers or independent contractors.

How much paid sick time am I eligible for?

One hour of paid sick leave for each 30 hours worked, with a maximum of 40 hours annually, or five days.

What if I work for a company that employs nine of fewer workers?

You are eligible for one hour of unpaid sick leave per 30 hours worked, with a maximum of 40 hours annually.

Am I eligible as soon as I start working?

No. You begin accruing sick leave when you start working, but your employer isn't obligated to give it to you until your 90th day on the job.

Can I carry over my unused sick leave?

Yes, but your employer isn't forced to give you more than five days annually. City officials included this requirement to reimburse employees for unused time.

I was working for a company's Downtown location, and I was transferred to the same company's Greenville store. Do I lose my accrued sick time?

No. If you remain employed by the same company, you retain your accrued sick time.

I quit my job and was then rehired by the same company. Do I lose my accried sick time then?

No, if you were rehired within six months of quitting. If it's longer than six months, you lose your accrued sick time.

My company was just bought out by another firm. Do I lose my accrued sick time?

No. If one company purchases another, employees of the original company retain their accrued sick time.

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